Archives : 2008 : August
Four men from Houston, Texas who were charged and imprisoned nearly 25 years ago for rape are still fighting to be released.
The long term prison sentence was the result of accusations that the four men had gang raped a six-year-old girl.
Attorneys Request New Trial
Last week, attorneys for the men filed a lawsuit demanding the release of the men, who protest their innocence, and have requested a new trial.
However, the only current glitch in the case is that the victim is now claiming the rape never happened.
"It’s a lie," says Johnny Edwards, one of the convicted man’s brothers. "It’s a lie. Bottom line, it’s a lie."
Men Stand Accused
Donald Thompson was one of four men convicted of gang-raping a six-year-old girl at a birthday party for her father.
The girl’s father was also convicted of being a part of the rape.
The victim, who is now 30, recently confessed on audio tape that the four men, including her father, never assaulted her.
Two of the convicted men were released on parole last year; but when they refused to admit to any wrongdoing in counseling, they were sent back.
Now, the families of these men are fighting aggressively to have them released from prison after the tape acknowledging their innocence was made public.
Do you have a loved one who has been convicted of a crime? If so, please contact us to speak with an experienced attorney who will evaluate the case and ensure your loved ones receive the legal guidance and support they need and deserve.
A settlement was recently reached in the suit filed by anti-war activists who claim they were wrongly arrested in New York.
The plaintiffs were supposedly arrested by the NYPD in 2003 during an anti-war protest.
Protestors Arrested and Jailed
During the protest, members of the NYPD claimed the protestors were blocking the sidewalk and were never asked to disperse.
Instead, police officers simply penned them in and arrested them without any sort of warning.
The protest was led by Sarah Kunstler and consisted of 52 protestors.
“The NYPD violated core constitutional rights when it arrested a group of peaceful demonstrators who were lawfully protesting against the commencement of the Iraq war and those who stood to profit from it,” claims Sarah Netburn, who served as an attorney in the case.
The protestors were reportedly handcuffed and taken to the police department without any real knowledge of what they had done wrong.
Justice Served with Settlement
Charges against the protestors, who were outside of the Carlyle Group at the time of the arrest, were dropped as part of the settlement.
“We hope our victory helps convince the city to stop violating people’s rights as a matter of policy and stop wasting taxpayers’ money doing so,” says Kunstler.
(Source: NY Daily News)
Have you been the victim of a wrongful arrest? If so, please contact us to speak with an experienced attorney about the legal options available to you.
A panel is set to meet this week regarding whether or not a man was wrongly executed in Texas for a crime he didn’t commit.
Even while he was awaiting his execution, the man pleaded with authorities claiming he was innocent.
Deadly Fire Leads to Execution
Cameron Willingham was working as an auto mechanic when his house, where his one-year-old twins and two-year-old stepdaughter were, was set on fire.
Willingham was charged, imprisoned and eventually executed for the deaths of the three children resulting from the fire.
Now, 17 years after the fire, and four years after Willingham’s execution, a state commission is being investigated for the decision.
Innocence Could be Proven too Late
In response to a complaint filed by The Innocence Project, the nine-member Texas Forensic Science Commission is now conducting a thorough investigation of Willingham’s criminal case.
Along with Willingham’s case, the commission is also going to investigate another arson fire that happened in 1986 in Texas and cost Ernest Willis his life.
(Source: Houston Chronicle)
Do you know someone who has been wrongly convicted of a crime? If so, please contact us to speak with an experienced and trustworthy attorney who will help your loved ones receive the legal support they need and deserve.
An inmate in Ohio recently admitted to a murder one of his fellow inmates was being imprisoned for.
The murder took place in 1998 and took the life of a legally blind woman.
Murderer Comes Forward
Earl G. Mann, 35, recently came forward and pleaded guilty to taking part in the brutal murder of Judith Johnson, 58.
Johnson was reportedly raped and killed at her Barberton home in the early morning.
Her granddaughter, who was an unexpected houseguest that night, was also raped, but survived.
Wrong Man Sent to Jail
Clarence Elkins was accused of the rapes and murder and investigators believed Elkins drove to Johnson’s home, who was his mother-in-law, and raped and killed her, before raping his niece.
The girl claimed it was Elkins who raped her, which served as key evidence in the case.
Family Fights Back
Since his imprisonment, Elkins and his wife have fought for his release and called on another DNA testing.
Investigators found that on Johnson’s property was a cigarette with Mann’s DNA on it.
Elkins was released and Mann’s new sentence, he was in jail for several attacks on girls, is 55 years in prison.
(Source: Canton Rep)
Do you know someone who has been wrongly imprisoned? Please contact us today to speak with a trustworthy attorney about the legal resources available to you.
Once a conviction occurs, a person may appeal the decision of the court unless he or she specifically forfeited that right during a plea bargain. However, even if someone gives up the right to appeal that person may still appeal issues such as lack of jurisdiction or legality of the sentence. Appeals are a request to a court to resolve disputed issues of law or fact. An example of a disputed issue of law may be reading or wording of certain jury instructions or a trial court’s ruling on certain motions. A disputed issue of fact could be something like a person is convicted of murder, but the person they are accused of killing is actually alive.
Another avenue of post conviction relief is filing a writ of habeas corpus. Depending on local rules and the issues involved, a person may be able to file this at the same time they file the appeal. The basic difference between writs of habeas corpus and appeals are the basis of the claim. Most habeas corpus writs challenge the legality of a person’s detention. For example, a person’s Constitutional rights were violated in the court process and therefore are being held illegally. A requirement for most writs of habeas corpus is the exhaustion of all appellate remedies (i.e. appealing and losing at both the appellate and the state’s highest court) prior to filing. The purpose of this is to give the appellate courts a chance to remedy the mistake. Also, a person must be “in custody” to file such a writ. In custody can mean not only in physical custody of the state, but also on parole.
Appeals follow a different procedure than writs of habeas corpus. There are different requirements and time lines attached to writs. Each state has their own deadlines for filing appeals and writs. It is important to check the deadlines because appellate courts are very unforgiving if a deadline is missed.
To begin the appellate process, a person must file a notice of appeal with the trial court. This is a way of telling the court the defendant intends to appeal a conviction. Most states, such as California, do not require a defendant to identify the issues upon which they will appeal. They must simple file a notice with the clerk.
Once the notice is filed, the court reporter will prepare “the record”. This is the written verbatim transcript of all proceedings related to the case. Once the record is received, the appellate attorney can file a brief, which is a detailed explanation of everything they claim went wrong and the remedy sought. The state then gets to file a reply, which often claims no mistakes were made. After the state files, the defendant may file their own response.
An appellate court has several choices in deciding your appeal. It can affirm the judgment of the trial court, in which case your conviction and sentence remain unchanged. This is what happens in the great majority of cases. It also can modify the judgment. This usually means that the verdict remains the same, but some aspect of the decision, such as the sentence, or conditions of probation, is changed. Occasionally, the court will reduce a conviction to a lesser-included offense (i.e. manslaughter as a lesser-included offense to murder), instead of reversing the judgment. The reviewing court can also send the case back to the trial court with directions that require the trial court to do something further to determine whether the judgment should stand or be reversed or modified.
Finally, the reviewing court can also reverse the judgment of the trial court, in part or entirely, but this does not occur in the majority of the cases that it decides. Even if you gain a reversal, the case will probably not be over. It is rare for the appellate court to dismiss a case outright, even when it reverses the trial court’s decision. Usually the case is sent back to the trial court for a new trial. Depending on the circumstances of the reversal, the district attorney’s office may decide to retry the case on the original counts of conviction. In other cases, it may offer a plea agreement. On occasion, it will dismiss the charge.
The court will write an opinion stating whether the judgment is affirmed, reversed, or modified, and giving the reasons for its decision.
If the appellate court does affirm the trial court’s judgment, the appellate attorney should review its opinion carefully to decide if there are any further steps to be taken in the case. Although there are further steps that can be taken, in most cases each step after the first appeal is discretionary with the court.
A party dissatisfied with the decision of the reviewing court may petition their state’s highest court (if there is one beyond the initial appellate court) for review within a certain number of days after the decision becomes final. The number of days varies by state. The higher courts have discretion on whether to review decisions meaning they do not have to take a case unless they want to take it. If you or your appellate attorney believe your case contains a substantial federal question, such as the violation of a federal constitutional right, you may wish to consider filing a petition for review with the highest court to preserve your right to seek relief in federal court by means of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus in the federal district court, or a petition for a writ of certiorari in the United States Supreme Court. You may also file a petition for review if your case presents an important issue of state law or an issue on which the appellate courts have issued conflicting decisions.
A man living in Pike County, Ohio was recently awarded in a case involving the murder of his friend.
The man’s conviction was reportedly overturned when he was awarded $600,000 in damages for wrongful imprisonment.
Innocent Man Admits to Murder
Kenneth Moore, 49, admitted to a jury in 1995 that he shot and killed his friend, Darrel Benner, 44, one night while they were drinking.
Since this time, Moore has spent nine years of a 15 years-to-life sentence behind bars for the murder.
Victim Receives Compensation
Moore’s case was recently overturned by an appeals court who found that the lawyers working for him did not inform him of favorable evidence at the time of the trial.
As a result, he was tried once again and found to be innocent of the murder that took his friend’s life.
Moore was awarded statutory damages of $44, 204 for each year he spent in jail along with $106, 764 in legal fees and $80,817 for lost wages.
(Source: The Columbus Dispatch)
Have you been accused of a crime you didn’t commit? If so, please contact us today to speak with an experienced attorney who will evaluate your case and ensure you are rightfully compensated.
A man who spent 18 years behind bars was recently released after he was proven innocent of his charges.
The man was charged and jailed for allegedly raping a 10-year-old girl in Ohio.
Man Accused of Rape
Robert McClendon, 52, was convicted of taking a 10-year-old relative from her backyard, blindfolding her and taking her to his house before raping her.
The victim reportedly told staff members at a hospital about the rape the day after it happened.
DNA Proves Man’s Innocence
After 18 years in prison, a lab re-examined the case and discovered that the DNA profile didn’t match evidence found at the crime scene.
The DNA was re-evaluated when DNA Diagnostics Center, a lab from Cincinnati, agreed to conduct tests on the prisoners for free.
Authorities had reportedly thrown away swabs from the victim’s medical exam, which is typically the best evidence for testing in cases involving rape.
“To be in prison for 18 years for something you didn’t do and the know you are going to walk out of court a free man, that’s a lot to take in one day,” says McClendon.
(Source: New Haven Register)
Do you know someone who has been wrongly convicted of a crime? If so, please contact us to speak with an experienced attorney who will evaluate the case and ensure your loved ones are getting the legal support they need.
This article will explain the general United States Constitutional principles that arise when ordinary citizens encounter police searches and seizures. Specifically, we will address issues associated with searches of persons by police and other governmental actors. While the following passage is meant to be a discussion of general principles of Constitutional Law, actual search and seizures laws vary from state to state. If you have been arrested and are reading this to determine if you have an issue for litigation, we urge you to consult an attorney and discuss you matter fully with them. Nothing in this article is meant to be advice about any specific or individual case.
Police Must Follow Search and Seizure Procedures
Contrary to what’s seen on television, police may not simply approach people and search their person unless one of the following situations apply:
1) Arrests: An arrest occurs when the police take a person into custody against her will for purposes of criminal prosecution or interrogation. An arrest must be based on probable cause. Probable cause to arrest is present when at the time of the arrest, the officer has within her knowledge reasonably trustworthy facts and circumstances sufficient to warrant a reasonably prudent person to believe that the suspect has committed or is committing a crime.
When police affect an arrest, they may perform what’s known as a “search incident to a lawful arrest” which is defined as:
- Whenever there is a lawful arrest of a suspect, the police may, contemporaneous with that arrest, search within the geographic “reach area” of the suspect, specifically including his pockets or any bags or parcels she is carrying.
- If the suspect is arrested in a dwelling, the police may generally not search outside the room the suspect is located in.
- Note that if the arrest turns out to be unlawful, the search is unlawful as well.
Please also note the special rule for automobiles: When a suspect is lawfully arrested within a vehicle, the police may search that person and within the passenger compartment of that vehicle (excluding the trunk). This includes any parcels or bags within the passenger compartment of the car.
2) Stop and Frisk: The police may also conduct a less intrusive search, known as a “stop and frisk.” While a full arrest as described above must be supported by “probable cause”, a stop and frisk only requires “reasonable suspicion”:
- “Stop“:The Court has not specifically defined “reasonable suspicion.” It requires something more than a vague suspicion (e.g. it is not enough that the detainee was in a crime filled area), but full probable cause is not required. Whether the standard is met is judged under the totality of the circumstances.Example: Reasonable suspicion justifying a stop is present when (i) a suspect who is standing on a corner in a high crime area (ii) flees after noticing the presence of police. Neither factor standing alone is enough to justify a stop, but together they are sufficiently suspicious.
- “Frisk“: If the police reasonably suspect that the person is armed after stopping them, the police may conduct a limited pat-down of the suspect’s outer clothing to search for weapons. If a weapon or other contraband is discovered during the course of that pat-down, it may be admissible depending on how much it felt like the contraband the officer thought it was.
- The inquiry in this situation is “how much of a weapon/contraband did the object feel like through the suspects clothing.”Example: Police notice Sean in a drug neighborhood pacing on a corner. During the frisk, the officer feels a small metal rectangular box, which he opens, and determines that it contains crack cocaine. There is a strong argument, based on US Constitutional law that the officer could not possibly determine that the item was crack by feeling a rectangular box through the suspect’s clothing.
The above are guidelines to inform people of the rights guaranteed them by the Constitution. There are many other protections against unreasonable law enforcement actions guaranteed by the Constitution and state and federal laws, and you should educate yourself fully. If you were stopped by a police officer and their conduct was not within the terms discussed in this article, please contact an attorney immediately; your liberty may depend upon it.
A 40 year old Pennsylvanian man who has been in jail for over a year awaiting trial recently pleaded with a local judge claiming he is innocent of the charges held against him.
The man was jailed after being accused of selling counterfeit merchandise and being a street gang member.
Man Says He’s Been Victimized
Robert A. Singletary Sr. claimed on a witness stand last week that evidence informing a jury that he was a legitimate businessman was never presented before he was accused and jailed.
“I had radio ads, a tax ID number. All of that would have proven my intent,” explains Singletary.
Singletary was accused of knowingly selling fake Gucci and Louis Vuitton bags and apparel at a local store in Pennsylvania.
Prisoner Attempting to be Released
Singletary has been jailed for the past 15 months after being charged with trademark counterfeiting and deceptive business practices.
He has also been accused of being a member of the United Bloods Nation, a known street gang whose members were reportedly funneling proceeds from the store.
“My client denies any involvement with the Bloods. It’s clearly false,” says Singletary’s attorney, Richard Feudale.
Although Singetary admitted that he knew some of the items at the store were counterfeit, he said he never personally partook in the selling or buying of these goods.
(Source: The Daily Item)
Have you been wrongly accused of a crime? Please contact us to speak with an experienced attorney who will enable you to be compensated for any wrongdoing.
A new law that was recently passed in North Carolina favors those who have been wrongly convicted throughout the state.
The new law will enable people who have been convicted and put behind bars for a crime they didn’t commit to receive more compensation.
Governor Backs Law
Governor Mike Easley reportedly signed the law earlier this week and has publicly voiced his support for the new measures being implemented.
The law will help increase the amount of money North Carolina can award people who have been wrongly convicted of crimes.
It will also help innocent victims be granted a pardon of innocence directly from the governor.
Innocent People Compensated
Under the new measure, those who have been proven innocent will receive $50,000 for each year they spent behind bars.
Before the new law was introduced, the wrongly convicted in North Carolina only received $20,000 for each year spent in prison.
The erroneously convicted will also receive jobs skills training or a college education at the expense of the government.
The new compensation law reportedly took effect immediately and will reportedly be enforced for anyone who has been declared innocent since 2004.
Have you been wrongly jailed for a crime you didn’t commit? If so, please contact us today to speak with an experienced attorney who will enable you to be compensated for your time spent in jail.
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