January 17, 2008
House Panel Criticizes CIA Tape Destruction
From washingtonpost.com: The CIA's destruction of videotapes containing harsh interrogations of detainees at secret prisons drew bipartisan criticism from House lawmakers who attended a closed hearing yesterday at which the agency's acting general counsel testified about the matter.
Intelligence committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-Tex.) said afterward that he remained convinced that the CIA did not meet its obligation to fully inform congressional overseers about the tapes and their destruction. He called the failure "unacceptable."
Reyes said that John A. Rizzo, the CIA's acting general counsel, answered all questions, provided "highly detailed" responses and "walked the committee through the entire matter, dating back to 2002."
Rep. Peter Hoekstra (Mich.), the panel's ranking Republican and former chairman, said Rizzo suggested that Jose A. Rodriguez Jr., the CIA's head of clandestine services, acted on his own authority in November 2005 when he ordered that the tapes be destroyed. "It appears from what we have seen to date that Rodriguez may not have been following instructions" when he ordered the destruction, Hoekstra said.
"There was a long debate about what should be done, and all indications are that Rodriguez should have halted when he gave the go-ahead," he added. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
Professor Twining wins Evidence Award
University of Miami School of Law Evidence Prof William Twining was one of two recipients of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) Evidence Section's Inaugural John Henry Wigmore Awards for Lifetime Achievement in Elucidating the Law of Evidence and the Process of Proof.
The awards, named for the pioneering legal scholar in the field of Evidence, were presented at the Evidence Section's luncheon on January 5th, 2008 at the AALS Annual Meeting in New York. UM Law School Dean Dennis O. Lynch remarked: "This award represents Professor Twining's outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of evidence. We are very proud of having had him as a colleague on our faculty for over twenty years." [Mark Godsey]
North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence Director and Exoneree to Speak and Campbell School of Law
The Campbell Law Innocence Project will host guest speakers Dwayne Dail and Chris Mumma on campus Jan. 21.
Dail served 18 years in prison for the 1987 rape of a 12-year-old girl in Goldsboro until DNA testing revealed his innocence. He was exonerated and released from prison on Aug. 28, 2007, making him the 207th person freed nationwide by DNA testing.
Mumma, executive director of the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence, served as Dail’s attorney and will speak about the case as well. She has served as the executive director of the North Carolina Chief Justice’s Criminal Justice Study Commission and serves on the boards of UNC Law School and Durham Academy, among others. A graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill, Mumma is the recent recipient of the News & Observer’s 2007 Tar Heel of the Year award. [Mark Godsey]
January 16, 2008
Former Congressman Indicted in Terrorism Fundraising Ring
From washingtonpost.com: A former congressman and delegate to the United Nations was indicted Wednesday as part of a terrorist fundraising ring that allegedly sent more than $130,000 to an al-Qaida and Taliban supporter who has threatened U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan.
The former Republican congressman from Michigan, Mark Deli Siljander, was charged with money laundering, conspiracy and obstructing justice for allegedly lying about lobbying senators on behalf of an Islamic charity that authorities said was secretly sending funds to terrorists.
A 42-count indictment, unsealed in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Mo., accuses the Islamic American Relief Agency of paying Siljander $50,000 for the lobbying _ money that turned out to be stolen from the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Siljander, who served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, was appointed by President Reagan to serve as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations for one year in 1987. [Mark Godsey]
Padilla Receives 30 Years in Prison
From latimes.com: Alleged "dirty bomb" plotter Jose Padilla and two codefendants were engaged in terrorism when they conspired to fight in foreign holy wars and should spend 30 years to life in prison, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.
The sentencing guidelines imposed by U.S. District Judge Marcia G. Cooke seemed to indicate that, at least in the case of 37-year-old Padilla, she would heed prosecutors' call for life without parole.
A jury convicted Padilla and his co-defendants in August of conspiracy to murder, maim or kidnap persons abroad and material support to terrorism.
The federal government's allegation that Padilla had been plotting to detonate a radioactive bomb in a U.S. city was dropped before his four-month trial, despite having been the basis for holding the U.S. citizen at a military brig for 3 1/2 years.
Federal sentencing guidelines are advisory, but Cooke's rulings on various defense motions indicated she was following them to the letter in calculating the sentences for Padilla, his alleged recruiter Adham Amin Hassoun, and Kifah Wael Jayyousi, a former San Diego school administrator accused of delivering aid to Muslim fighters in foreign conflicts. Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
CrimProf Floyd Feeney Discuses Police New Found Use for the Term: "Person of Interest"
From sacbee.com: UC Davis CrimProf Floyd Feeney explains the term "person of interest" in light of Sacramento County sheriff's detectives called Agustine Munoz a "person of interest" after his estranged wife's body was found in a ditch in November.
Around the same time, Sacramento police called Miguel Carranza a "person of interest" after his ex-girlfriend was gunned down with her new boyfriend.
Carranza has since been named a homicide suspect. Munoz – now in jail on other charges – remains a "person of interest."
"It's a broad and somewhat ambiguous term," said UC Davis CrimProf Floyd Feeney. By using a vague term, authorities may feel they are more in control of the situation, he said.
In recent years, the term "person of interest" has become a familiar part of the law enforcement lexicon across the country.
Critics say it's a nebulous euphemism for "suspect" that can tarnish someone's name when investigators are still a long way from gathering enough evidence for an arrest.
Law enforcement officials say it can mean "suspect." But they also use it for "accomplice," "witness" or "someone with key information about a crime." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]
January 13, 2008
Southwestern University to Host a Wrongful Conviction Symposium
Southwestern University's Law Review is hosing a Wrongful Conviction Symposium on Feb. 8, 2008
Wrongful conviction of the innocent not only destroys the lives of those found guilty and their families, it allows the criminals who actually perpetrated the crimes to go unpunished and free to commit additional offenses. Southwestern will present Wrongful Convictions: Causes and Cures on Friday, February 8, 2008, a symposium dedicated to exploring the causes of wrongful conviction, the media's role in these cases and the ways to reduce their occurrence.
Recent developments in DNA testing have confirmed the long-standing fear that individuals can be convicted of crimes they did not commit. There have been more than 200 DNA exonerations in the United States that have typically involved serious violent felonies, some of which were capital crimes. A number of exonerations have also occurred in cases not involving scientific evidence.
"It is no longer surprising to see media accounts of individuals who have been wrongfully convicted and exonerated after serving lengthy sentences, sometimes on death row," said Southwestern Professor Myrna Raeder, a nationally recognized expert on evidence and procedure who is a co-organizer of the event. "This symposium will focus on many of the recognized causes of wrongful convictions, and the ways that jurisdictions can become more effective in ensuring the integrity of the criminal justice system."
The symposium will feature legal scholars, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, defense attorneys, journalists, and other experts who will discuss the causes of wrongful convictions, such as mistaken eyewitness testimony, faulty forensic evidence, unreliable informants and false confessions, among other issues. Approaches to reducing the occurrence of wrongful convictions and providing compensation, such as those suggested by recently adopted American Bar Association (ABA) policies, will be also be discussed, as well as the media's role in these matters. The program is being co-sponsored by the ABA Criminal Justice Section, the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, and the National Legal Aid and Defender Association.
In addition to featured luncheon speaker Peter Neufeld, co-director of the Innocence Project, panelists will include: Dino Amoroso, formerly Kings County District Attorney's Office; Professor Rory Little, University of California, Hastings College of the Law; Professor Laurie Levenson, William M. Rains Fellow and Director of the Center for Ethical Advocacy, Loyola Law School; Barry Fisher, Director, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Crime Laboratory; Professor Paul Giannelli, Case Western Reserve University School of Law; Professor Jennifer Mnookin, University of California, Los Angeles School of Law; Professor William Thompson, Chair, Department of Criminology, Law & Society, School of Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine; Professor Margaret Berger, Brooklyn Law School; Hon. Arthur L. Burnett, Sr., Executive Director, National African-American Drug Policy Coalition; Professor Andrew Taslitz, Howard University School of Law; Gigi Gordon, Directing Attorney, Post Conviction Assistance Center; Professor Gerald Uelmen, Director, Edwin A. Heafey Jr. Center for Trial and Appellate Advocacy, Santa Clara University School of Law and Reporter, California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice; Henry Weinstein, Legal Affairs Reporter for the Los Angeles Times; and Professor Kenneth Williams, Southwestern Law School. Southwestern professors Isabelle Gunning, Jonathan Miller and Karen Smith will serve as moderators.
Articles written in coordination with the Wrongful Convictions symposium will be published in the Southwestern University Law Review, a student-edited quarterly journal that publishes scholarly articles and commentary on the law contributed by prominent jurists, practitioners, law professors, and student members of the Law Review staff. In addition to publishing the writings of the participants, the Law Review has received permission to reprint the ABA Criminal Justice Section's report "Achieving Justice: Freeing the Innocent, Convicting the Guilty." For further information, contact the Law Review Office.
The symposium will take place from 8:45 a.m. (check in begins at 8 a.m.) to 5:30 p.m. in the historic Bullocks Wilshire Building on Southwestern's campus, 3050 Wilshire Boulevard, in Los Angeles.
Interesting Innocence Case in Georgia
CrimProf Deirdre O'Connor, Director of the Indigent Criminal Defense Clinic at Emory, recently informed me of an innocence case in Georgia that has been getting a lot of national press.
The case involves Troy Davis, who is a GA death row inmate who has maintained his innocence for the past 18 years. There was no physical evidence linking him to the shooting death of an off-duty police officer and 7 of the 9 trial witnesses (5 eyewitnesses and 2 snitches) have since recanted. In addition, 9 other witnesses have implicated another man (Redd Coles) as the shooter.
Troy came within 24 hours of execution before the GA Board of Pardons and Paroles gave him a 90 day stay. During the stay, the GA S. Ct. decided by a 4/3 vote to hear his appeal for an extraordinary motion for a new trial based on the recantations and affidavits of witnesses implicating Redd Coles. Oral arguments were heard on November 13, 2007 and a ruling is expected any time between now and April 20, 2008.
Here is an excerpt from an earlier article about the case in NYTimes.com: A man convicted of murder based on no physical evidence and solely on the eyewitness testimony, of which 7 out of the 9 witnesses have now recanted, will have his day in front of the Clemency Board Monday.
The man convicted of shooting a police officer in 1989, Troy A. Davis, is likely to be the focus of an unusual clemency hearing before the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles. On Monday, the board is to hear the case of Mr. Davis, 38, who was sentenced to death in 1991 for the killing.
Though prosecutors have considered the case solved for nearly two decades, a chorus of eyewitnesses say the police arrested the wrong man. Now, on the eve of execution, scheduled for Tuesday, they have joined his family and his lawyers in an effort to get the courts to hear new evidence they say proves he is innocent.
With no physical evidence — the murder weapon was never found — prosecutors relied heavily on the testimony of nine eyewitnesses who took the stand against Mr. Davis.
But since his trial, seven of the nine have recanted or changed their testimony, saying they were harassed and pressed by investigators to lie under oath. Other witnesses have come forward identifying a different man as the shooter.
But because of a 1996 federal law intended to streamline the legal process in death penalty cases, courts have ruled it is too late in the appeals process to introduce new evidence and, so far, have refused to hear it.
Legal experts, including William S. Sessions, a retired federal judge, a former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and a self-described supporter of the death penalty, have sounded the alarm over Mr. Davis’s case. They say it underscores the many ways the death penalty is unevenly and wrongly applied, particularly in the South, the region with the most death penalty cases.
“It would be intolerable to execute an innocent man,” Mr. Sessions wrote in an op-ed article for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It would be equally intolerable to execute a man without his claims of innocence ever being considered by the courts or by the executive.”
Representative John Lewis, Democrat of Georgia, is expected to testify at the clemency hearing Monday.
In addition to the hearing, lawyers for Mr. Davis asked for a new trial, but on Friday, Judge Penny Haas Freesemann of Chatham County Superior Court in Savannah denied the bid. Mr. Davis’s lawyers told The Associated Press that they would appeal to the state Supreme Court.