Sunday, December 16, 2007

Guest Shot: That West Memphis Case -- Again

The following Op-Ed column was published in the Bentonville, Arkansas Morning News on December 15, 2007.

Truth in Justice notes that its directors believe Damien Echols, Jesse Misskelley and Jason Baldwin are innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. If you want to understand why we have reached that conclusion, see We present the following opinion to demonstrate that even those who attempt to cloak themselves in "objectivity" have reached the same conclusion.

That West Memphis Case -- Again

Look for a flurry of activity in the next few days from people supporting Damien Echols and those two other men from West Memphis who got sent to prison 14 years ago in part for being very weird, very eerie teenagers.

Most likely, though, this will remain for now a criminal justice matter insulated from any exercise of media and politics. There probably will be a costly and time-consuming legal process before Echols and the others might get freed.

But I predict their release, maybe full exoneration, even if not for years.

It is always possible, I guess, that Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jesse Misskelley, clad in black and talking about witchcraft as they wandered around as misfit 18-year-olds, did in fact torture and kill those three little boys in West Memphis in 1993.

It's too uncertain, though.

The prosecution had no physical evidence and relied solely on sometimes imaginative circumstantial evidence. It extracted easy guilty verdicts from juries predisposed by fear and rage.

Now there are new DNA findings, produced by a sophisticated defense team funded by celebrities like Johnny Depp, who have rallied to Echols' cause. This evidence links none of the three men to the slain boys or the crime scene.

Maybe Echols, Baldwin and Misskelley did all that alleged sodomizing, ritualizing and blood-drinking without leaving a shred of physical evidence. The little boys' bodies were found in water; perhaps the DNA was washed away. Logically, though, I must side with the growing chorus deeming this to have been, at the least, an unsupported judgment driven by emotion stirred by the horror of the crime and the outcast oddness of Echols and the two others.

The police described this as the work of a satanic cult. But outcast kids -- adults, too -- can fancy themselves as witches without being Satanists.

Misskelley, with a low IQ, gave the police a confession laced with contradictions and errors.

He recanted hours later. But the police and prosecutors were on their way. Juries convicted all three, sentencing two to life in prison and giving Echols, the scariest-looking and scariest-acting, the death penalty.

These new findings by Echols' defense team make a case that those supposed ritualistic mutilations were actually the postmortem work of animals.

People will tell you that this was an uncommonly vexing case. Every new bit of police information would neither prove nor disprove the guilt of the three.

But convictions are supposed to rise beyond a reasonable doubt.

Anyway, things are starting to percolate anew.

From Death Row, Echols was to give a telephone interview Friday to Larry King. It was to be taped for airing Wednesday night on CNN.

That day, supporters who advocate exoneration and release for Echols and the others will rally at the state Capitol. They intend to make a presentation to Gov. Mike Beebe, or at least someone with his office. It will be of a massive banner made up of supportive postcards from around the world, stretching a city block. Natalie Maines, the Dixie Chick who is no stranger to controversy, is to be on hand.

The matter has been sent back to Crittenden County Circuit Court on pleadings either for vacated verdicts or new trials.

But the state law on new post-conviction DNA evidence allows vacated verdicts only if that evidence provides prima facie proof of innocence. In this case, what we've seen so far only makes it seems even more unlikely -- or at least unproved -- that the imprisoned men did these crimes. It doesn't prove conclusively or absolutely that they couldn't have.

Beebe is too much the cautious man to free these three until and unless the argument becomes even more compelling. But Beebe also is the kind of man who would do the right thing eventually. I cannot imagine that he would let Echols get put to death. Commuting the death sentence would seem to be the least, the very least, the state ought to do. Then we could argue about whether he and the others ought to be in jail at all.

About this columnist

John Brummett has been writing about Arkansas and national politics for three decades and as a regular columnist since 1986. Last year he won first place in commentary writing from the national Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors. This year he took second place in humorous commentary in an 11-state Southern competition sponsored by the Society of Professional Journalists. Email Brummett at Check out Brummett's blog for the latest in Arkansas political news.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Acceptable Error Rates

On December 7, 2007, the Associated Press reported that Harris County, Texas is getting help in reviewing cases with questionable blood analysis work done by the Houston Police Department crime lab. The Innocence Project of Texas will assist in the review of 180 cases identified as having "major problems" related to shoddy serology work by the crime lab.

Three inmates have been released because of sloppy work and, potentially, forensic fraud by the Houston Police Department crime lab. The DNA section of the crime lab was so rife with problems that it was shut down in 2002 (although it has since been re-opened). Inaccuracies were also found in lab divisions that test firearms, body fluids and controlled substances. These issues are not included in the current review, which is limited to problems with blood analysis.

The AP report goes on to say that some of the 180 cases being reviewed go back to the 1980's and include death row prisoners. In October of 2007, Bob Wicoff, one of the defense attorneys leading the review, held video conferences with 160 of the inmates who are still in prison.

And then came the most chilling sentence: "Of the remaining 20 cases, half are inmates who have been executed and half have been freed from prison."

Let me translate the pertinent part into plain English: Ten of the inmates whose cases have "major problems" with the serology work that convicted them have been executed.

They are dead, killed by the State of Texas, the most efficient death machine in the nation. No apology can bring them back. But, then, we doubt any apology will be needed, because no matter what evidence of innocence is produced post-mortem, the Texas authorities will deny that it proves anything. Intractable denial is essential to the continued operation of the death machine. As long as the public wants blood – or, more appropriately these days, lethal injection – politicians, prosecutors and police will make sure they get it. Little has changed since Aztecs offered human sacrifice on the steps of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan "so that others may live."

Keep in mind that the ten executed inmates whose convictions were obtained by bogus blood work do not represent a statewide figure. This is just Harris County. There is another batch under review in Dallas. And neither of these groups include Gary Gilmore, Cameron Todd Willingham or Rubin Cantu. And, of course, similar cases in other states are not represented here, either.

Which brings us to the questions each person must answer for himself or herself: What is an acceptable error rate in death penalty cases? How many innocent people are you willing to execute in order to get the guilty ones? One per hundred? Two? Three? Ten? Do you really believe science makes the process error-free? Are you willing to be put to death yourself, or hand over your innocent spouse or parent or child in order to feed the death machine?

When you answer these questions, act accordingly.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Guest Shot: Innocent Inmates – Legislation would benefit wrongly convicted

This editorial was published by the Salt Lake City (Utah) Tribune on December 3, 2007.

"Innocence is the weakest defense. Innocence has a single voice that can only say over and over again, 'I didn't do it.' Guilt has a thousand voices, all of them lies." - LEONARD F. PELTIER, Prison Writings

The Greek philosopher Diogenes spent his days walking the streets of Athens with a lighted lantern, looking for an honest man. As the story goes, he never found one.

The lawyers at the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center are hoping they have better luck as they look for innocent men and women among prison inmates in three states. They won the release in 2004 of a man who had spent 19 years in prison for a Salt Lake City murder, but whose conviction was put in doubt by DNA testing. Three other cases are being reviewed. Nationwide, 208 inmates have been exonerated by DNA testing, and in 77 of those cases, the real perpetrator was found.

Along with its commendable work in exonerating innocent prisoners, the Rocky Mountain center is promoting legislation in Utah that would make restitution to innocent people who have had their lives derailed by wrongful convictions. It also would outline a way that inmates can be found innocent based on evidence other than DNA.

The legislation would provide an exonerated person $40,000 for each year spent in prison, and an additional $30,000 a year for death-row inmates, if they agreed this would be the "exclusive remedy." That means they would give up their right to sue the state for damages. Other compensation would be allowed in "exceptional circumstances"; for example, if an inmate were injured while in prison.

The Legislature should consider this proposal, which is supported by the Utah Attorney General's Office.

First, of course, is the moral imperative: In cases of wrongful conviction, the state may have taken years of a person's life, ruined a reputation and inflicted pain and suffering on friends and family members, all because of a miscarriage of justice. The state should do what it can to make it right.

In addition, the state would be wise to offer immediate cash compensation to avoid the possibility of having to pay a huge award if an exonerated person sued for damages. Nationwide, such awards have ranged from $300,000 to more than $10 million.

If convicted criminals owe a debt to society, does society owe a debt to the wrongly convicted?

We believe it does, and this legislation may be the answer.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Guest Shot: With Execution, Let's Make Certain

Editorial originally published November 28, 2007 in the Tuscaloosa (AL) Times at

You would like to think that our government would take every step possible in advance of a legal execution to ensure that it was not taking the life of a person innocent of the crime.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court didn't see it that way. Instead, it refused Monday to reconsider DNA testing for Tommy Douglas Arthur, schedule to die Dec. 6 for a 1982 murder in Muscle Shoals.

Arthur's daughter said the court relied on a technicality in Alabama law that requires post-conviction challenges to be filed within a certain period of time. However, she points to the fact that Alabama does not provide attorneys for post-conviction appeals, leading Arthur to miss the window of opportunity to file a challenge based on lack of DNA testing.

Ah, the old Catch-22 of the death penalty in Alabama.

The state, needless to say, doesn't require DNA testing in murder cases.

Arthur may be guilty as charged, but his case poses enough questions to warrant a DNA test. Testimony of an eyewitness placed him 75 miles away from the murder. The victim's wife, who said she was raped, testified at first that Arthur was not the murderer. Later, she changed her story, claiming that Arthur killed her husband to let her collect on a $90,000 life policy.There was no physical evidence at his trial linking him directly to the crime.

With Arthur's execution pending, all of this is disturbing. Gov. Bob Riley, obviously bothered by the case, has asked a national organization, The Innocence Project, for information about DNA tests. The group is dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

Riley has the power to delay Arthur's execution while conclusive DNA tests are done. He should do so.

We hope the governor ultimately advocates for mandatory DNA tests in Alabama murder cases. The absence of such a requirement is one of many unconscionable loopholes in the state's capital code.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Updated Message from Sherrie Stone, Daughter of Thomas Arthur

My father Thomas Arthur, Alabama death row inmate is scheduled for execution December 06, 2007. In spite of the United States Supreme Court ruling on lethal injection and it's constitutionality next year. In spite of most states delaying executions until the United States Supreme Court rules. With all this going on, the state of Alabama has scheduled Thomas Arthur's execution for next week 12-06-2007.

The real issue in his case is the fact that crime scene evidence was collected and still exists that the State of Alabama refuses to DNA test. Evidence that includes hair, semen, blood, shell casings and many other items. DNA testing of these items can prove that Thomas Arthur is innocent and was never at the crime scene. He has sat on death row for over 20 years for a crime he is innocent of.

In November of 2007, this month, Alabama Governor Bob Riley requested post-conviction DNA testing guide lines from the Innocence Project based in New York, run by Barry Scheck & Peter Neufeld. The Innocence Project sent the requested information and highly recommended that the Governor allow DNA testing in this case. However, the Governor has taken no further steps since receiving the information.

I have a web site dedicated to my father that has a copy of the letter the Innocence Project sent to Governor Riley. The web sit also has in depth case information and links to all the legal documents. Amnesty International has intervened, the Innocence Project has intervened and thousands of others all over the world. All parties have been denied a meeting with the Governor, including myself and my fathers attorneys. Matter of fact, I recently received a letter from the Governor that he had no intentions of staying the execution. A copy of that letter is on the web site.

My father currently has two motions in the United States Supreme Court, one on the DNA testing, and another on the lethal injection constitutionality. His attorneys are filing stays today in the United States Supreme Court. The Alabama Supreme Court has denied all current motions. Links to all motions filed are found on the media page of the web site. If you truly care about justice, you can find all the information at

Click HERE for the letter the Innocence Project sent to Governor Riley on November 05, 2007.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Refusing to Admit Error

Psychologists tell us that cognitive dissonance occurs when we have two ideas that are irreconcilably opposed – ideas such as "the defendant is guilty" and "DNA shows the defendant is innocent." We want to believe we are honorable, competent people. Cognitive dissonance causes mental anguish because it suggests we are neither honorable nor competent. This, say the experts, is the most powerful cause of denial and self-justification, which prompt us to dig in our heels and justify our original position in the face of strong, even crushing evidence that we are wrong.

Nowhere is denial and justification seen as often as in the criminal justice system which, in turn, is the single greatest barrier to reforming the criminal justice system. When Roy Criner was excluded by DNA three times, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Sharon Keller claimed Criner must have used a condom, and said that the young girl who was raped and killed was promiscuous, in direct contradiction of all evidence in the case. Earl Washington was similarly excluded three times by DNA in a rape and murder in Virginia, yet a series of Virginia Attorneys General continued to claim he was "not innocent." This disingenuous ploy leads to only one conclusion: Earl Washington must have raped the victim with another man’s sperm.

We have recently been treated–for lack of a better term–to denial and self-justification by prosecutors in three wrongful conviction cases in widely separated parts of the country.

In Buffalo, NY, Erie County DA Frank J. Clark is opposing a new trial for Lynn DeJac, who was convicted of strangling her 13-year-old daughter Crystallynn fourteen years ago. Clark maintains that DeJac is guilty, despite the fact that Dennis Donohue–the man DeJac has said all along killed her child–has been arrested for two similar stranglings, and his DNA was found in blood spots on the bed and wall in the child’s bedroom and in vaginal swabs taken from her body. When three Buffalo detectives publicly stated they believe DeJac is innocent, Clark was incensed. "It’s absolutely inappropriate for them to express an opinion on the issue of guilt or innocence," Clark fumed. Clark says there is no way to know when Donohue’s semen got inside Crystallynn. He implies that there was a consensual sexual relationship between Donohue and Crystallynn, and that there’s nothing unusual or wrong about that.

Half a continent away, in Lansing, MI, Ingham County prosecutor Stuart Dunnings, III joined Claude McCollum’s defense attorney, Hugh Clarke, Jr., in asking that McCollum’s rape and murder conviction be set aside when a serial killer, Matthew Macon, confessed to the crime McCollum was convicted of committing. So far, so good. But this prompted a closer look at the prosecution of McCollum: his "confession" was not a confession, he was excluded by DNA but tried anyway, and the prosecution withheld evidence that proved McCollum was in another location when the crime occurred. Dunning deflected questions about his ethics and an investigation by the Michigan Attorney General by pointing his finger in every direction but his own. McCollum’s defense attorney should have been able to figure out that the video showing McCollum was in a different building on the campus of Lansing Community College when Prof. Kronenberg was killed in her classroom was recorded at the same time the murder occurred. The presiding judge could have dismissed the charge instead of sending it to the jury. Dunning even wrote an op-ed piece published in the Lansing State Journal on October 27, 2007 blaming everyone but himself, and ignoring the fact that Dunning pursued McCollum’s prosecution even though he knew all of the facts concealed from defense counsel and the judge.

In Big Sky Country, Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath and Yellowstone County officials have borrowed a page from Virginia’s playbook. In 2002, when Jimmy Bromgard was cleared by DNA of the rape of an 8-year-old girl in her Billings, MT home, McGrath admitted the state had imprisoned an innocent man. In 2005, Bromgard filed a lawsuit against Montana, Yellowstone County and others, alleging his civil rights had been violated. Pivoting 180 degrees on a dime, McGrath now propounds scenarios to explain who might have left the semen (including the child’s father) while keeping Bromgard in the loop as "not innocent." Yellowstone County has yet another theory to keep Bromgard in the "not innocent" category. Acknowledging that Bromgard is innocent of raping the child, the County now suggests he burglarized the girl’s home the night of the assault.

So are these folks all suffering from cognitive dissonance? Are they honorable, competent men struggling to make sense of the terrible mistakes they made, trying to do the right thing long after they did the wrong thing?

No. Not one of them. Their motives are crass and self-serving. Their actions are despicable, and fit the definition of obstruction of justice: interference, through words or actions, with the proper operations of a court or officers of the court. Let’s take a closer look at each of these nay-sayers to see what motivates them.

In Buffalo, NY, David Clark insists that, even with the new DNA evidence and the similarities between the murder of Lynn DeJac’s daughter and two other women killed by Dennis Donohue, there is not enough evidence to get Donohue indicted. The truth is, Donohue can’t be prosecuted for Crystallynn’s murder because Clark gave him complete immunity in exchange for his testimony against DeJac at her trial. When it sinks in with the voters of Erie County, NY that the DA made sure there can never be justice for a child who was brutally raped and killed in her own bed, one would hope that Clark will be turned out of office.

So far, Ingham County, MI residents have only demanded to know why Stuart Dunnings, III took the prosecution of Claude McCollum forward knowing–as he demonstrably did–that McCollum was excluded by DNA and that he was nowhere near the crime scene when it happened. Remember, it was the confession of Matthew Macon to the murder of Prof. Kronenberg that led, rapidly, to the disintegration of the case against McCollum. Macon is a serial killer. During the time McCollum was being prosecuted and then began serving a life sentence for someone else’s crime, Macon killed five more people. Dunnings is in denial because sooner or later, the people of Ingham County will start asking how many of those five people would not have been murdered if Dunnings had not fostered a false sense of security by prosecuting McCollum.

The impetus for Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath’s about-face is money. It’s one thing to acknowledge the obvious, that an innocent man spent 15 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, but it’s quite another to compensate him. Bromgard went to prison when he was 18 years old. For nearly half his life, he was a target for other inmates who wanted to beat up a child molester. Bromgard had a terrible, terrible time. While other young men his age went to college, got married and had careers, Bromgard was cutting license plates. No amount of money can repay him for the years stolen by his wrongful conviction. But McGrath–on behalf of the State of Montana–doesn’t want to give Bromgard any money. So he grasps at irrational straws to keep Jimmy Bromgard in the "not innocent" loop. And he tries to do it on the hush-hush. After the Chicago Tribune published McGrath’s "not innocent" theories given at deposition, lawyers for the state asked the court to seal all case documents and issue a gag order to squelch the bad publicity. The court refused those requests and the case remains open to the public. That means the people of Montana can see what their AG is up to, and they can act accordingly.

Clark, Dunnings and McGrath are not honorable men struggling to come to grips with the terrible consequences of a legal system that can and does crush the innocent. They have betrayed the trust placed in them, and they should be held accountable by the people they are supposed to be serving.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Guest Shot: New policies are needed to halt unjust convictions

by Katherine Ramsland

This opinion originally appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer on Nov. 4, 2007.

Katherine Ramsland teaches forensic psychology at DeSales University

When the U.S. Supreme Court mandated the Miranda warning in 1966, it did so to protect the public against coerced self-incrimination. But some law-enforcement agencies resisted. They said that articulating those rights hampered their ability to get confessions and released more criminals on technicalities. In other words, if an arresting officer forgot the warning or failed to notice that the subject was not competent enough to waive protected rights, the case could be tossed.

Now we are seeing a host of new policy changes on the horizon. These changes will help minimize false convictions. And again, we see resistance from the very people who should care most about justice for all. It is almost as if the law-enforcement establishment believes it is more important to convict and then let the system sort it out. But those who believe this have not fully grasped the harm some current procedures have perpetrated on the innocent. Law enforcement should welcome - not reject - changes designed to protect.

The main problem is that many innocent people have been convicted. The number we know of is very large, and - given the problems discovered with formerly accepted legal procedures and certain types of evidence - it stands to reason that many more innocents are serving time or possibly have been executed.

Proposed changes in courts around the country directly address this issue. They include: improved procedures for the identification of suspects, including expanded use of DNA technologies; improved efforts to corroborate information given by informants or "snitches"; and higher standards for crime labs. Some long-enshrined procedures are now being reviewed with a newly critical eye. For example, research in psychology for more than a century has proven repeatedly that eyewitness testimony (a leading factor in false convictions) is fallible. Finally, officials are listening.

And yet there is still resistance in many law-enforcement circles.

Here are some sobering statistics from the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. Since 1989, this group has freed 208 men via postconviction DNA analysis on biological samples from their supposed crimes. Fifteen were on death row, facing execution for something they did not do. The average length of time served was 12 years, with many in prison for more than two decades. The total number of known years served by the innocent is a staggering 2,563. And these are just the statistics for the small percentage of cases in which biological evidence was involved (and testable), and for which the overburdened personnel at the Innocence Project had time. They currently have tens of thousands of letters in their files from inmates begging for help.

Here's just one example of how the system broke down. In Texas, Roy Criner received a prison term in 1990 of 99 years for the rape and killing of a teenage girl. Later, he submitted to DNA testing, and the results excluded him as the rapist. The Texas Court of Appeals, however, ruled this evidence would have made no difference to the conviction, so he remained in prison.

Then a local reporter found more evidence of Criner's innocence. A cigarette butt, previously discounted, was tested for DNA. The test result proved that the person who had smoked it had been the rapist-murderer - and that this person was not Criner. After serving 10 years for a crime he did not commit, he finally was set free.

"It breaks you down." Those are the words of one exonerated convict in the documentary movie After Innocence. It features cases such as that of Nick Yarris, who spent 22 years on Pennsylvania's death row for murder. Even after he was freed, he could not persuade the prosecutor to send the DNA profile that had exonerated him to a national database to assist in identifying the real killer.

It is almost as if law enforcement does not want to identify and exonerate the innocent. Eight states do not yet mandate giving inmates postconviction access to DNA analysis. Five states defeated bills intended to change policies on eyewitness identification. The California State Sheriff's Association opposes bills that require officials to record interrogations and corroborate informant information; the purported fear is that such procedures would create loopholes for defense attorneys to exploit. This organization also opposes new procedures for suspect lineups. Research has revealed that witnesses, when asked to pick from lineups, make comparisons among those lined up, which can alter their memory. Or they may simply choose the one who "looks" criminal. (The recent study by the Chicago police department that "proved" that current methods worked just fine was significantly flawed.)

Even if the system releases the innocent, it sometimes seems to wish to punish them somehow anyway. The conviction records of many exonerated individuals are not expunged, making it difficult for them to find employment and even a place to live. Their most productive work years are lost, and they can expect little or no assistance with integration back into the community. A few have received payouts from successful lawsuits, but most have nothing. Some say it was easier for them in prison.

It seems that some of our sworn protectors would rather protect themselves. Why else would they resist policy changes arising from verified harm? These system failures ought to disappoint law-enforcement personnel, as they did Gov. George Ryan in Illinois. Upon learning that 13 men on Illinois' death row had been exonerated, Ryan commuted the sentences of all death-row inmates because he recognized that changes were needed.

The English jurist William Blackstone famously said: "Better that 10 guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer." Apparently that's literary fluff to some people. They should talk to exonerated convicts. Of course, we should expect collateral damage within any human institution, but if we have identified ways to reduce it, we should utilize them. It is shocking that officials entrusted with public safety would worry more about technical slip-ups that might free a guilty person than about errors that repeatedly have victimized the innocent.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Guest Shot: America’s Police Brutality Pandemic

by Paul Craig Roberts
This opinion was originally published on September 26, 2007 at

Bush’s "war on terror" quickly became Bush’s war on Iraqi civilians. So far over one million Iraqi civilians have lost their lives because of Bush’s invasion, and four million have been displaced. Iraq’s infrastructure is in ruins. Disease is rampart. Normal life has disappeared.

Self-righteous Americans justify these monstrous crimes as necessary to ensure their own safety from terrorist attack. Yet, Americans are in far greater danger from their own police forces than they are from foreign terrorists. Ironically, Bush’s "war on terror" has made Americans less safe at home by diminishing US civil liberty and turning an epidemic of US police brutality into a pandemic.

The only terrorist most Americans will ever encounter is a policeman with a badge, nightstick, mace and Taser. A Google search for "police brutality videos" turns up 2,210,000 entries. Some entries are foreign and some are probably duplications, but the number is so large that a person could do nothing but watch police brutality videos for the rest of his life. A search on "You Tube" alone turned up 2,280 police brutality videos. PrisonPlanet has a selection of the most outrageous recent cases.

Police brutality has crossed the line from using excessive force against a resisting Rodney King to unprovoked gratuitous violence against persons offering no resistance, such as the elderly, women, students, and elected officials. Americans are not safe anywhere from police. Police attack Americans in university libraries, in public meetings, and in their own homes.

Last week we had the case of the University of Florida student who was repeatedly Tasered without cause for asking Senator Kerry some good questions in the question and answer period following Kerry’s speech. Two days after the Florida student was gratuitously brutalized, Senate Republicans defeated Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy’s bill to restore habeas corpus protection.

A UCLA student was Tasered by police without cause for studying in the university library without having his student ID on his person. Following police orders to leave, the student was walking toward the door when police grabbed him and repeatedly Tasered him.

On September 19, 2007 a young woman was repeatedly Tasered without cause by a large brutal cop in a parking lot outside a night club in Warren Ohio.

On September 14, 2007, Roseland, Indiana, city council member David Snyder was ejected from a council meeting by dictatorial council chairman Charlie Shields. Snyder had protested being limited to one minute to speak. Police goon Jack Tiller escorted Snyder out, and as Snyder exited the building, Tiller, following behind, pushed Snyder to the ground and without cause began beating Snyder in the head with a nightstick. Snyder was hospitalized.

Local TV news stations throughout the US offer an endless stream of police brutality videos, which are then posted on the stations’ web sites, often with an opportunity for citizens to express their opinion of the incidents.

There are many disturbing aspects to police brutality cases.

One disturbing aspect is that the police always arrest the people that they have gratuitously brutalized. There was no justification whatsoever to arrest councilman Snyder, or the UCLA student, or the University of Florida student. The cops committed assault against innocent citizens. The cops should have been arrested for their criminal acts. Instead, the cops cover up their own crimes by arresting their victims on false charges that are invented to justify the unprovoked police violence against citizens.

Another disturbing aspect is that no one tells the police to stop the brutality. "Free" Americans are so intimidated by police that on February 19 of this year male customers in a Chicago bar stood aside while a drunk cop weighing 251 pounds beat a 115 pound barmaid, knocking her to the floor with his fists and repeatedly kicking her, for obeying the bar rules and not serving him more drinks.

Yet another disturbing aspect is that a minority of citizens will justify each act of police brutality no matter how brutal and how unprovoked. For example,’s poll of its viewers found that 64.2% agreed that Snyder was a victim of police brutality, but 27.8% thought that Snyder got what was coming to him. "Law and order conservatives" and other authoritarian personalities invariably defend acts of police brutality. Perhaps the police brutality pandemic will bring the day when we will be able to say that a civil libertarian is a law and order conservative who has been brutalized by police.

The most disturbing aspect is that the police usually get away with it.

I remember decades ago when civil libertarians in New York City tried to stop police brutality by establishing civilian review boards to introduce some accountability into the police’s interaction with civilians. Law and order conservatives at William F. Buckley’s National Review went berserk. Accountability was "second-guessing" the police. The result would be a crime wave. And so on.

Police forces have always attracted bullies with authoritative personalities who desire to beat senseless anyone who does not quake in their presence. In the past police could get away with brutalizing blacks but not whites. Today white citizens are as likely as racial minorities to be victims of police brutality.

The police are supreme. The militarization of the police, armed now with military weapons and trained to view the general public as the enemy, against whom "pain compliance" must be used, has placed every American at risk of personal injury and false arrest from our "public protectors."

In "free and democratic America," citizens are in such great danger from police that there are websites devoted to police brutality with online forms to report the brutality.

Nine years ago Human Rights Watch published a report entitled, "Shielded from Justice: Police Brutality and Accountability in the United States." The report stated:

"Police abuse remains one of the most serious and divisive human rights violations in the United States. The excessive use of force by police officers, including unjustified shootings, severe beatings, fatal chokings, and rough treatment, persists because overwhelming barriers to accountability make it possible for officers who commit human rights violations to escape due punishment and often to repeat their offenses. Police or public officials greet each new report of brutality with denials or explain that the act was an aberration, while the administrative and criminal systems that should deter these abuses by holding officers accountable instead virtually guarantee them impunity.

"This report examines common obstacles to accountability for police abuse in fourteen large cities representing most regions of the nation. The cities examined are: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New Orleans, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, Providence, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. Research for this report was conducted over two and a half years, from late 1995 through early 1998."

The brutality cases examined, which are set out in detail in chapters on each city, are similar to cases that continue to emerge in headlines and in survivors' complaints. It is important to note, however, that because it is difficult to obtain case information except where there is public scandal and/or prosecution, this report relies heavily on cases that have reached public attention; disciplinary action and criminal prosecution are even less common than the cases set out below would suggest.

There is no way to hold police accountable when the president and vice president of the United States, the attorney general, and the Republican Party maintain that the civil liberties and the separation of powers mandated by the US Constitution must be abandoned in order that the executive branch can keep Americans safe from terrorists.

Even before the "war on terror," federal police murdered 100 people in the Branch Davidian compound at Waco, and no one was held accountable.

Who is a terrorist? If the police and the US government have the mentality of airport security, they cannot tell a terrorist from an 86-year old Marine general on his way to give a speech at West Point. Retired Marine Corps General Joseph J. Foss was delayed and nearly had his Medal of Honor confiscated. Airport security regarded the pin on the metal as a weapon that the 86-year old Marine general and former governor of South Dakota could use to hijack an airliner and commit a terrorist deed.

In America today, every citizen is a potential terrorist in the eyes of the authorities. Airport security makes this clear every minute of every day, as do the FBI and NSA with warrantless spying on our emails, postal mail, telephone calls, and every possible invasion of our privacy. We are all recipients of abuse of our constitutional rights whether or not we suffer beatings, Taserings, and false arrests.

The law makes it impossible for Americans to defend themselves from police brutality. Law and order conservatives have made it a felony with a long prison sentence to "assault a police officer." Assaulting a police officer means that if a police thug intends to beat your brains out with his nightstick and you disarm your assailant, you have "assaulted a police officer." If you are not shot on the spot by his backup, you will be convicted by a "law and order" jury and sent to prison.

No matter how gratuitous and violent the police brutality, a "free" American citizen can defend himself only at the expense, if not of his life, of a long stay in prison. Osama bin Laden must wish that he had such power over Americans.

Paul Craig Roberts [send him mail] wrote the Kemp-Roth bill and was Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. He was Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal editorial page and Contributing Editor of National Review. He is author or coauthor of eight books, including The Supply-Side Revolution (Harvard University Press). He has held numerous academic appointments, including the William E. Simon Chair in Political Economy, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Georgetown University and Senior Research Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and testified before Congress on 30 occasions. He has been awarded the U.S. Treasury's Meritorious Service Award and the French Legion of Honor. He was a reviewer for the Journal of Political Economy under editor Robert Mundell. He is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He is also coauthor with Karen Araujo of Chile: Dos Visiones – La Era Allende-Pinochet (Santiago: Universidad Andres Bello, 2000).

Friday, October 19, 2007

The presumption of innocence / Do keep it in mind

Editorial reposted from the Press of Atlantic City (NJ)on Octobery 18, 2007


Do keep it in mind

Innocent until proven guilty.

It's an important concept. America's system of justice hinges on it. And it doesn't just protect creeps. It protects you, too. It hasn't done much for Terry Oleson, though.

Oleson lived at the Golden Key Motel in West Atlantic City, doing odd jobs for rent, when the bodies of four prostitutes were found in the marshes near the motel in November.

Officials with the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office never named Oleson a suspect in the murders. But he was questioned in connection with the murders. And Atlantic County investigators searched his Alloway Township home. He also submitted DNA samples to investigators. There's nothing wrong with any of that - it's how investigations work.

But it was enough to put Oleson at the center of a media firestorm that made him guilty in the eyes of many. And it helped keep him in the Salem County jail for more than six months.

It didn't help that Oleson is not likely to ever be named the Chamber of Commerce's man of the year. He was arrested in April by Salem County officials and charged with videotaping an underage girl naked without her knowledge. But he was jailed on $100,000 full cash bail - which is higher than usual for that charge.

Again, Oleson's no angel. But those six months in the Salem County jail had something to do with the West Atlantic City murders, even if no one wants to acknowledge that inconvenient fact. Finally, last week, Oleson pleaded guilty to the videotaping charge; a judge lowered his bail to $25,000; his family posted a 10-percent bond, and Oleson was released pending a Nov. 27 sentencing.

On Friday, he plans to hold a press conference at his lawyer's office. One person who plans to attend is an Atlantic City prostitute who was sure that Oleson was a customer named "Eldridge," who told her he had hurt some women. The prostitute was certain about that - until she saw Eldridge again in Atlantic City, while Oleson was still in jail. Now she wants to apologize.

We can't quite bring ourselves to say that the Atlantic County Prosecutor's Office or the news media owe Oleson an apology. The prosecutor and the media were just doing their jobs.

But it is a good time to note that truth is difficult, that things are not always what they seem. And that's why people are tried in the courts, not the "court" of public opinion, which is really no court at all.

And to those who will say that we are naive, that we do not know what authorities know about Oleson, that this editorial will come back to haunt us: Fine. Just prove it. Until then, Terry Oleson is, regarding the West Atlantic City murders, an innocent man.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Arthur Thomas Updates

We have two updates regarding the execution of Arthur Thomas. The first is a press release from Alabama Governor Bob Riley.



Governor Riley Issues 45-Day Stay of Execution

MONTGOMERY – Governor Bob Riley granted a brief stay of execution to Thomas Arthur, a death row inmate who was scheduled to die by lethal injection at 6 p.m. Thursday.

The Governor made the decision to grant a stay of 45 days and met with Commissioner Richard Allen of the Alabama Department of Corrections on Thursday morning.

“The evidence is overwhelming that Thomas Arthur is guilty and he will be executed for his crime. The decision to grant a brief stay is being made only because the state is changing its lethal injection protocol, and this will allow sufficient time for the Department of Corrections to make that change,” Governor Riley said. “It
is my desire that, as soon as the stay has expired, justice will be administered to Thomas Arthur. I have encouraged the Attorney General to make a motion with the Alabama Supreme Court for a new date of execution as soon as possible.”


Second is an editorial published on September 25, 2007 by The Birmingham News.

Riley fails test, again

THE ISSUE: Once again, Gov. Bob Riley has refused to order DNA testing that could shed light on a death-penalty case. This is a pattern that needs to be broken.

Unless courts step in or something else intervenes, the state of Alabama will execute Thomas Arthur. This much we know: That something else won't be Gov. Bob Riley.

For the second time in as many months, Riley has refused to delay an inmate's execution to allow for DNA testing that might shine light on the crime.

Riley's refusal is beyond disappointing, and it's beyond logic. The testing could have been ordered two weeks ago without even requiring a delay of the execution, according to the Innocence Project.

While there is some evidence implicating Arthur of involvement in the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker, there are certainly reasons to wonder if the crime went down as prosecutors claim. Even Wicker's family wonders what really happened and has expressed support for DNA testing that could shed some light on Wicker's death.

"I would like to see this evidence subjected to DNA testing," Peggy Wicker Jones said in an Aug. 21 statement. "I would like to have as much information as possible about what happened on the day my brother Troy was murdered."

The Innocence Project, the famed New York organization whose DNA work has cleared more than 200 inmates across the country, doesn't take the position Arthur is innocent. But it does argue the evidence in Arthur's case should be subjected to the best scientific testing available.

DNA testing, which had not been developed when Arthur was tried, might merely confirm his guilt. But it might also implicate someone else, someone who has so far not been held accountable for the slaying. Either way, it's a win.

Governors in other states have ordered DNA testing in similar death penalty cases. Among them was a former Texas governor named George W. Bush, as well as his brother, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

But not Riley.

In a statement criticizing Alabama's governor, the Innocence Project pointed out that 15 of those cleared nationwide by DNA testing were on Death Row and that some of them were days away from execution when they were exonerated.

"If any of those 15 people had been in Alabama, they would be dead today," Innocence Project co-director Peter Neufeld said last Wednesday.

Neufeld called it "unconscionable" that Riley won't insist on using the best science to determine the truth before putting inmates to death. Neufeld is right.

Before inflicting a punishment that can't be undone, the state of Alabama should be eager to order DNA testing in cases where any biological evidence is available. Indeed, such testing in old cases should be available by law, as it is already in 42 states.

Unfortunately, in Alabama, the test rests in the hands of the governor. Once again, Riley has failed that test.

Friday, September 21, 2007

UPDATE: Arthur maintains innocence, challenges lethal injection as execution date nears

Originally published by the Tuscaloosa News

Sep 19, 2007

By Dana Beyerle Montgomery Bureau

MONTGOMERY The daughter of condemned inmate Tommy Douglas Arthur pleaded Wednesday for a stay of her father’s scheduled Sept. 27 execution until a federal court can rule on a request to test DNA from the 1982 murder he was convicted of.

Sherrie Arthur Stone said DNA testing of evidence could exonerate her father, who in a recent telephone interview with the TimesDaily of Florence said he is innocent in the shooting death of Colbert County businessman Troy Wicker.

"All we’re asking, and ever have, is to test the DNA evidence that was found but never tested," Stone said. "Whether you believe in the death penalty or not, you should test the DNA evidence."

Arthur, 65, lost one federal appeal and is quickly running out of options as his scheduled date with the lethal injection chamber at Holman Prison nears.

Arthur was convicted three times and sentenced to die for Wicker’s death. Wicker’s widow originally said a black male broke into their home, raped and beat her, and when she came to her husband was dead.

She later testified that she hired Arthur to kill her husband. Arthur was convicted based on her testimony and on circumstantial evidence that was gathered before DNA testing was available.

Arthur lost one of his latest appeals when a panel of federal judges said Arthur waited to long to challenge the constitutionality of Alabama’s use of lethal injection.

In a 2-1 opinion and without addressing the merits of his appeal, a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a U.S. District Court ruling. The unpublished opinion was released Monday.

"There is no justification for Arthur’s failure to bring this lethal injection challenge earlier to allow sufficient time for full adjudication on the merits of this claim," the unsigned opinion said.

U.S. Circuit Judge Rosemary Barkett dissented, saying the lower court made a mistake refusing to hear Arthur’s "challenge to Alabama’s lethal injection protocol" simply because he failed to file a claim as soon as the Alabama Legislature changed the method of execution to lethal injection.

Arthur can still go to the U.S. Supreme Court, which his attorney said he’ll do, and he still has an appeal in the 11th U.S. Circuit to test the crime scene DNA.

"We respectfully disagree and strongly believe that before Mr. Arthur is executed by lethal injection, the constitutionality of the method should be addressed," said attorney Suhana Han.

She said Alabama has hired an expert to review the drugs used in lethal injection and there is the pending federal trial in Montgomery over the legality of lethal injection.

Han asked what the harm was in waiting for the outcome of the trial and the testimony of Dr. Mark Dershwitz?

"How can the state of Alabama execute Mr. Arthur before a federal court rules?" Han asked. "Again, the point is we are trying to address the merits of a very important question, whether the state is planning to execute Arthur by an unconstitutional method."

Dr. Dershwitz’s contract to be an expert witness about Alabama’s method of execution was renewed by the legislative contract review committee earlier this month for the Attorney General’s Office earlier. He’s scheduled to be an expert witness in an upcoming trial over lethal injection in Montgomery federal court.

Arthur still has an appeal seeking DNA testing that wasn’t available when he was first tried. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court has not ruled on the DNA request.

The anti-death penalty group, Amnesty International, has taken up Arthur’s case, saying since he’s potentially innocent he should get a hearing on evidence that could raise doubts about his guilt.

Tom Smith of the TimesDaily in Florence contributed to this story.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Guest Shot: How Justice Gets Done in Spite of the Justice System

Commentary by PETE SHELLEM /
Of The (Harrisburg, PA) Patriot-News

Sometimes justice happens in spite of the justice system.

Sometimes it only happens when the people in the justice system get their noses rubbed in their messes.

On Tuesday, Lancaster County District Attorney Donald R. Totaro did the right thing by freeing Charles T. "Ted" Dubbs from a 12- to 40-year prison term in two sexual attacks he probably did not commit. Dubbs was sentenced in May 2002.

Wilbur Cyrus Brown, a serial rapist who confessed to 13 other rapes, including one on the same jogging trail where Dubbs supposedly committed his crimes, confessed to those attacks in November.

But Totaro had to spin things to portray his office as a well-oiled machine that immediately turned to fix an honest error when it came to their attention.

That’s not what happened.

The case first came to my attention when Brown pleaded guilty last November and was sentenced in Dauphin County Court. It came out at that hearing that Brown had confessed to crimes for which Dubbs was wasting away in prison still proclaiming his innocence.

When I asked about it afterward ­- assuming they were going to free an innocent man - I got the exchanged glances, awkward smiles and the "no comments."

It was after that I got the proverbial bug in the ear. The cops figured it was a no-brainer, but Totaro’s office didn’t want to hear it. Maybe it had something to do with the election year.

True, Totaro’s first assistant at the time, Heidi Eakin, pointed out the similarities between the cases. But when members of the task force investigating the serial rapes presented her with Brown's 60-page confession, she got her back up.

When I interviewed her in May, she was adamant that Dubbs was guilty and called his alibi defense "a joke." She speculated Brown was a copycat who committed 13 subsequent rapes after reading about Dubbs’s arrest and conviction.

Eakin said she specifically told the police not to reinterview the victims. When asked what she was doing to investigate the confession she told me "that’s not my job."

As an officer of the court, she was obligated to give the confession to the county public defender’s office. From there, it was forwarded to Dubbs.

Dubbs was on his own. Fortunately, he had the wherewithal to file a post conviction appeal on his own.

If you read the documents filed by Totaro’s office, they go to great pains to explain why Dubbs had to sit in prison for almost a year after his office had compelling evidence Dubbs was innocent. It also appears to be a response to an article published in The Patriot-News in May, an article Totaro called a "hatchet job."

Although he claims his office was investigating the case all along, his petition to release Dubbs says someone was assigned to look into it sometime after March. It was about that time I began asking questions about the case. The Lancaster investigators didn’t interview the detectives who took the confession from Brown until June and they were still under subpoena for a hearing that was supposed to take place Thursday.

Totaro’s filing also says Brown’s initial confession "was originally considered by those in law enforcement who were familiar with the case with a substantial amount of skepticism," because of inconsistencies with the crimes.

In fact, the lead investigators of the task force were the ones that took the confession. Even if some details were wrong, it wasn’t inconceivable that a man who they knew through DNA testing committed an assault on a woman in the same location a year later while Dubbs was in prison and then a dozen more might have committed these "signature crimes."

After duplicating much of the probe that was done at the time of Brown’s confession, Totaro’s investigators interviewed Brown last week and determined he was likely telling the truth. Not only that, he told them that he had written a letter at the time of his arrest admitting those crimes. It was addressed to state police Cpl. George Cronin and sent to his mother with instructions that it only be opened if he died.

To their credit, they located that letter, which seemed to be the clincher in the decision to drop the case against Dubbs.

Dubbs’ conviction was an honest mistake. Although the identification process was flawed, the victims were adamant he was their attacker and only expressed doubts after seeing the video of Brown’s detailed confession.

It’s fortunate it ended the way it did. In many of the wrongful convictions that have been exposed in recent years, dishonest cops were to blame.

If it weren’t for a few conscientious law enforcement officers, Dubbs might have rotted in prison for another decade.

PETE SHELLEM: 717-255-8156 or

Friday, September 14, 2007

Troy Davis Video Project

October 9th is Troy Anthony Davis’ birthday and in celebration of this occasion we’re asking all of his supporters worldwide to send him a video birthday message and to post that message on YouTube.

The Troy video project is simple. Using a webcam, camera phone, camcorder or any other recording device, simply record a positive video of 60-seconds or less whishing Troy a ‘Happy Birthday’ while reaffirming to the state of Georgia that the global support network behind Troy believes innocence matters

As you know, serious doubts of Troy ’s guilt have been raised in recent months, and we want to take this occasion to let the world know that innocence indeed does matter!

With so many Troy supporters around the world, we want these messages to be lively and creative. Feel free to sing it, rap it, play it, draw it, dance it, paint it, shout it from the roof-tops. What you say or how you say it isn’t important. What’s important is that you just say it!

Please keep these messages positive and refrain from bad language and controversial statements that could be viewed as inflammatory. We don’t want to upset people - we just want to show the world that Troy has global support in his fight for justice.

After you’ve recorded this message – please post it on YouTube using this link: and email the video to:

Let’s not only give Troy a "Happy Birthday," let us also speak loud and clear in one voice that Innocence Matters!

Gregory A. Joseph
National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Guest Shot: Gonzo given even more power over life and death

by Mary Shaw

August 16, 2007

Since the first DNA exoneration took place in the U.S. in 1989, 142 people have been freed via DNA evidence after being wrongfully convicted of crimes they did not commit. Many more have been exonerated via other kinds of late-coming evidence.

Some of those innocent people were freed from death row. These folks are the "lucky" ones, because they had a chance to prove their innocence before they were put to death. How many have not been so lucky? We cannot know.

But do we really want to risk that kind of mistake?

Even if you're in favor of the death penalty, surely you want to take every precaution to ensure that the condemned prisoner is truly guilty, and that you're not killing the wrong person. And often that takes time.

Nevertheless, time may not be an available luxury for prisoners in the future, even those condemned to die.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will be getting "expanded powers to hasten death penalty cases under regulations being developed by the Justice Department."

The Post goes on to say that these new rules "would give Gonzales the authority to approve "fast-track" procedures by states in death penalty cases, enabling them to carry out sentences more speedily and with fewer opportunities for appeal if those states provide adequate representation for capital defendants."

There are a lot of things wrong with these new rules. For example, as cited in the article, they do not provide enough oversight to ensure that defendants are receiving adequate legal counsel. They "allow states to ... claim they have a capital representation case that is functional, when in fact it might not be functional at all" and "It may not prevent people from being wrongfully sentenced to death."

The article also contends that "the underlying legislation is faulty because it allows Gonzales, who is the nation's chief prosecutor, to effectively determine the pace of executions."

And there are more reasons to believe that Gonzales is the wrong person to do this. (Click here to read about Gonzales's horrific track record on death penalty cases in Texas.)

It is obvious that these new rules will make it easier for innocent people to be executed. And even one wrongful execution is too many.

How would Gonzales feel if one of his family own members were on death row, wrongfully accused of a crime that he or she did not commit? Does he believe that it could never happen? Or would that be somehow different?

Author's Website:

Authors Bio: Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views on politics, human rights, and social justice issues have appeared in numerous online forums and in newspapers and magazines worldwide. Note that the ideas expressed here are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Amnesty or any other organization with which she may be associated. E-mail:

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Guest Shot: Innocents in Prison

Atlantic Unbound August 7, 2007
Legal Affairs by Stuart Taylor Jr.

Innocents in Prison

Many thousands of wrongly convicted people are rotting in prisons and jails around the country.

As recently as 20 years ago, it was extraordinarily rare for a convicted prisoner to establish his or her innocence conclusively enough to get public attention. That changed with breakthroughs in DNA science.

The 205th DNA exoneration since 1989 was recorded earlier this month by the Innocence Project, a group of crack defense lawyers who have made such cases their mission. The exonerated prisoners­including 15 who had been sentenced to death­have been found innocent by courts, prosecutors, or governors based on post-conviction DNA testing.

But America has been too slow to appreciate that the DNA exonerations, and other evidence, suggest that many thousands of other wrongly convicted people are rotting in prisons and jails around the country. And our federal, state, and local governments and courts have done far too little to adopt proposed criminal justice reforms that could reduce the number of innocent people convicted while nailing more of the real criminals.

The case of the most recent DNA exonoree, Byron Halsey, was typical: Based on a confession full of obviously false details, extracted by high-pressure interrogation, he spent 19 years in prison in New Jersey for two heinous child murders committed by another man in 1985. Halsey was able to prove his innocence only after a 2002 New Jersey law forced reluctant prosecutors to give his counsel access to DNA evidence. In Halsey's and some 70 other DNA-exoneration cases, DNA also helped to establish the guilt of the real perpetrators. All or almost all had committed other violent crimes before being caught.

The kind of DNA evidence that can conclusively prove innocence or guilt is available only in a small fraction of cases, mainly rapes and rape-murders in which sperm is recovered. But these cases are the tip of the iceberg. Extrapolation from DNA and other exonerations suggests that the overall error rate in violent-crime prosecutions is probably much higher than the estimates of less than 1 percent offered by many criminal-justice officials.

In a stunning non-DNA case that shows how low law enforcement can go, a federal District judge in Boston ordered the government on July 26 to pay $102 million in damages to victims of the FBI's "outrageous" role in framing four men for a 1965 gangland murder. The four spent a combined total of 109 years in prison. Two died there.

"FBI officials up the line allowed their employees to break laws, violate rules, and ruin lives," wrote the judge, Nancy Gertner. She found that the FBI had known all along that a mob hit man named Joseph Barboza was lying when he claimed he saw the four men kill a mobster named Edward Deegan. Barboza and the FBI protected the real killer, Vincent Flemmi, because Barboza and Flemmi were FBI informants.

Although that was decades ago, the FBI (like most police agencies) still insists on a policy­ of virtual prohibition of tape-recording interviews­that allows agents to conceal or distort what suspects and witnesses say. The usual motive is not to frame innocent people but to fit evidence to preconceived (and often mistaken) theories of the case.

The FBI has defended its policy on the grounds that taping might deter suspects from talking and that jurors might be offended to hear police using lawful but deceptive interrogation tricks such as lying to suspects and feigning sympathy. But the first concern seems far-fetched in most cases and the second is illegitimate. Refusing to tape interviews hides important evidence from juries as well as lending itself to abuse.

Police and/or prosecutorial misconduct appears to figure in more than half of the 205 convictions that DNA has proven false. Specific reasons for those convictions are catalogued in "Judging Innocence," a study by Brandon Garrett, a law professor at the University of Virginia, slated for publication in January in the Columbia Law Review. Mistaken eyewitness identifications­often due to police subtly pointing witnesses toward the people the cops suspect­figured in 79 percent of these false convictions. Flawed or corrupt testimony by scientific "experts" (about hair, blood types, and the like) figured in 55 percent. False confessions, mostly by juvenile defendants, figured in 16 percent.

What percentage of the 2.2 million men and women locked up in state and federal prisons and local jails are actually innocent of the charged crimes? This is not knowable with any confidence. But we can extrapolate from a few data points.

Samuel Gross, a University of Michigan law professor, has calculated that 2.3 percent of all prisoners sentenced to death between 1973 and 1989 have been exonerated and freed. His research suggests that the vast majority in fact did not commit the crimes. And an unknown number of innocents have not been exonerated.

Does this suggest that we may have 50,000 innocent prisoners (2.3 percent times 2.2 million) in this country? Possibly, but not necessarily. Gross and Barbara O'Brien of Michigan State Law School stress in another forthcoming article that capital cases (and the DNA exonerations) are not representative of false convictions in general.

On the one hand, for example, the percentage of actual innocents may be higher among capital murder defendants­virtually all of whom go to trial­than among the 90 percent of violent-crime defendants whose cases end in plea bargains.

On the other hand, a much higher percentage of, say, robbery convictions than of capital murder convictions are based on unreliable eyewitness identifications. So perhaps the robbery error rate is much higher than 2.3 percent. And it's clear that most people wrongly convicted of lesser crimes are far less likely to win exoneration than are death-row inmates (who get much better post-conviction legal representation) and rape convicts (when DNA evidence is available).

Gross and others have also found that a very disproportionate number of exonerated prisoners are black or Hispanic. Discrimination no doubt accounts for some of this. So does the especially high error rate in cross-racial identifications, which creates special risks for black men wrongly accused of raping or robbing white people.

But well-off white men are not exempt from wrongful prosecution. This was spectacularly illustrated by the fabricated rape charges against three innocent Duke lacrosse players. Durham District Attorney Mike Nifong falsely demonized them as rapists, racists, and "hooligans," thereby gaining enough black votes to win what had been an uphill election battle. Nifong (who is white) also rigged a photo-identification process to frame the three for a nonexistent crime, hid DNA proof of innocence, and lied to the public and the court for many months before North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper took over the case and declared the defendants innocent.

Nifong has been disbarred and still faces a contempt-of-court charge. But his richly deserved fate is almost unheard-of. Most state bars and judges have given passes even to prosecutors who have hidden or falsified evidence to put innocent men and women on death row.

The DNA exonerations have spurred reforms by some states, but most still use shockingly unreliable police practices.

The good news, according to the Innocence Project, is that 42 states and the District of Columbia now require that inmates be given access to any DNA evidence; 22 (plus D.C. and the federal government) require preservation of DNA evidence; and 22 (plus D.C. and the federal government) compensate victims of false convictions.

But only three states (and some cities) have adopted the reforms to eyewitness procedures­such as excluding officers who know which person is the suspect, among other safeguards­that experts say are necessary to prevent false identifications. And only the District of Columbia, nine states, and some 500 localities keep police honest by requiring them to tape interrogations.

The courts, meanwhile, have "performed miserably in ferreting out the innocent" convicts, as Adam Liptak observed in a July 23 New York Times column. The Garrett study shows that the Supreme Court refused to hear the appeals of 30 of the first 200 prisoners who were later exonerated and rejected the one appeal it did hear.

The justices, and Congress, have also made it difficult for state prisoners to seek relief in lower federal courts. Most recently, on June 15 the conservative high court majority slammed the door on a murder convict because his lawyer had filed his appeal three days late­on the mistaken advice of a federal District judge. This decision seems perverse, especially in an era of DNA exonerations when, as a Justice Department commission observed in 1999, "the strong presumption that verdicts are correct, one of the underpinnings of restrictions on post-conviction relief, has been weakened."

Indeed, so formidable are the procedural obstacles facing falsely convicted innocents that only 10 percent of the 205 DNA exonorees made their innocence the basis of their initial appeals­and none was successful. This reflects the appeals courts' almost exclusive focus on whether the prosecutor or judge made procedural errors and almost complete deference to findings of guilt by juries and trial judges. They should defer less.

The URL for this page is

Monday, August 06, 2007

Guest Shot: Selective Prosecution

The following editorial was published in the New York Times on August 6, 2007.

Selective Prosecution

One part of the Justice Department mess that requires more scrutiny is the growing evidence that the department may have singled out people for criminal prosecution to help Republicans win elections. The House Judiciary Committee has begun investigating several cases that raise serious questions. The panel should determine what role politics played in all of them.

Putting political opponents in jail is the sort of thing that happens in third-world dictatorships. In the United States, prosecutions are supposed to be scrupulously nonpartisan. This principle appears to have broken down in Alberto Gonzales’s Justice Department — where lawyers were improperly hired for nonpolitical jobs based on party membership, and United States attorneys were apparently fired for political reasons.

Individual Democrats may be paying a personal price. Don Siegelman, a former Alabama governor, was the state’s most prominent Democrat and had a decent chance of retaking the governorship from the Republican incumbent. He was aggressively prosecuted by both the Birmingham and Montgomery United States attorney’s offices. Birmingham prosecutors dropped their case after a judge harshly questioned it. When the Montgomery office prosecuted, a jury acquitted Mr. Siegelman of 25 counts, but convicted him of 7, which appear to be disturbingly weak.

The prosecution may have been a political hit. A Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson, has said in a sworn statement that she heard Bill Canary, a Republican operative and a Karl Rove protégé, say that his "girls" — his wife, the United States attorney in Montgomery, and Alice Martin, the United States attorney in Birmingham — would "take care" of Mr. Siegelman. Mr. Canary also said, according to Ms. Simpson, that Mr. Rove was involved.

Georgia Thompson is a Wisconsin state employee wrongly put in jail on corruption charges by the Milwaukee United States attorney. Despite strong evidence that she was innocent, Steven Biskupic prosecuted Ms. Thompson for corruption and got a conviction. The news hit shortly before a bitterly fought governor’s race, and opponents of James Doyle, the state’s Democratic governor, used the conviction to attack Mr. Doyle as corrupt. An appeals court later freed Ms. Thompson, but only after she had spent months in jail.

The committee has requested documents from the Justice Department about those two cases. It should also look into the investigation of Senator Robert Menendez by Christopher Christie, the United States attorney for New Jersey. Based on the facts that have come out, Mr. Menendez appears to have done nothing wrong. But word of the investigation leaked out in the fall of 2006, damaging Mr. Menendez’s reputation just when Republicans were trying to defeat him. It is unclear whose idea it was to conduct an investigation so close to the election of Mr. Menendez’s lease of a building he had sold years earlier.

The Bush administration is throwing roadblocks in Congress’s way. It missed a deadline for turning over documents, and it has refused to make some of the principal actors available to testify. The Judiciary Committee should not be deterred. If Americans are being put in jail for political reasons, Congress must put a stop to it.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Guest Shot: The Presence of Malice

This Op-Ed was originally published in the New York Times on August 2, 2007.

South Hadley, Mass.

LAST week, Judge Nancy Gertner of the Federal District Court in Boston awarded more than $100 million to four men whom the F.B.I. framed for the 1965 murder of Edward Deegan, a local gangster. It was compensation for the 30 years the men spent behind bars while agents withheld evidence that would have cleared them and put the real killer — a valuable F.B.I. informant, by the name of Vincent Flemmi — in prison.

Most coverage of the story described it as a bizarre exception in the history of law enforcement. Unfortunately, this kind of behavior by those whose sworn duty it is to uphold the law is all too common. In state courts, where most death sentences are handed down, it occurs regularly.

My recently completed study of the 124 exonerations of death row inmates in America from 1973 to 2007 indicated that 80, or about two-thirds, of their so-called wrongful convictions resulted not from good-faith mistakes or errors but from intentional, willful, malicious prosecutions by criminal justice personnel. (There were four cases in which a determination could not be made one way or another.)

Yet too often this behavior is not singled out and identified for what it is. When a prosecutor puts a witness on the stand whom he knows to be lying, or fails to turn over evidence favorable to the defense, or when a police officer manufactures or destroys evidence to further the likelihood of a conviction, then it is deceptive to term these conscious violations of the law — all of which I found in my research — as merely mistakes or errors.

Mistakes are good-faith errors — like taking the wrong exit off the highway, or dialing the wrong telephone number. There is no malice behind them. However, when officers of the court conspire to convict a defendant of first-degree murder and send him to death row, they are doing much more than making an innocent mistake or error. They are breaking the law.

Perhaps this explains why, even when a manifestly innocent man is about to be executed, a prosecutor can be dead set against reopening an old case. Since so many wrongful convictions result from official malicious behavior, prosecutors, policemen, witnesses or even jurors and judges could themselves face jail time for breaking the law in obtaining an unlawful conviction.

Strangely, our misunderstanding of the real cause underlying most wrongful convictions is compounded by the very people who work to uncover them. Although the term “wrongfully convicted” is technically correct, it also has the potential to be misleading. It leads to the false impression that most inmates ended up on death row because of good-faith mistakes or errors committed by an imperfect criminal justice system — not by malicious or unlawful behavior.

For this reason, we need to re-frame the argument and shift our language. If a death sentence is overturned because of malicious behavior, we should call it for what it is: an unlawful conviction, not a wrongful one.

In the interest of fairness, it is important to note that those who are exonerated are not necessarily innocent of the crimes that sent them to death row. They have simply had their death sentences set aside because of errors that led to convictions, usually involving the intentional violation of their constitutional right to a fair and impartial trial. Very seldom does the court go the next step and actually declare them innocent.

In addition, some of these unlawful convictions resulted from criminal justice officials trying to do the right thing. (A police officer, say, plants evidence on a defendant he is convinced is guilty, fearing that the defendant will escape punishment otherwise.) In cases like these, officers or prosecutors have been known to “frame a guilty man.”

The malicious or even well-intentioned manipulation of murder cases by prosecutors and the police underscores why it’s important to discard, once and for all, the nonsense that so-called wrongful convictions can be eliminated by introducing better forensic science into the courtroom.

Even if we limit death sentences to cases in which there is “conclusive scientific evidence” of guilt, as Mitt Romney, the presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts has proposed, we will still not eliminate the problem of wrongful convictions. The best trained and most honest forensic scientists can only examine the evidence presented to them; they cannot be expected to determine if that evidence has been planted, switched or withheld from the defense.

The cause of malicious unlawful convictions doesn’t rest solely in the imperfect workings of our criminal justice system — if it did we might be able to remedy most of it. A crucial part of the problem rests in the hearts and souls of those whose job it is to uphold the law. That’s why even the most careful strictures on death penalty cases could fail to prevent the execution of innocent people — and why we would do well to be more vigilant and specific in articulating the causes for overturning an unlawful conviction.

Richard Moran is a professor of sociology and criminology at Mount Holyoke College.

Must-See TV: Dateline NBC To Broadcast 2-Hour Documentary About Two Men Claiming Innocence, on Sunday, August 5th, 7p.m to 9 p.m. (EDT and PDT)

(New York) – July 26, 2007 – As a controversial retrial looms for David Lemus, a man who served 15 years in prison before having his murder conviction overturned in 2005, NBC News' Peacock Productions presents its first feature length documentary film about his case, "In the Shadow of Justice." The two-hour broadcast, airing on Sunday, Aug. 5 (7:00 p.m. ET), advances Dateline's groundbreaking 2005 investigative report on the 1990 murder of Palladium nightclub bouncer, Markus Peterson, and immerses viewers in a case that made headlines as it unfolded.

While The Manhattan District Attorney's office insists Lemus is guilty of the murder, and is retrying him, they declined to comment on the film. However, the 23-year veteran Assistant District Attorney Daniel Bibb who argued at a hearing to keep Lemus and Olmedo Hidalgo (the other man convicted in the murder) in prison is now speaking out for the first time in the film. He says as he led a re-investigation of the case, he became convinced the men were innocent. He has since left the DA's office, saying he was tortured by the fact that his superiors, in his account, forced him to argue to keep two innocent men in prison.

Bibb says, "The people making the decisions (within the DA's office) wanted to go to the hearing." When pressed specifically about District Attorney Morganthau's involvement in the decision-making process, Bibb replies, "…He was aware of what was going on."

NBC's interest in the case began in 2002 when Dateline producers were granted rare access to Bronx homicide detectives Bobby Addolorato and John Schwartz as they re-investigated the case. Our cameras were rolling as the detectives discovered astonishing new evidence suggesting that Lemus and Hidalgo might actually be innocent. The detectives also believe they uncovered documents that suggest the DA's office buried evidence that proved Lemus and Hidalgo were innocent.

After the Dateline report aired, not only were the two men exonerated and able to go home to live with their families for the first time in 15 years, but weeks later a man who many believed to be the real shooter was arrested. The man, Thomas "Spanky" Morales, had appeared in the broadcast after NBC producers tracked him down. "Spanky," who spent nearly 18 months in jail awaiting trial for this murder, is now a free man after a judge threw out his case saying law enforcement had the obligation to arrest him years ago based on the ample evidence it possessed pointing to him as the shooter.

In the end, "In the Shadow of Justice" documents how the case changed many lives forever. For detectives Addolorato and Schwartz, it was a journey of conscience and confrontation that they say ended their careers. The film includes exclusive interviews with defendants Lemus and Hildago, eyewitnesses to the crime, family members, attorneys, the foreperson of the jury, Carol Kramer, who voted to convict the men and then asked for their release, and Thomas "Spanky" Morales.

David Corvo is the executive producer; Adam Gorfain is the senior producer; Daniel Slepian is the producer; Michael Nardi is the field producer; and Robert O. Allen is the editor.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Guest Shot: DNA Tests Alone will not Protect the Innocent

The following editorial was originally published in the Newark, NJ Star-Ledger.

by John Holdridge

DNA testing has produced its 205th exoneration nationwide of an innocent prisoner, a number that includes 15 inmates imprisoned on death row. The "lucky" prisoner is Byron Halsey, who was proven innocent by DNA after allegedly confessing to the sexual assault and murders of two young children in Plainfield, narrowly avoiding the death penalty and spending some 20 years in state prison for crimes he did not commit. Halsey is the fifth New Jersey prisoner exonerated through DNA.

But while we all breathe a sigh of relief when we hear that an innocent person has been prevented from spending one more unjust day behind bars, it is critical to remember that DNA evidence is available in only a small percentage of criminal cases. It is a serious mistake to believe that DNA testing is adequate protection for the wrongly accused or convicted, including those sentenced to die.

The 205 exonerations throughout the country reveal serious and widespread problems with our nation's criminal justice system. The Innocence Project, the group primarily responsible for the exonerations, has discovered in its cases abysmal legal representation, including overburdened and underfunded defense attorneys; faulty eyewitness identification, the greatest cause of wrongful convictions, playing a role in more than 75 percent of convictions overturned through DNA testing; bogus "scientific" forensic identification, including hair analysis, bite mark evidence, ballistics, blood typing and others; prosecutorial misconduct, including failing to disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense; lying informants and jailhouse snitches, who were involved in more than 15 percent of the DNA exoneration cases, and false confessions.

These deficiencies exist in equal percentages in all criminal cases. They are not any more prevalent in cases with DNA evidence than without. Yet in the vast majority of criminal cases, there is no DNA evidence to test and possibly exonerate innocent prisoners. The best estimate is that DNA evidence exists in only 10 to 15 percent of all murder cases.

The high number of wrongly convicted prisoners exonerated by DNA testing is just the tip of the iceberg of innocent lives being spent behind bars and even sent to death chambers. These stories must serve as a stark reminder of additional measures we must take to increase the accuracy of our criminal justice system across the nation. To name just some of the most important, it is critical that we:

Improve the poor quality of legal representation received by criminal defendants, including by reducing the caseloads of public defenders and providing them with sufficient resources.

Insist upon fair eyewitness identification procedures to reduce the number of misidentifications. In 2001, New Jersey became the first state to require fairer eyewitness identification procedures. It is now one of only three states to do so, having been joined by North Carolina and Wisconsin.

Have courts require that all "scientific" evidence introduced at a trial meet the demanding requirements of true science.

Severely sanction prosecutors who engage in misconduct. The disbarment of Durham, N.C., prosecutor Mike Nifong because he failed to disclose exculpatory evidence to the wealthy, white Duke lacrosse players was a notable - and exceedingly rare - example of such sanctioning.

Either bar the testimony of jailhouse snitches, particularly those who are granted "favors" in exchange for the testimony, or instruct jurors to view such testimony with great caution.

Require that confessions be recorded and allow defendants to present to their juries testimony by experts in false confessions. The New Jersey Supreme Court has ordered that interrogations be recorded in all homicide cases beginning in 2006 - too late for Halsey and virtually all other prisoners incarcerated in the state. New Jersey is one of only seven states that require recordings of interrogations.

DNA testing alone does not - and cannot - protect the innocent. Our criminal justice system is in serious need of repair. We are morally obliged to apply the lessons learned from DNA and repair the system.

Gues Shot: Tunnel Vision

The following editorial was originally published in the New York Times on July 15, 2007.

Everyone knew Jeffrey Deskovic was guilty.
Everyone was wrong, but that did not prevent his being convicted in 1990 for the murder of a 15-year-old classmate, and his being wrongfully imprisoned for the next 16 years.

A report released this month by the Westchester district attorney, Janet DiFiore, details the tragic pileup of mistakes, carelessness, incompetence and ''tunnel vision'' that robbed Mr. Deskovic, now 33, of half his life. A reading of the report, available at, gives a chilling view of the horrible and multiple ways the justice system can malfunction.

It prompts respect for the Innocence Project, which fought for Mr. Deskovic's freedom, and admiration for Ms. DiFiore, who undid the wrongs of two predecessors with her willingness to examine the DNA evidence that exonerated Mr. Deskovic. Ms. DiFiore also deserves much credit for commissioning the report, prepared by two retired judges, a former prosecutor and a legal aid lawyer, whose analysis of this case is vividly clear and deeply unsettling.

The report could be a primer for the Legislature, which should seriously consider the recommendations when it reconvenes this month.

The list of misdeeds is long, but one common thread is what the report called ''tunnel vision,'' the narrowing of outlook that sealed Mr. Deskovic's fate once the powers that be, from the police to prosecutors, became convinced that he was guilty.

Perhaps the most distressing part of Mr. Deskovic's long battle for vindication was his repeated inability to persuade prosecutors to compare DNA from the crime scene with samples in state and federal databases.

The judge in the case praised Ms. DiFiore's office for its open-mindedness in granting Mr. Deskovic's simple request to honor what should be a defendant's basic right. The other central recommendations in the report include a requirement to videotape interrogations and the creation of a state ''commission of inquiry'' to examine the errors and misdeeds that lead to wrongful convictions, and to recommend steps to prevent them.

The mandatory videotaping of interrogations is a matter of particular importance. Mr. Deskovic was an emotionally vulnerable and confused suspect, a teenager at that, and under heavy pressure he falsely confessed to the crime. Taped interrogations would help to improve questioning tactics -- beyond discouraging outright abuses by overaggressive police officers -- and help jurors to identify false confessions.

There is one more recommendation for action that is implicit in the report. It would not come from Albany, but from the host of individuals -- from detectives to Ms. DiFiore's immediate predecessors -- who were active participants in a gross miscarriage of justice.

The report recounts the moment last November when Westchester's first deputy district attorney told the court that the case was being dropped because Mr. Deskovic was ''actually innocent.'' The prosecutor went on to offer ''the most sincere apologies we can muster on behalf of the Westchester County District Attorney's Office and the Peekskill police.''

The report said that Mr. Deskovic expressed appreciation for the gesture. It also said it was the first public apology he had received.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Guest Shot: Despite conviction, DNA retest apt in elderly woman's murder

by Elmer Smith
Originally published in the Philadelphia Daily News on July10, 2007

IN THE US VS. THEM world of prosecutors and perpetrators, we have a rooting interest in seeing the full weight of the law slam down on the perps.

I get that. I also understand how going after someone as depraved as the killer of Louise Talley becomes more of an obsession than an objective. That is precisely the mindset I want the district attorney's office to march into battle with.

Talley, a 77-year-old Nicetown woman, was raped and stabbed to death in her bedroom in 1991. Anthony Wright, then 22 and an admitted drug addict, signed a statement confessing that he was the killer. A jury, noting the confession and the testimony of witnesses who placed him near the scene of the crime, convicted him of first-degree murder 14 years ago.

But the D.A.'s open-and-shut case is threatening to come open again. Wright, represented by the Innocence Project, is scheduled to be in Superior Court today seeking DNA testing of blood and semen stains recovered at the time of his arrest. DNA tests 16 years ago proved inconclusive.

The D.A.'s office is vigorously opposing new DNA testing. I want to believe it is fighting to keep DNA evidence out in the interest of justice.

Except that, for the life of me, I can't see how justice is served by suppressing a test result that could point to another perpetrator.

If Louise Talley's murderer is still out there, I want my D.A.'s office to go after him with the same fervor that led to Anthony Wright's conviction.

Instead, the D.A.'s office seems more interested in holding onto Wright than it is in being absolutely sure the crime is solved. That worries me.

The D.A.'s brief bases its opposition on procedural points that may make sense in the arcane proceedings of a courtroom. But they seem disconnected from the essential question of guilt and innocence.

Their key point is that since Wright's confession was ruled valid after he tried to rescind it at trial, "he is barred from asserting his innocence."

But the Innocence Project has proved the actual innocence of more than 50 defendants who had signed confessions to the crimes they were falsely convicted of, three of them in Pennsylvania alone.

The D.A.'s office acknowledges this. "There is no doubt that innocent voluntary confessors, while they are rare, are no exception to the truism that anything is possible," the D.A. concedes in the brief.

But the D.A. goes on to argue that the "law of case doctrine" bars Wright from "asserting innocence" once a judge has ruled that the confession was valid.

In an even-less-principled argument, the D.A. asserts that the DNA request was not filed in "a timely manner." Therefore, the D.A. concludes, "there is no reason for the court to address the merits."

But the Pennsylvania law, which allows for post-conviction DNA testing, sets no time limits. Besides, I never want to hear the D.A. argue against having a court "address the merits" of any case.

The D.A. argues that the trial record contains "overwhelming evidence of guilt." I agree.

The signed confession and the fact that Wright was implicated by people who had nothing to gain by fingering him, as well as by co-conspirators who may have been out to cut the best deal for themselves, seem to make an airtight case against Wright.

But I would have thought that about Nicholas Yarris, Bruce Godschalk and Barry Laughman. All were convicted in "open and shut" cases. Yarris, who signed a confession, was convicted and sentenced to die.

In all three of those cases and 200 others in which the Innocence Project has fought for and won DNA tests, the testing proved they weren't the murderers.

Even more important, DNA tests in half those cases also identified the actual perpetrators, several of whom have been convicted on the same DNA evidence.

If new testing proves that we got the right man, then DNA will have done its job. If it proves that someone else murdered Louise Talley, we need to know who that is and how we can convict him.

That's really where our rooting interest lies.

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