January 4, 2008
Dallas Exonerates 15th Inmate
From aol.com: The release of Charles Chatman, 47, added to Dallas County's nationally unmatched number of wrongfully convicted inmates.
"Every time I'd go to parole, they'd want a description of the crime or my version of the crime," Chatman said. "I don't have a version of the crime. I never committed the crime. I never will admit to doing this crime that I know I didn't do."
District Judge John Creuzot, whom defense lawyers credited with shepherding Chatman's case for exoneration through the legal system, recommended that Texas' Court of Criminal Appeals find Chatman not guilty. With several relatives dabbing at their eyes with tissues and cheering, Chatman was released.
Chatman became the 15th inmate from Dallas County since 2001 to be freed by DNA testing. He served more time than any of the other inmates, four of whom were in court Thursday to show their support.
has freed more inmates after DNA testing than any other county
nationwide, said Natalie Roetzel of the Innocence Project of Texas.
Texas leads the country in prisoners freed by DNA testing, releasing at
least 30 wrongfully convicted inmates since 2001, according to the
Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
January 3, 2008
CrimProf Doug Colbert and Law Students Help New Orleans Inmates Over Break
From examiner.com: Two and half years later, Hurricane Katrina victims fight to keep their homes, while others spend months in jail before overwhelmed prosecutors press charges and still more live in trailers as they wait for new housing.
University of Maryland law students plan to travel to the Gulf Coast this week — and give up their winter vacation — to offer their legal smarts and rebuild broken lives.
One group of students will work at the Baton Rouge, La., public defender’s office interviewing inmates to chip away at the backlog of cases that mushroomed when victims relocated and doubled the state capital’s population.
Self Styled Freedom Fighter Receives New Trial
NYTimes.com: It has been a quarter-century since a group of self-styled freedom fighters, including Judith A. Clark, carried out an armored-car robbery in Rockland County, N.Y.
On Sept. 21, a federal judge overturned admitted participant Ms. Clark’s conviction, in a decision that held that she effectively had no legal counsel at her trial in 1983, when she chose to represent herself and then boycotted some of the proceedings.
“We in the law enforcement community are pretty outraged that this has transpired,” said Robert W. Van Cura, chief of the South Nyack police department. “The trial judge at the time went to great lengths to warn her about the dangers of self-representation. She clearly understood the proceedings.”
But friends and relatives of Ms. Clark were overjoyed by the decision. They and her lawyers say that since her conviction, Ms. Clark, the daughter of a onetime Communist newspaper editor and a prominent marketing executive, has become a new person, accepting responsibility for her actions and forging a strong relationship with her daughter, who was a baby at the time of the holdup.
“She’s a changed woman,” said Leon Friedman, one of Ms. Clark’s lawyers, who is a law professor at Hofstra University. “She is very sorry for what happened. She realizes what a terrible mess she made. She has taken all kinds of constructive steps in her life, and she’s a different human being than the one who took part in those terrible events.” Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
January 2, 2008
Government Websites Aid Identity Thieves
From washingtonpost.com: In an era when government officials from President Bush to local sheriffs warn of the growing dangers of identity theft, the full Social Security numbers of untold numbers of Americans can be found in file rooms and on Web sites run by, well, governments.
"This is very dangerous," Gansler said after learning that his number had been posted on a Maryland government records site. "You know, a Social Security number is really the fingerprint to somebody's identification."
The Federal Trade Commission has estimated that 8.3 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2005, the most recent data available. But the crown jewel in identity theft -- the Social Security number -- can be mined easily in the government's own records, creating a measure of social insecurity for millions, identity experts say. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Egyptian Lawmakers Push to Allow Abortions for Rape Victims
From gulfnews.com: With an estimated 20,000 cases of rape annually, some Egyptian lawmakers are pushing for giving rape victims the right to abortion.
According to the semi-official newspaper Al Ahram, an MP has presented a draft bill to the parliament demanding an amendment to the Egyptian law to allow pregnant woman, who has been raped, to go for abortion. The aim, according to MP Khalil Qouta, is to curb an increasing number of children of unknown parents in Egypt.
“Any girl or woman, who is subjected to rape, has the right in Islam to have abortion at anytime, and she would not commit a sin for doing this,” said Egypt’s top Muslim cleric Mohammad Sayed Tantawi.
Giving his blessing to
the pro-abortion bill, Tantawi, who is the Grand Shaikh of Al Azhar,
demanded that women given the right to abortion should have done their
best to resist the rapist. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Questioning Jury about Opposing the Death Peanlty is not Required on Constitutional Grounds
From ap.org: A judge's failure to question jurors who indicated they opposed the death penalty is not reason enough to overturn the convictions of two men in the killing of a police informant, a federal appeals court says.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals encouraged judges to question potential jurors orally about their opposition to the death penalty, but it said such questioning is not required on constitutional grounds.
The U.S. Supreme Court has held that prospective jurors may be excluded from jury service in capital cases if they indicate that they will automatically vote for or against the death penalty in every case.
In a decision dated Friday, the three-judge appeals panel from the 2nd Circuit upheld the convictions of Alan Quinones and Diego Rodriguez, rejecting defense arguments that their convictions should be reversed because the trial judge did not orally question jurors who indicated on questionnaires that they were opposed to the death penalty.
The men were convicted in 2004 of racketeering, drug trafficking and the 1999 murder of Eddie Santiago, an informant for the New York Police Department. During the penalty phase, jurors unanimously decided not to impose death.
The appeals panel noted that other trial judges in Manhattan have routinely questioned jurors who wrote in questionnaires that they oppose the death penalty.
"The practice is commendable," the panel said. "The bluntness or hesitancy, confidence or discomfort, displayed by prospective jurors as they respond to questions about the possibility of returning a capital verdict often reveals as much about bias as the actual answers given." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]