Monday, October 12, 2009

Poll Results: Post-Conviction DNA Testing Rights?

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The poll to determine whether participants feel that inmates should have the right to post-conviction DNA testing to prove their innocence ran from June 21 until October 11.  The poll is now closed and our results are available!  Voting Central registers 479 views and 102 votes.  The votes are 99 to 3 in favor of inmates having post-conviction DNA testing rights.

Hopefully, our elected officials notice public polls like ours on Voting Central.  They should care about what their constituents consider to be important - like truth and justice. Thanks to everyone who participated. The link below should be circulated to your friends and groups so they can see the opinions expressed in comments and the breakdown of votes.

I recommend for people who are concerned about wrongful convictions to support the Innocence Project, which provides testing for the exoneration and release of wrongly convicted persons. Also, please visit the Death Penalty Information Center online for statistics and other information about capital punishment.  Especially if your state is killing people in your name and with your tax money, it is your duty to learn more about executions.  There are numerous other very fine organizations and grass roots groups that fight for justice for those who are deprived of adequate opportunities to prove innocence before execution or wasting their lives behind bars.  Many such groups and organizations are mentioned in other posts throughout this blog.  Please review other articles while you are here or come back frequently to .
Below is an excerpt of an article I received today.  The entire article is at the link below.

Better late than never, DNA lets innocent people reclaim liberty

Published Date: 12 October 2009

THERE have been 244 "exonerees" since the creation of the Innocence Project in the United States 17 years ago. Exoneree is an unwieldy but precise term invented within the Innocence Project to describe the prisoners it has helped to release not on ambiguous technical grounds of mistrial but because examination of the DNA evidence from the crime scene established that they didn't do it. They were innocent of the crimes they were jailed for.

Seventeen of the 244 had served time on death row. They would have been executed for crimes they did not commit. Most others had sentences measured in decades.

The Innocence Project was founded by Barry Scheck and co-director Peter Neufield. Scheck is best known in this country for his part in the 1995 OJ Simpson defence team and later as defence lawyer for the British nanny Louise Woodward.

The first raft of cases on the Innocence Project books involved people – almost entirely men – whose convictions predated the arrival of DNA profiling.

But in their rather austere offices downtown on New York City's 5th Avenue, the banks of filing cabinets contain hundreds more active cases in which available DNA evidence was ignored, or wrongly analysed. Exoneree number 245 is likely to be one Ernest Sonnier, who was freed on bond in August after 23 years in Texas prisons for a rape he didn't commit. DNA testing eventually proved Sonnier's innocence of the attack on Christmas Eve 1985 and implicated two other men.

His conviction had preceded the invention of DNA profiling and had been based on identification from photographs by the victim and by evidence from the scientist who examined blood-group evidence and who gave testimony that implicated Sonnier, even though his own written report tended to exclude him as the assailant.
Misidentification is most common when the victim and accused are from different races. In the project's most recent newsletter, Saloom lists the other common causes of wrongful conviction.  They include inadequate forensic scientific analysis. It is extraordinary to discover that, in the land of CSI, there are no basic general standards of validation for forensic examiners. The threshold in some counties is very low. In a number of wrongful conviction cases, forensic scientists have actively engaged in misconduct.

About a third of cases involved false confessions by young or mentally suggestible accused. Audio and DVD recording of police interviews is required throughout Scotland but is still patchy across the US.

About 16 per cent of cases involved "snitch testimony", in which other prisoners – and sometimes the actual perpetrator – had given statements that incriminated the accused in return for deals, special treatment or the dropping of charges.

"There is very little in the way of support services for any ex-prisoner on release in most states," says Wolff. "Bizarrely, if you are released because you turned out to have been wrongly imprisoned then you may not be eligible for what little there is. That will be linked to parole conditions and our guys aren't on parole."
"We still have a great deal of work to do, but we've made more progress already than anyone thought possible."

Please use this link to access the full article.


Thank you for your support for justice.  Most organizations like The Innocence Project, DPIC, AI, ACLU, NAACP and grass roots groups rely on contributions from concerned persons like you to support their efforts.  Please visit their websites today.  Likewise, if you are interested in my continuing to provide you news and viewpoints on such matters, please be cognizant that I also rely on your contributions, having exhausted my savings in advocacy to bring ASSISTANCE TO THE INCARCERATED MENTALLY ILL (AIMI).  

Regardless of whether you are able to make a financial donation, everyone can assist by grabbing a link and helping to spread needed information.  Whether or not you support the death penalty, I am sure you agree that no innocent people should be punished with prison terms or execution while the guilty walk among us.  AIMI appreciates whatever help you provide. Although there are laws against it, numerous inmates on death row are mentally ill.  Andre Thomas, who is on Texas death row, is eating his body parts.  So far, he ate both his eyes.  Jeff Wood, who is also on Texas death row, never killed anyone but was convicted under the law of parties.  He was a mentally challenged young man who was asked to drive with someone to the store.  The person with whom Wood went to the store robbed and killed the manager while Wood sat dutifully in the truck as he had been instructed.  Anthony Bell, a mildly retarded man, was executed a few months ago in Virginia. 

Mentally ill defendants frequently have no understanding of their Miranda rights, and some have a tendency to sign false confessions and/or are unable to contribute to their own defense at trial.  We must help them, especially the innocent.  AIMI assists by publishing articles to bring more awareness and attract community support for mentally challenged inmates, posting polls and petitions to spare condemned mentally ill inmates from execution.  We advocate removing mentally ill inmates to secure, long-term treatment environments if incarcerated for violent crimes, or to community care if they are nonviolent - at no additional cost to taxpayers.  We track and report Congressional legislation that would bring assistance to the incarcerated mentally ill and lobby representatives to support those laws.  Please ask your representatives to support H.R. 619 to restore Medicaid insurance for indigent mentally ill persons' inpatient treatment.

The petitions below can be opened to see photographs of sick Americans behind bars and read comments of petitioners without requiring that you sign.  AIMI's petitioners often tell us about challenges getting compassion and mental health care for their own mentally challenged relatives or for themselves.  Jeremy Smith served years in solitary where he deteriorated mentally and physically and may still be there with time added for talking back.  "No, no, Jeremy.  You mustn't hit and talk rudely.  Californians are spending millions of dollars to teach you that.  It's not like the money is needed for something else."

Petition:  No Execution for Acute Mental Patient Andre Thomas
The judge said, "Thomas is crazy but sane under Texas law" after he ate his second eye.

Petition:  Justice for Jeremy Smith and Other Mentally Ill Inmates
Schizophrenic since childhood, Jeremy was sentenced to eight years imprisonment for merely hitting another mental patient in his inpatient facility. California, always hungry for more inmates, had Jeremy sign a plea deal for that sentence.  Gina, his mother, said his sentence may now be lengthened because Jeremy threatened a guard while being jailed in the middle of a psychotic crisis.  They called it a "terroristic threat."

Some things are changing for the better, and they will continue to improve as we all work together.


Mary Neal

Assistance to the Incarcerated Mentally Ill

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