CrimProf Blog

Editor: Kevin Cole
Univ. of San Diego School of Law

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

N. California Innocence Project Hosts Top CA Appellate/Criminal Defense Attorney

Today, the Northern California Innocence Project is co-sponsoring a speech by Dennis Riordan, at Santa Clara University School of Law, to discuss developments in the Damien Echols case.  Riordan is Echols current counsel.

Here is some information about the Damien Echols case: In May 1993, three eight-year old boys, one sexually mutilated, were found murdered in a wooded area near West Memphis, Arkansas.  A year later, a jury convicted three local teenagers on the theory that they committed the murders as part of a Satanic ritual. The oldest defendant, Damien Echols – who was 18 years-old at the time of the crime – was sentenced to death.

Since that time, two prize-winning HBO documentaries (“Paradise Lost I” and “Paradise Lost 2:  Revelations”) and a book (“The Devil’s Knot”) have detailed the media frenzy surrounding the case and the lack of credible evidence against the three defendants.  The case has been called a modern-day Salem witch hunt, in which young, long-haired outcasts were wrongly condemned to quell a community’s fear and anger.

Dennis Riordan, Mr. Echols’ present counsel, will discuss new developments in the case, the constitutional issues, the procedural hurdles to obtaining a new trial in federal habeas corpus proceedings, and the DNA testing that may help establish Mr. Echols’ innocence.  The program will feature excerpts from the HBO documentaries.

Dennis Riordan, a criminal defense attorney in San Francisco, is known as one of the top appellate lawyers in the state.  His work includes the defense of former Black Panther Johnny Spain, the SF dog-mauling case, and the Ed Rosenthal (medical marijuana) defense.

Mr. Riordan’s lecture at Santa Clara University School of Law is co-sponsored by The Northern California Innocence Project, The Heafey Center for Trial and Appellate Advocacy, and The Center for Social Justice and Public Service.

The lecture will take place from 4:00 p.m. – 5:15 Bannan Hall, Room 241 (second floor).  Refreshments will be provided.  For more informarion contact Professor Margaret Russell at [Mark Godsey]

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