Tag: Innocence Project

L.A. County D.A. Jackie Lacey to Create Unit to Review Wrongful Conviction Claims

The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office is creating a unit dedicated to examining wrongful-conviction claims, joining a small but growing number of prosecutorial agencies around the country that are devoting resources to identify innocent prisoners.

Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey
Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey

Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey is asking county supervisors for nearly $1 million to fund the new team, which would include three prosecutors, an investigator and a paralegal.

In seeking the funds, Lacey’s office said it wanted to keep up with an increasing number of wrongful-conviction claims that have followed the advent of similar units around the country as well as a growing number of innocence projects and increased publicity of innocence claims, said county spokesman Dave Sommers.

“This is exactly what should happen in every district attorney’s office in America,” said Justin Brooks, director of the California Innocence Project at the California Western School of Law in San Diego. “We all have the same goal: to make sure the right people are in prison.”

While such units are still rare, Los Angeles would join more than 15 district attorney offices around the country that have adopted similar teams, including Santa Clara County, Dallas County, Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington, D.C.

Los Angeles’ proposal remained largely under wraps until last week, when Lacey addressed a group of attorneys and students at Loyola Law School on Friday and mentioned she had been promised funding for a conviction review unit. She gave no details and did not return calls for comment.

A district attorney’s spokeswoman declined to discuss the plan until after the Board of Supervisors formally approves the funding in the coming weeks. The county’s recommended budget includes money for the unit for the next fiscal year, which starts in July.

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DNA Testing in Rape Case Exonerates Louisiana Man Nathan Brown After 17 Years in Prison

Nathan Brown and family
Nathan Brown, who had been incarcerated for nearly seventeen years, talks with his daughter Celene Brady, and his grandson Kenard Southern, 1, after being released from seventeen years in prison in New Orleans, Wednesday. / AP

Nathan Brown, 40, who was convicted of the attempted aggravated rape of a 40-year-old woman in 1997 solely based on her identification, was released from a state prison yesterday after serving 17 years of a 25-year sentence.  DNA testing has proved what Brown has claimed all along: He was not the man who attacked the woman as she returned to the Metairie apartment complex where they both lived, his attorneys say.

“I sincerely ask for you to have mercy upon me when the time for sentencing comes,” Brown wrote in December 1997 to then-Judge Walter Rothschild, the month after a Jefferson Parish jury convicted him. “I understand what I’ve been accused of, but I’m not the man who did this (horrendous) crime. I live a clean and honest life, providing for my daughter and helping my family out.”

Attorney Vanessa Potkin of the Innocence Project in New York, filed papers in the 24th judicial District Court in Gretna on Tuesday, saying DNA testing clears Brown. She asked Judge Ray Steib to vacate the sentence and order his release. Brown was at least the 15th person exonerated by DNA evidence in Louisiana since 1999.

The Jefferson Parish district attorney’s office declined to comment, too. But according to court records, District Attorney Paul Connick Jr. did not oppose the Innocence Project’s request to test evidence for DNA.

Brown’s attorneys asked for the DNA testing last year. Prosecutors did not oppose the testing, and Steib ordered it to be done on Dec. 16, court records show.  The company that performed the testing, Orchid Cellmark, excluded Brown “as the source of the male biological material that was testing,” Potkin wrote.

“Additional testing has identified the source of the biological material as a specific known individual other than Nathan Brown,” she wrote. “Because Nathan Brown is not the source of the male biological material that was tested, he was established by clear and convincing evidence that he is factually innocent of the attempted aggravated rape for which he was convicted.”

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Security Officer Wins $13.2 Million Verdict for Civil Rights Violations by Cleveland Detectives

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David Ayers, center, walks out of the Cuyahoga County Justice Center a free man in 2011 after serving 11 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Ayers won a $13.2 million verdict in federal court Friday. At right is Carrie Wood of the Innonence Project. (Plain Dealer file photo)

CLEVELAND, Ohio — A federal jury awarded $13.2 million to a former housing authority security officer Friday after finding two Cleveland detectives fabricated or withheld evidence at his 2000 murder trial.

David Ayers, 56, who spent 11 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit, and several jurors wept as the verdict against detectives Denise Kovach and Michael Cipo was read in U.S. District Court.

“These detectives didn’t do their jobs at all,” juror Stephanie Kocian told The Plain Dealer in an interview. “They manipulated the evidence, and didn’t look at anyone else except the most convenient suspect to convict. The word ‘railroaded’ was thrown around the jury room during deliberations.”

At the time of his 1999 arrest, Ayers had been working for more than eight years as a security officer with the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. He was accused and eventually convicted of the beating death 76-year-old Dorothy Brown, who lived in a CMHA high rise in Cleveland.

Ayers continued to maintain his innocence, filing appeals while serving a life prison term for aggravated murder. He finally prevailed in 2011, when DNA tests proved that a single pubic hair found in Brown’s mouth did not come from him.

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Meet Twenty-Two People Exonerated in 2012

Exonerated: James Harden, Jonathan Barr, Michael Saunders, Robert Taylor, Vincent Thames, Harold Richardson, Terrill Swift (CBS)

For the fourth year in a row, the Innocence Project, an organization dedicated to overturning wrongful convictions as well as making substantive reforms to the criminal-justice system, has released an annual report of people who were exonerated this year after spending time behind bars for crimes they did not commit.

This year’s roundup includes 22 people — 13 of whom are black — who, combined, served more than 279 years because of problems like eyewitness misidentification, faulty forensics and false confessions before they were freed. The Innocence Project says that nearly half of its cases involved innocence proved by new developments in DNA technology.

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Federal Grant To Aid Effort By Inmates To Prove Innocence Using DNA Evidence

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The NYPD, the NYC Office of the Chief Medical Examiner and The Innocence Project recently received a$1.25 million grant from the National Institute of Justice to aid the claims of incarcerated individuals in New York City who are seeking to prove their innocence with the help of DNA evidence. Continue reading “Federal Grant To Aid Effort By Inmates To Prove Innocence Using DNA Evidence”