Sunday, August 24, 2008

Guest Shot: John Maki for Johnny Lee Savory

My name is John Maki. I'm reaching out to all the innocent projects that I can find to spread the word about a website that I'm working on with Johnnie Lee Savory.

When Johnnie was 14 years old, he was falsely accused and unjustly convicted of a double homicide in his hometown of Peoria, Illinois. After spending 30 years in prison, Savory, with the help of Northwestern University's Center on Wrongful Convictions and many other groups, was granted clemency and released in December 2006. The Chicago Sun-Times recently did a great piece on Johnnie, which you can read here:,CST-EDT-douglas15.article

Though a free man today, Johnnie is still an ex-felon. That is why he is asking Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich for a full pardon based on his actual innocence and to order DNA testing of the evidence that was used to convict him.

Johnnie's website is called Justice for Savory -- Falsely Accused, Unjustly Convicted: A Child's Story. Our goal is to use the site and internet video both to raise awareness about Johnnie's case and other cases like his, but more importantly to get people to take action for him and the many other men, women, and children around the world who have been wrongly convicted. We also want to highlight the people who help the wrongfully convicted fight back.

That's why I am contacting all of you. We're trying to get as much exposure as possible. It would be great if you could link to Johnnie's blog or in someway publicize it on your website. And if you can think of any person or group who might be interested in the site, or could help us get the word out about it, please let me know.

Lastly, we'd also be thrilled to help you publicize/promote any internet outreach project on our site. Similarly, we'd love to collaborate if anyone is interested. Just let us know.

You can check out Justice for Savory here:

If you have any questions or comments about the site, or our videos, please email them to me

Thanks for your time,
John Maki

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Guest Shot: Philadelphia Inquirer on Wrongful Convictions

This editorial was published in the Philadelphia Inquirer on August 10, 2008.

Editorial: Wrongful Convictions The case against the investigators

It happens too often. Innocent people are convicted and spend years in prison because of faulty eyewitness identification, sloppy or improper police work, and the lack of DNA testing. Take the case of Darrell Edwards. He was convicted of murder in a New Jersey state court in 1999 - after four trials and the acquittal of a co-defendant. Four bites at the apple is a good indication that prosecutors had a shaky case from the start.

Now, new evidence has emerged that raises the possibility that Evans was wrongfully convicted - or worse, may have been railroaded. Edwards' attorneys at the Innocence Project are seeking a fifth trial. He deserves it.

Edwards' attorneys claim DNA testing on the gun and on a sweatshirt believed to belong to the shooter excludes their client. His attorneys have also produced evidence that undermines a key witness, and say police ignored another lead that could have helped find the killer.

The issues raised by Edwards' attorneys are part of a broader pattern that routinely emerges in wrongful conviction cases.

Just last week, DNA helped exonerate a Dallas man who was convicted of 11 sex crimes and spent 25 years in prison.

Last month, the Alabama Supreme Court granted a last-minute reprieve to a man scheduled to be executed after another convicted murderer stepped forward with an affidavit claiming he was the killer.

In June, prosecutors in New York decided not to re-try a man who was released after spending 17 years in prison for the murder of his parents - following a disputed confession and new evidence.

Edwards was convicted of the 1995 execution-style shooting of a drug dealer in Newark. It took three years for the case to go to trial. The first two ended in mistrials, and the third ended with a hung jury that acquitted a co-defendant.

At his fourth trial, Edwards was convicted, due in large part to dubious eyewitness testimony.

The key witness fingered Edwards although she was sitting on her porch almost the length of a football field away from the murder scene. New scientific analysis offered by Edwards' attorneys argues that the witness couldn't clearly see the killer at night from her porch 271 feet away.

In addition, the witness wasn't wearing her prescription glasses at the time, and now says in an affidavit that on the night of the murder she had been drinking and was high on heroin.

More alarming, she added that when she identified Edwards in a photo lineup she was "just guessing." She says a police investigator pointed to Edwards, and said that another witness had picked him out - thus improperly influencing her decision.

Two other witnesses who were closer to the shooting both told police Edwards wasn't the shooter. At Edwards' third trial, the government produced an unsigned statement from one of the witnesses saying he wasn't sure that Edwards was the shooter. The witness now denies knowing about this statement and affirmed in an affidavit that Edwards wasn't involved in the shooting.

Edwards' attorneys say police also ignored evidence from a Drug Enforcement Administration informant who linked the murder to a drug trafficking ring out of Atlanta, which had no ties to Edwards.

At a minimum, Edwards deserves a new trial. And if he's found to have been wrongfully convicted, someone should investigate the investigators.

More broadly, all police and prosecutors need to enhance policies and procedures with an eye toward avoiding wrongful convictions.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Guest Shot: Bad ‘News’

Reposted from National Review Online

August 05, 2008

Bad ‘News’
The media are happy to publicize innuendo and rumor, impoverishing our public life.
By Thomas Sowell

We have forgotten so much about the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that many people may not remember the deadly anthrax spores that were mailed to various prominent people in politics and in the media during that time.

None of the intended victims was killed by the anthrax but five other people were, including two postal workers, who apparently became victims because they handled the mail containing anthrax spores.

In the instant search for someone to blame, biologist Steven J. Hatfill was publicly named as “a person of interest” in the case by government officials. He became, in the media presentation, the villain du jour.

The government was eventually forced to issue a retraction and agreed to pay a settlement of more than $5 million. But retractions never catch up with the original charges, which will blight this man’s life the longest day he lives.

More recently, a federal investigation has focused on someone else who worked in the same scientific laboratory as Hatfill. This time the new suspect was about to be indicted, as distinguished from being tried in the media — and he committed suicide.

This may mark the end of the anthrax story but the reckless destruction of eople’s reputations and the disrupting and blighting of their lives in the media is continuing on.

There is much to be said for the British practice of limiting what can be reported in the media about someone on trial until that trial is over.

Once a charge has been made and publicized from coast to coast — if not internationally — later exoneration will never get the same publicity, so the damage cannot be undone. You cannot unring the bell.

A major part of what is reported in the media— especially the tabloid media, whether print or broadcast — consists of leaks, speculation, and innuendo— all repeated around the clock, day in and day out, whether or not anything is ever proved.

What someone thinks is going to happen is not news. After it happens it is news.

The 24-hour news cycle may require that somebody be saying something on the air all the time. But that is the media’s problem — and it should not be solved at the expense of ruining other people’s lives.

The loss is not solely that of the particular individuals singled out for accusation or innuendo.
If an informed citizenry is the foundation of democratic government, then a misinformed citizenry is a danger.

Individuals who have never been smeared can also be affected. Highly qualified people, whose knowledge and judgment are much needed in high places, may turn down judicial nominations, for example, or decline other high-profile positions in government, if that means risking having outstanding reputations for integrity that they have built up over a lifetime be dragged through the mud in televised confirmation hearings conducted like Roman circuses.

Such top-level people can always be replaced by warm bodies, as Judge Robert Bork was replaced by Judge Anthony Kennedy, after the smearing of Judge Bork by the Senate Judiciary Committee defeated his nomination.

But the whole country continues to this day to pay dearly for having Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court, making intellectually foppish decisions.

One of the perennial crusades of the media has been to have more government business televised. Their self-interest in this is obvious. But the benefits of televising government proceedings — if there are any benefits — must be weighed against the enormous harm that this can do not only to individuals but to the country.

Television conveys false information as readily as it conveys the truth. Congressional hearings are not glimpses of truth. They are staged events to perpetuate some political spin.
Televising these political shows only impedes Congress’s ability to get serious work done in private instead of spending time playing to the peanut gallery.

Both individuals and the country deserve more protection from publicity abuse than they usually get.

— Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.