Monday, November 29, 2004

A Justice System really has to be corrupt and out of hand for something to actually change

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Connecticut’s system is such a ridiculous embarrassment calling itself an American Justice system, the below happened:

Project Targets Innocent Inmates Seeks To Right Conviction Errors

November 29, 2004 By DIANE STRUZZI, Courant Staff Writer

Connecticut prison inmates who say they are innocent, and whose cases contain evidence that could prove it, will have a place to turn for help early next year when the state public defender's office launches The Connecticut Innocence Project.

The project is the first of its kind in the state and one of about 30 similar programs across the country that focus on exonerating prisoners, often through DNA testing. The idea was popularized by lawyers Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld, who, in 1992, created a nonprofit legal clinic at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York, which handles cases in which DNA testing can conclusively prove innocence. The undertaking in Connecticut, led by public defenders Brian Carlow and Karen Goodrow, is independent and not directly affiliated with Scheck and Neufeld's legal clinic.

The Connecticut Innocence Project capitalizes on a heightened national awareness of innocence cases. It also complements a Connecticut advisory commission that was set up recently to review wrongful conviction cases and suggest statewide reforms to diminish the likelihood of wrongful convictions.

Some guidelines have been established for a case to be considered by Connecticut's project. For instance, inmates must be indigent and their cases should have new evidence or evidence on which new testing can be performed. Because of the length of time it takes to pursue such cases, the project will generally consider inmates serving at least a 10-year sentence who have at least five years remaining on their term.

"We're talking about only people who have been convicted of a crime that they did not commit and are actually innocent and there's evidence that exists that can establish that," said Chief Public Defender Gerard Smyth.

"I don't think anybody wants an innocent person to be convicted of a crime and incarcerated. ... To the extent that any of those situations exist, I would expect the support of the public, law enforcement and prosecutors to ensure that those convictions are overturned."

The idea that prosecutors would cooperate with defense lawyers in a wrongful conviction claim should not be shocking, said Chief State's Attorney Christopher Morano.

"I've always felt prosecutors have been in the `innocence project' business for a long time, long before it became politically popular," Morano said.

"When there is a need for scrutiny, we have no problem with it. ... What we're in for is the search for the truth, and it doesn't stop once someone is convicted.

"Morano said he has been looking at other states where prosecutors have established specialized units to analyze cases after convictions and would like to do something similar someday. But he said he does not have the staff to do that now. Even before the Connecticut Innocence Project, there have been Connecticut cases where convictions have either been overturned or a new trial granted.

Peter Reilly was convicted in the 1973 killing of his mother. But that conviction was overturned because a taped confession convinced a judge that the confession had been coerced. Larry Miller was a former federal corrections officer in Danbury who served 12 years in prison for the 1981 beating of two Danbury teenagers. He was released after a convicted killer admitted to the crime.

Mark Reid was not exonerated of an East Hartford rape, but a judge granted him a new trial last year after DNA testing proved the microscopic hair analysis used to convict him was not accurate. The charges against him were eventually dismissed and he was deported to his native Jamaica on a prior assault conviction.

The Connecticut Innocence Project is already championing the case of Ralph Birch, 37, of New Milford, who was convicted of the 1985 fatal stabbing of a New Milford man. Goodrow said Birch claims he is innocent, and the state has agreed to allow further testing on some evidence.

Goodrow said a private defense lawyer is handling an innocence claim from Birch's co-defendant, Shawn Henning, 36, of Ledyard.

The public defender's office is not receiving additional funding for its project, and those involved will volunteer their time. Initially, the project will take on only a few cases, Smyth said. He pointed out that post-conviction DNA testing is provided for under state law.

"We're doing this in a more restricted way at first to see what the experience is, and if we find we can take on more, then we will," Smyth said.

While some state officials welcomed the idea, others were cautious. New Haven State's Attorney Michael Dearington said prisoners already have avenues to appeal wrongful convictions and to assert their innocence, such as petitions for a new trial or a habeas corpus petition, which challenges the legality of incarceration.

"It's not entirely clear to me how necessary" this project is, Dearington said.

"We're as interested as anyone in making sure innocent people are not convicted."

West Hartford Police Chief James Strillacci, president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, said any system involving human effort is going to have flaws.

"If people are in jail due to an error, I certainly support someone finding that out and rectifying the situation," he said.

State Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, said righting a wrongful conviction also helps apprehend the real criminal.

"After all, if the wrong person is in jail," he said, "the real bad guy is out there presumably committing other crimes."

The above came from the Hartford Courant website.

Fair use of copyrighted material

* * * *

Can cops rape, rob, beat, and murder with immunity?

Are their unnamed factions in the US, similar to the KKK?

With rogue judges and their minions, police officers, do we really live in a Democracy? (post)

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