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Wrongful conviction work is often heartbreaking. Not only for the wrongly convicted person and their family, but heartbreaking to know that our criminal justice system can get it so wrong, only to see how entrenched it is in justifying its mistakes.
For background on Lorinda Swain’s case, go to Lorinda Swain. After the original trial judge granted her a new trial based on testimony of a key witness who was not asked to testify originally, the Calhoun County’s Prosecutor’s office appealed the decision. Since her accuser had recanted, it would be extremely difficult to find her guilty. Rather than deciding not to prosecute, they appealed the original trial judge’s decision. The Court of Appeals (COA) reversed the decision for a new trial. The State considers her guilty and the prosecutor is asking that her bond be revoked. After serving 8 years in prison and being out on bond for the last 5, Lorinda is facing the probability that she will be sent back to prison to server out her 25 to 50 year sentence. The Court of Appeal’s (COA) opinion is available for download at the end of this article by clicking More about Lorinda. Here is a summary:
- Written by Errol Liverpool
The year was 1967. It was a typical Sunday in Georgetown, Guyana, South America. For Donald and Ivan, there was nothing extraordinary about that hot July morning. As customary, they found themselves at their local watering hole, having a drink with friends, less than a hundred yards from their home. Suddenly, a man of East Indian descent walked in the rum shop (bar) with two police officers.
The dreaded question was asked. “Do you see the men who robbed you?” With little hesitancy, out of the dozen men of African descent who were in the shop that morning, the man pointed to Donald and Ivan as his assailants. They were handcuffed and carted off to jail, and were arraigned the next day on armed robbery charges.
They had no way of knowing then that Donald was identified by the victim because he was wearing a bandage on his right index finger. Ivan was picked out of this spot lineup simply because he was standing next to his lifelong friend, Donald. The victim had told the police that the person, now identified as Donald, had come up from behind and grabbed him around the neck in a choke hold, while Ivan robbed him of the three hundred dollars he was carrying in his pocket. The victim said that he had bitten the finger of Donald while being choked. The fact that Donald, an avid swimmer, could show that he had cut his finger on a jagged rock while having his weekly swim in the Atlantic Ocean, was of little importance to an overzealous East Indian prosecutor.
Never having been in trouble before . . .
The case of Temujin Kensu is what first provoked journalist Bill Proctor to investigate cases of claimed actual innocence. Out of that, Proving Innocence was born. Proving Innocence does not provide legal counsel, but since our inception, we have been supportive of Kensu and his seeking exoneration of the murder of Scott Macklem.
At the heart of Temujin Kensu's appeals of late has been maintaining that the photo lineup originally presented to eye witnesses made the picture of Kensu stand out amoung all the others. When it came time for the trial, the prosecution reset the photos so that they appeared not to be bias. (In reality this cases has so many other flaws. For the best, quickest summary of the case, see Bill Proctor's news series Ninja Killer.)
On November 10th, St. Clair County Circuit Judge Michael West issued a 24-page order and opinion denying Temujin Kensu's motion for a new trial. The Michigan Innocence Clinic's staff attorney, Caitlin Plummer, said they were disappointed in the verdict and almost certainly planned to appeal.
For a more in-depth look, see The Times Herald's article Judge denies new trial in 1986 SC4 parking lot murder case.
- Written by B.David Sanders
If wrongful convictions and the death penalty concern you, Anatomy of Injustice – A Murder Case Gone Wrong is required reading. Author Raymond Bonner displays gifted storytelling and keen insight into the frailties of the U.S. criminal justice system. He uses the wrongful conviction and capital case of Edward Lee Elmore to do so.
The setting is South Carolina.
Edward Lee Elmore – a black man with limited mental capacity – was convicted in 1982 of the murder of Dorothy Lee Edwards, a well-to-do white woman. After three trials, Elmore’s conviction was upheld and he was sentenced to death.
In many ways Edward Elmore’s story is a classic case of wrongful conviction. It involves the usual factors – poor defense counsel, lousy police investigation, snitch testimony, and prosecutorial misconduct. The injustice dealt Mr. Elmore was facilitated by a climate of racial prejudice. And the condemned man’s only hope was defense attorney Diana Holt, who wrestled with personal demons as she doggedly fought for justice in America’s courts.
- Written by B.David Sanders
- Sad News for Davontae Sanford
- Good-bye to the Hurricane
- Prosecutors and Balanced Justice
- What the National Registry of Exonerations Can't Tell Us
- Role of the Press - Two Edged Sword
- The Detroit – West Memphis Connection
- Court of Appeals Gives Davontae Hope
- Presenting Oral Argument in Davontae's Appeal
- Michigan's Law to Videotape* Interrogations
- Michigan Indigent Defense Law Signed by Snyder
- Baffling and Egregious Decision by New Calhoun County Prosecutor
- New Year Reflections
- Kirstin "Blaise" Lobato
- Hurray for the Michigan Advisory Commission on Indigent Defense!
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