System Pressures the Innocent to Plead Guilty

System Pressures the Innocent to Plead Guilty

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Posted: July 27, 2015   3:44 PM

In an opinion piece published on Friday in the Washington Post, Sam Gross—a law professor at the University of Michigan and the editor of the National Registry of Exonerationswrites that recent statistics and exonerations reveal that too many people are pleading guilty to crimes that they didn’t commit. According to Gross, a full range of flaws within the criminal justice system, including a lack of investment in justice, are to blame. “We can do better,” demands Gross.

He writes:

How many people are convicted of crimes they did not commit? Last year, a study I co-authored on the issue was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It shows that 4.1 percent of defendants who are sentenced to death in the United States are later shown to be innocent: 1 in 25. . . .

The problem may be worst at the low end of the spectrum, in misdemeanor courts where almost everybody pleads guilty. . . .

In the past year, 45 defendants were exonerated after pleading guilty to low-level drug crimes in Harris County, Tex. They were cleared months or years after conviction by lab tests that found no illegal drugs in the materials seized from them.

Why then did they plead guilty? As best we can tell, most were held in jail because they couldn’t make bail. When they were brought to court for the first time, they were given a take-it-or-leave-it, for-today-only offer: Plead guilty and get probation or weeks to months in jail. If they refused, they’d wait in jail for months, if not a year or more, before they got to trial, and risk additional years in prison if they were convicted. That’s a high price to pay for a chance to prove one’s innocence.

Police officers are supposed to be suspicious and proactive, to stop, question and arrest people who might have committed crimes, or who might be about to do so. Most officers are honest, and, I am sure, they are usually right. But “most” and “usually right” are not good enough for criminal convictions. Courts — judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys, sometime juries — are supposed to decide criminal cases. Instead, most misdemeanor courts outsource deciding guilt or innocence to the police. It’s cheaper, but you get what you pay for.

. . . It’ll cost money to achieve the quality of justice we claim to provide: to do more careful investigations, to take fewer quick guilty pleas and conduct more trials, and to make sure those trials are well done. But first we have to recognize that what we do now is not good enough.

Read the entire op-ed here.

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Exoneree Band Formed by Men Freed after Wrongful Incarcerations Performs to Heal, Raise Awareness! Antione Days sings vocals for the Exoneree Band

Originally posted on

Exoneree Band formed by men freed after wrongful incarcerations performs to heal, raise awareness (photos, video)

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Angel Gonzalez Receives Certificate of Innocence – after spending 20 years in an Illinois prison for a rape he didn’t commit

Angel Gonzalez Receives Certificate of Innocence

On June 18, Angel Gonzalez, who was exonerated in March after spending 20 years in an Illinois prison for a rape he didn’t commit, was awarded a certificate of innocence by a Lake County judge.  The certificate means that Gonzalez is now entitled to compensation under the state’s compensation statute.

Angel Gonzalez was exonerated in March, after serving nearly 20 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. However, Angel said that though he was physically free, he was not yet mentally free. The conviction was still on his record even after he was released from prison, a fact that weighed heavily on him.

Last week, Angel was finally granted his certificate of innocence from the state of Illinois and the conviction on his record was expunged.The original prosecutor of his case was also present and outside of court, he shook Angel’s hand and apologized.

All of us at the Innocence Project are thrilled for him. And we hope you all can make a donation in his honor today. Your gift will help us continue to fight for justice for the innocent. Thank you.

Donate here:…

Angel is pictured with Illinois Innocence Project Staff Attorney Lauren Kaeseberg (left) and Innocence Project Senior Staff Attorney Vanessa Potkin (right).


Exonerated man files grievance against prosecutor

Originally posted on theGrio:

A Texas man who served 18 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit now has the power to prevent similar miscarriages of justice, reports the Houston Chronicle.

Anthony Graves – who was set free in 2010 after spending 12 years on death row and six years pleading his innocence in the notorious murder of a Houston family — will assist in managing the Forensic Science Center, a Houston based crime lab used by local-area law enforcement agencies.

Graves’ exoneration revealed shocking prosecutorial misconduct by a district attorney who failed to reveal that the central witness had recanted his statement accusing Graves of being an accomplice to the crime.

“I watched the system just fail me from top to bottom,” Graves told NBC an an exclusive interview.

“I became a criminal justice expert through my own experiences,” he said. “My university is D.R.U. — that’s ‘death row university.’ I’m well-qualified.”

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Ontario man to be exonerated in wife’s death after 45 years

Originally posted on Global News:

TORONTO – An Ontario man convicted of killing his wife 45 years ago is hoping he can officially clear his name today.

John Salmon, 75, was convicted of manslaughter in the 1970 death of Maxine Ditchfield, and served four years before being paroled.

Salmon’s trial heard that Ditchfield had died from a severe beating, but Salmon maintained her injuries came from a series of falls.

The Association in Defence of the Wrongly Convicted hired three pathologists to re-examine the evidence.

They concluded that Ditchfield had indeed fallen multiple times after suffering a stroke.

The new evidence allowed Salmon to have his case re-opened after all these years and ask for an official acquittal in the death.

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B.C. man wrongly imprisoned for 27 years can sue, Supreme Court says

Originally posted on Global News:

OTTAWA – The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled a B.C. man can use the Charter of Rights and Freedoms to pursue a lawsuit after being wrongly imprisoned for 27 years for sexual assaults he did not commit.

The landmark ruling clarifies the circumstances under which criminal prosecutors may be sued if they fail to disclose evidence to accused persons.

In 1983, Ivan Henry was convicted of three counts of rape, two counts of attempted rape and five counts of indecent assault in attacks on eight women in Vancouver and declared a dangerous offender.

In 2010, the B.C. Court of Appeal overturned Henry’s convictions, citing a lack of full disclosure of evidence by prosecutors. It heard that evidence, which came to light during a 2002 police investigation which involved another offender who was implicated in 29 cases and lived near Henry.

In 2001, Henry sued the provincial and federal attorneys general, the City of Vancouver and three members of its police department for withholding…

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