“IN 33 % of the Cases Resulting in Post-Conviction DNA Exonerations Two or More Eyewitnesses had made Incorrect Identifications!”

Eyewitness Misidentification

At the 1985 trial where Kirk Bloodsworth was convicted and sentenced to death, five eyewitnesses testified they had seen Bloodsworth with the victim.  All five were mistaken.   When DNA tests were conducted in 1992, they showed that Bloodsworth was innocent.  Kirk Bloodsworth’s case illustrates the dangers associated with eyewitness identification testimony, the single leading case of wrongful conviction.

Of the 321 people exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing through November 2014, 72% were misidentified by at least one eyewitness.  Remarkably, in 33% of the post-conviction DNA exonerations two or more eyewitness made an incorrect identification.

Most people assume that eyewitness identifications are typically accurate, and that DNA exonerations are anomalous flukes.  However, studies show the rate at which eyewitnesses select non-suspect lineup members during the course of a typical identification procedure hovers around 20%.   The good news is that we can eliminate much of this error.  Over the past 30-plus years, a large body of peer-reviewed, scientific research and practice shows that simple and easily implemented changes in administering eyewitness identification procedures can greatly improve the accuracy of identifications.

Unfortunately, the current legal framework, set up by the Supreme Court in the 1977 case Manson v. Braithwright, does not reflect the scientific consensus or promote best practices.   The Manson balancing test directs courts to determine if a challenged identification procedure was unduly suggestive and, if so, balance the effects of suggestion against reliability factors like opportunity to view the perpetrator, accuracy of the description, and the witness’s level of certainty.  Courts are directed to suppress the evidence only if there is a “substantial probability of an irreparable misidentification.”  However, suggestive identification procedures are more likely to taint the reliability factors by making a witness more confident.  Ironically, under the current test, the more suggestive the eyewitness identification procedure, the greater the likelihood an eyewitness will seem confident and report better viewing conditions.

The Innocence Project engages in litigation and legislative advocacy aimed at encouraging best practices and reforming the way courts evaluate the reliability of eyewitness identification evidence.  This work has resulted in two landmark decisions, State v. Henderson, 208 N.J. 208 (2011), and State v. Lawson, 352 Or. 724 (2012), where the supreme courts of New Jersey and Oregon, respectively, overhauled their states’ tests for determining the admissibility and treatment of eyewitness identification evidence in criminal trials.

The Innocence Project’s work is not carried out alone but is based on partnerships with the defense bar and attorneys pursuing post-conviction claims to identify and litigate against the admissibility of questionable eyewitness identifications.  The Strategic Litigation Unit partners with defense counsel in all stages of litigation, including pre-trial hearings, we lend amicus support in appellate and post-conviction litigation, and we consult with attorneys litigating eyewitness identification and forensic science cases nationwide.

To contact the Innocence Project’s Strategic Litigation Unit with a potential test case, please fill out our Online Intake Form.

Can We Help?
The Innocence Project’s Strategic Litigation Department seeks to identify test cases that have the potential to address the leading causes of wrongful conviction. If you are aware of a case with a problematic eyewitness identification and/or flawed forensic evidence and you believe we may be able to assist, please click here to fill out our intake form.

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– See more at: http://www.innocenceproject.org/free-innocent/eyewitness-misidentification#sthash.ZJIjFn2v.dpufvvvv




A Record Number of Prisoners Were Exonerated Last Year

Originally posted on HumansinShadow.wordpress.com:

prison fence public domain

A Record Number of Prisoners Were Exonerated Last Year

Joshua Krause
The Daily Sheeple
September 19th, 2015

When you really break it down, the criminal justice system is the linchpin of a functional government. The government may have many different responsibilities, but their ability to catch criminals and punish them is the most important. In fact, if some libertarians are to be believed, if you were to shrink the government down to the smallest possible size, you would be left with nothing but the military, the police, and the courts.

And some countries like Costa Rica and Dominica don’t even have a military. A government with the barest institutions run by a skeleton crew, would essentially consist of nothing more than the courts, the people who were elected to legislate the court’s rules, and the police officers tasked with enforcing those rules. While most people would rather…

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Trial And Error: A Man Convicted of Murder Wins Release, and Questions of Responsibility Linger

Trial And Error: A Man Convicted of Murder Wins Release, and Questions of Responsibility Linger

It turns out Brooklyn prosecutors for years hid the evidence Ruddy Quezada had sought to win a new trial. Who should pay?


Ruddy Quezada, shown in court in Brooklyn in April, was recently released. After a witness recanted, Quezada’s lawyers explored the circumstances of how the witness’s testimony had been gained. (Jesse Ward for the New York Daily News)

Late last month, 53-year-old Ruddy Quezada was released from prison after serving 24 years for murder. The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office conceded that prosecutors in the office for years had failed to turn over potentially critical evidence to Quezada and his lawyers as they mounted repeated appeals of his conviction. ….http://www.propublica.org/article/man-convicted-of-murder-wins-release-and-questions-of-responsibility-linger?utm_source=et&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=dailynewsletter&utm_content=&utm_name=

Towards saving Tommy: calling out @orlandosentinel’s @Scott_Maxwell

Towards saving Tommy: calling out @orlandosentinel’s @Scott_Maxwell

Please read and heed Ray McEachern’s press release plea for financial support that appears below a condensed review of media complicity in Central Florida’s conviction corruption, which has ruined thousands of lives and ended many inappropriately, some by execution.

Framed innocent William “Tommy” Ziegler’s tormentor-in-chief – Jeff Ashton – was given a wrist slap by the mainstream media for his Ashley Madison membership, although the mainstream media, particularly the Orlando Sentinel, knows full well that Ashton alternates between milquetoast prosecutions (Casey Anthony) with malicious prosecutions (Tommy’s).

The media is confident in its complicity with conviction corruption going unnoticed and unpunished because – to date – the Department of Justice has played along.

The reason that the DoJ plays along with conviction corruption is as horrific as it is simple … the FBI is up to its eyes in it. On Ashton’s stomping grounds, which is the Orlando Sentinel’s stomping grounds, the FBI participated in the prosecution of hapless schizophrenic Linroy Bottoson, who was executed in 2002. It was far from the FBI’s only involvement with charlatan dog handlers, John Preston was just one of a slew they used.

The Orlando Sentinel isn’t up for admitting that they helped keep Tommy framed, any more than they’re up for admitting that their pretense that John Preston never testified on their turf in Bottoson’s case, which allowed Jeff Ashton to lawlessly tighten Gary Bennett’s Preston-tainted frame-up from the neighboring county, Brevard.

The Orlando Sentinel’s absolver-in-chief of Ashton – Scott Maxwell – had the gall to quote Martin Luther King Jr. in the linked article: “The problems today are not the evil actions of the bad people, but the appalling silence and inaction of the good.”

Because of Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and death, a vast number of good people no longer remain silent and inert when they are aware of wrongdoing: they send emails, make phone calls, sign and share petitions, and if all else fails, they take to the streets … some with signs in hand, others with cameras in hand. The public is becoming the new mainstream media, because the mogul-dominated mainstream media represents the appalling silence not of good people, but of very bad people … people who don’t care when innocents are serving murderers’ sentences.

Scott Maxwell was appalling silent on the wrongdoing that has kept Tommy Zeigler on death row for 40 years and the wrongdoing that has kept Gary Bennett in general population for 31 years. It may be one of many reasons that Maxwell receives “hate mail” … his term.

Maxwell goes on camera to take shots at the people who’ve called him names without revealing the reasons why they were angry enough to call him names. As he’s already on Part Five, readers’ discontent will continue to be great fun for Maxwell until the very minute he is questioned by the Department of Justice about his long-term participation in the conspiracy to violate the rights of incarcerated innocents.

Think about it, please: We have a number of journalists behind bars for telling the truth … isn’t it about time to put scores of journalists behind bars for failing to tell the truth when lives and liberties are at stake?

Tommy’ and Gary’s cases are now lewdly knotted to each other. Using a knowingly-staged photograph, prosecutors on Maxwell’s turf falsely accused Tommy of being a homosexual to explain blood patterns after initial DNA proved Tommy’s version of events, not prosecutors. Then – sans photograph, and sans any need to revise an intact theory of the crime – prosecutors on Maxwell’s turf falsely accused Gary Bennett of being a homosexual. They apparently wished to disgust the public, so it would disregard Gary being framed by the same people that framed so many others in Brevard County with DNA-disgraced dog handler John Preston. It was newsworthy that Ashton accepted inappropriate correspondence from Brevard Judge John Dean Moxley regarding Gary Bennett’s case. But not to the Orlando Sentinel.

Please heed Ray’s plea to fund additional DNA tests for Tommy, if you can. And please ask that the Orlando Sentinel correct Scott Maxwell’s wholly inaccurate portrayal of Jeff Ashton by better-late-than-never factual reporting on Tommy Zeigler and Gary Bennett’s cases. After a combined 71 years of serving murderers’ sentences, it’s time for Tommy and Gary to go home, and for their vicious, malicious prosecutors to go to prison. Thank you.


From: [Ray McEachern]
Date: September 13, 2015 5:20:14 PM EDT
Subject: Help for an Innocent Man imprisoned for 40 years

I know I have contacted many of you before about my friend, Tommy Zeigler. Now I am asking you to help keep his private investigator working for him by making a contribution at the link below.  The Fundly link also has a short video of Tommy as he describes emotionally how he struggled for years to get DNA testing of blood evidence that had been used to convict him, only to have the state switch his case to a different judge when the 2001 DNA results showed he was innocent. That judge, Reginald Whitehead, rejected his first DNA appeal in 2004, and now the same judge is considering another appeal for DNA testing of “all” possible blood spots which he previously ruled might prove he was guilty.

It is largely through the effort of Tommy’s private investigator, Lynn-Marie Carty, that Tommy’s pro bono attorneys have filed the pending appeal for more testing. I met Lynn-Marie in 2011 after an article on Tommy appeared in the Tampa Bay Times. Since then, she has worked virtually full time traveling to interview witnesses, and developing evidence that proves that it was Tommy’s brother-in-law who was the probable master mind behind the plot that left Tommy’s wife, her parents, and another man dead and Tommy shot through the abdomen in his furniture store on Christmas Eve, 1975. That man, who became the sole heir to a very substantial estate with the death of his parents and sister, passed away just recently. If the new DNA testing finds the blood of anyone in that crime scene other than the victims, it will prove beyond even a shadow of a doubt that the state of Florida has condemned a man who lost his wife, and his whole life so long ago.

Please keep Lynn-Marie on the job with my thanks to you and especially to her.

Ray McEachern
Land O Lakes, Florida


Pennsylvania Man Who Wrongly Served 34 Years Exonerated Based on New DNA Evidence

Pennsylvania Man Who Wrongly Served 34 Years Exonerated Based on New DNA Evidence

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Posted: September 14, 2015   4:25 PM

After Reinvestigation, Indiana County District Attorney Agreed to Dismiss Indictment Against Lewis “Jim” Fogle
Contact:  Paul Cates, 212-364-5346, cell 917-566-1294pcates@innocenceproject.org
(Pittsburgh, PA; September 14, 2015) – After a month long reinvestigation, Indiana County District Attorney Patrick Dougherty agreed today to not retry Lewis “Jim” Fogle for the 1976 murder of a 15-year-old girl.  Last month an Indiana County judge vacated Fogle’s 1982 conviction based on DNA evidence pointing to another male and released him on an unsecured bond.  He was surrounded by family and friends in court today when his 34-year struggle for justice finally came to an end.
“We are grateful for the support and cooperation from District Attorney Patrick Dougherty in helping to close this extremely long and painful chapter in Mr. Fogle’s life,” said Karen Thompson, staff attorney for the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law.  “Thirty-four years is an extremely long time to serve for a crime he didn’t commit.  All people unjustly convicted of crimes should be compensated for the years lost, and Pennsylvania currently doesn’t have a mechanism for doing so.”
This case is a powerful incentive for the state to create a mechanism to adequately compensate Pennsylvanians who have been wrongly convicted.”
In 1982, Fogle was 30 years old with a new wife, an infant son, and another child on the way when he was convicted for the 1976 rape and murder of a 15-year-old girl.  He had become a suspect in the case after five separate police interrogations of Earl Elderkin, who was initially identified from a composite sketch as someone involved in the crime. Elderkin, who had severe psychiatric disabilities and had admitted himself into a facility, was placed under hypnosis by an amateur with no formal training during a final police interrogation that resulted in Elderkin implicating Fogle.
Although Elderkin claimed to have been present with three other men while Fogle raped the victim and later shot her, only Fogle was fully prosecuted for the crime. At the trial, there was no physical evidence linking Fogle to the crime.  Other than testimony from the medical examiner who presented evidence that the victim had been sexually assaulted, the prosecution rested primarily on the testimony of three jailhouse informants who claimed that Fogle confessed to them while incarcerated.  Elderkin did not testify at the trial.
Fogle, who has always maintained his innocence, testified in his own defense and asserted that he spent the afternoon with his parents and brothers and that evening went to a friend’s house and later to a bar.  This timeline was supported by his parents.  Despite this testimony, he was convicted and sentenced to life.
Fogle wrote to the Innocence Project, which agreed to represent him.  When the Innocence Project first sought to do DNA testing in 2010, only the vaginal, anal and oral slides collected from the victim during her autopsy could be located.  The district attorney consented to testing, but the results were inconclusive.  In 2014, the Innocence Project again asked the Indiana police to search for additional evidence that had been recovered, and 12 additional items of evidence, including pubic hair combings and clothing that the victim was wearing, were discovered. The district attorney again consented to the testing. The lab was able to identify sperm on the pubic hair combings, and those combings were submitted to testing.  Fogle was excluded as the source, which pointed to another male as the perpetrator of the crime.
“We hope what happened to Mr. Fogle won’t be repeated,” said David Loftis, managing attorney for the Innocence Project. “This day could have come five years earlier with better evidence preservation and cataloging procedures. In addition to a compensation mechanism, the state should mandate better rules for preserving and cataloging evidence to guarantee other people wrongly convicted can find justice.”
Fogle, who is now 64, endured the 34 years he wrongly spent in prison by expressing himself through his lifelong love of painting.  He has completed hundreds of works of art with supplies purchased from his meager prison work compensation, some of which have even won local competitions. With little prospect of returning to the workforce and without compensation from the state, he would like to earn some money from his artwork.
“We hope the district attorney’s actions and cooperation here stand as an example of how prosecutors and defense lawyers can work together to achieve the right result,”  said Marissa Bluestine, legal director of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, which assisted the Innocence Project in representing Fogle.

– See more at: http://www.innocenceproject.org/news-events-exonerations/press-releases/pennsylvania-man-who-wrongly-served-34-years-exonerated-based-on-new-dna-evidence#sthash.IITgTP5a.dpuf

‘I’m Just Happy to Be Alive’ An Alabama man, wrongfully convicted, overcomes a judicial override to gain his freedom.

Filed 12:35 p.m.


‘I’m Just Happy to Be Alive’

An Alabama man, wrongfully convicted, overcomes a judicial override to gain his freedom.

Montez Spradley was quietly released from the Staton Correctional prison in Alabama late Friday after serving nine-and-one-half years in custody, and over three years on death row, for a murder he did not commit. He was released because a state appeals court in 2011 ruled that his trial was unconstitutionally tainted by the admission of inadmissible evidence and because a subsequent hearing in 2013 revealed that a key witness against him had been paid for her dubious testimony. Here is the link to the 2011 ruling by the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals, a court renown for affirming the convictions and death sentences of capital litigants.

There was never any direct physical evidence linking Spradley to the 2004 crime and the circumstantial case against him was woeful enough to prompt prosecutors to engage in what the Alabama appeals court subsequently called a miscarriage of justice. This helps explain why his trial jury (consisting of eight white jurors and four black jurors) voted 10-2 to grant him a life sentence — a degree of leniency not typically afforded a black man charged with murdering a white woman in Alabama. That verdict was overridden, however, by the trial judge in the case, Judge Gloria Bahakel. She imposed a death sentence against Spradley, even after she approved the payment to that crucial witness (who has since recanted) and even though she knew that Spradley’s trial attorneys were unaware before and during trial that the informant had been compensated.

Montez Spradley with his attorney Anna Arceneaux on Sept. 10 in Birmingham, Ala.

Brothers wrongly imprisoned for 30 years receive bittersweet reward

Originally posted on wchildblog:

From Fox News, September 03, 2015

Henry McCollum says he’s happy to be free and the money will help him and his family. But his brother, Leon Brown, is struggling from his time behind bars.

Brown is hospitalized because of severe mental illness that his family attributes to his wrongful imprisonment in the killing of an 11-year-old girl. He was unable to attend the hearing Wednesday when the state awarded them compensation.

“I’m happy one can go on,” said sister Geraldine Brown, who’s been sharing her house with the men. “But I’m living a life where the other can’t go on.”

McCollum, 51, wore a gray suit and brought a framed copy of his pardon to hear…

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