Category Archives: Voices of Innocence

Thank you Mr. Goldstein!

GOLDSTEIN

 

KCADP would like to extend a heartfelt Thank You! to Tom Goldstein, an Exoneree and Kansas native. Mr. Goldstein partnered with us here in his home state to help fight against House Bill 2389, a bill that advocates speeding up the appeals process in death penalty cases.

 

Tom Goldstein was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to a term of 27 years to life for a murder he did not commit. His wrongful conviction was based upon systemic flaws in our justice system, the testimony of a drug addicted jail house informant, an eye witness who was coerced by the police, and counsel who failed to adequately investigate his case.

 

Since his release from prison in 2004 Mr. Goldstein has pursued a civil lawsuit against the City of Long Beach, the detectives assigned to his case, and the County of Los Angeles. During the discovery phase of his suit his attorneys uncovered four other cases of wrongful convictions involving the same detectives. One was the case of Oscar Lee Morris who spent 17 years on death row before being exonerated in 2000.

 

When called upon to speak Mr. Goldstein jumps at the opportunity and has spoken at various universities, as well as, with many Congress-persons, Senators and Legislators.

 

We would like to thank Mr. Goldstein for finding his way back to his home state to share is story and provide compelling testimony against House Bill 2389.

 

“I spent many long, wasted and lonely years in prison. Participating in this process gives meaning and value to these lost years.  Through my first hand experiences I can unequivocally state that our justice system is flawed. Sometimes the system gets it wrong and we need the appeals process to work in order to win our freedom. I believe that the shortcuts this bill proposes would not serve the public interest nor make our system more reliable. In fact it would make the execution of an innocent man more likely.” ~ Tom Goldstein

 

Action Alert: SB 257 Could Threaten Innocent Lives!

 

Thank you to everyone who came yesterday to the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the death penalty and invited others to attend. We had a great turnout from KCADP’s membership! Now we’re turning our attention to another critical hearing this coming week.

On Tuesday, January 21, the Senate Judiciary Committee will consider the death penalty again at a hearing on SB 257. This bill is a dangerous proposal that could threaten innocent life by limiting the appeals and safeguards in capital cases. If you can make it, please come to this hearing and show your opposition to this bill:

  • WHAT: Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on death penalty
  • WHEN: Tuesday, January 21, 10:30am
  • WHERE: Room 346S at the Capitol, 300 SW 10th Ave., Topeka

Now is an important time to call Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King at 785-296-7361 and urge him to OPPOSE SB 257 (you also can email him at JeffdotKingatsenatedotksdotgov  (JeffdotKingatsenatedotksdotgov)  ). In addition, click here to see if your senator sits on this committee and, if so, contact them too.

Here are some of the major flaws with SB 257 to share Sen. King:

  • Making other criminal cases languish in the criminal justice system is no way to fix the death penalty. Under SB 257, appeals in all cases must wait in line behind death penalty cases to receive their day in court. As a result, this proposal delays finality to victims of rapes, non-capital homicides, kidnappings, and other serious crimes. Also, individuals wrongfully convicted of non-capital crimes will spend more time in jail as their appeals are delayed.
  • The burden for proving innocence is unreasonably high. Unless a defendant proves by “clear and convincing evidence” his or her innocence, a court cannot grant relief and stop an execution according to SB 257. Meeting this high standard is difficult in court, especially in cases that lack DNA evidence. So even if it is more than likely that a defendant is innocent, that is not sufficient for a court to stop an execution.
  • Shortening appeals is dangerous given how long it often takes for evidence of innocence to emerge. SB 257 puts forward a number of provisions that would limit the time available for appeals in capital cases. These changes significantly raise the risk of executing an innocent person. Of the 143 individuals sentenced to death and later exonerated in the US since 1973, it took on average over 10 years for them to prove their innocence, and in some cases the wait was 20 or 30 years.

Please contact Sen. King at 785-296-7361 and urge him to oppose SB 257. Now is not the time for Kansas to pass legislation that likely will have the effect of threatening innocent life.

Thank you,

Mary Sloan

KCADP Executive Director

Commemoration Ceremony at the Tree of Healing

memorytreeMary Sloan, KCADP Executive Director, ties a yellow ribbon around the Tree of Healing at the annual Commemoration Ceremony. Thank you to all of those who participated!

Read more about the ceremony here.

 

 

 

 

 

Photo and Story by Glenn Bartlett (Kansas First News)

A Matter of Innocence – Kirk Bloodsworth Speaking Tour

US-LAW-DEATH SENTENCE-DNAKirk Bloodsworth, Advocacy Director of Witness to Innocence and a death row exoneree, will speak on wrongful convictions and the death penalty here in Kansas (please see below for locations, dates, and times of each event).

 

Mr. Bloodsworth was accused and convicted of a horrific crime: murdering and raping a nine year-old girl. The evidence used to convict him was the testimony of five eyewitnesses. He spent eight years in prison before DNA evidence proved his innocence. Mr. Bloodsworth is one of 142 individuals in the US to be sentenced to death and later found innocent. Ten years after the initial tests, investigators matched DNA from the case to the real killer.

 

In Kansas, DNA evidence has played a role in exonerating both Eddie Lowery and Joe Jones of rapes that they did not commit. To date, DNA evidence has led to the release of 305 individuals in the US wrongfully convicted and incarcerated from crimes they did not commit.

 

While in Kansas, Mr. Bloodsworth hopes his story will highlight how anyone can suffer the injustice of a wrongful conviction: “I was a former Marine with no criminal record, who was nowhere near the scene of the crime, but I was still convicted and sentenced to death for a crime I didn’t commit. If it could happen to me, it could happen to anybody. And it does.”

 

EVENTS:

Sunday, April 14th

9:15am – Grace Gathering Room at Grace UMC, 11485 S Ridgeview Rd., Olathe, KS 66061

(free to the public)

6:30pm – An Evening with Kirk Bloodsworth Dinner Event, St. David’s Episcopal Church, 3916 SW 17th St., Topeka, KS

($25 per person)

Monday, April 15th

7:00pm – Big 12 Room, Kansas Union, Level 5, University of Kansas, 1301 Jayhawk Blvd, Lawrence, KS

(free to the public)

Tuesday, April 16th

7:00pm – Dugan-Gorges Conf. Ctr., Dugan Library & Campus Ctr., Newman University, 3100 McCormick, Wichita, KS

(free to the public)

Wednesday, April 17th

7:00pm – FHSU Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center, 600 Park St., Hays, KS

(free to the public)

“The Disturbing Case of Eddie Lowery” Documentary to Air in December

 

“The Disturbing Case of Eddie Lowery ” will air Friday, December 16, 2011 at 9pm (central time) on MSNBC.

 

Eddie James Lowery was wrongfully convicted of the rape of an Ogden, KS woman in 1981 and spent ten years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. This MSNBC documentary tells the story of Lowery’s wrongful conviction, his difficult journey to justice and the emotional toll imprisonment had on him and his family.

 

We hope you’ll have a chance to watch the documentary and learn about how an innocent person can be wrongfully convicted of a crime.

 

Lawrence Journal-World publishes in-depth account of Kansas felony exoneree

 

Kansas is not immune to the problems that other states face within the justice system. The first Kansan exonerated through DNA evidence after serving time in a Kansas prison granted an exclusive look into the challenges he has faced since being punished for a crime for which he was innocent.

 

Of the more than 270 people in the United States exonerated by DNA evidence since 1989, 75 percent were originally convicted based in part on mistaken eyewitness identification, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based organization that assists with exonerations and DNA testing.

 

To read this powerful story, please click here.

 

 

The Darryl Hunt Project Reaches Lawrence

On Tuesday over 80 people, students and community members alike, gathered at the Ecumenical Campus Ministries at the University of Kansas to hear the heart wrenching story of Darryl Hunt, who was wrongfully convicted of murder in 1984.

During the event,  a documentary, “The Trials of Darryl Hunt,” was shown, explaining the series of legal errors and neglect which led to Hunt’s imprisonment for over 2 decades.  In 1984, an all-white jury convicted Hunt, a black man, of a the murder of a white copy editor of the Winston-Salem paper.  Hunt maintained his innocence for decades and was only released after the real killer confessed; a full decade after DNA evidence had exonerated him.

Darryl Hunt and Imam Khalid Griggs, who helped start the Darryl Hunt Defense Fund were present to answer questions and discuss race and justice issues with the crowd.  Hunt and Griggs noted that had the death penalty been Hunt’s punishment, he would not have made it long enough to prove his innocence.

For the LJ World Report click here.

For more information on the Darryl Hunt Project click here.

 

Voices of Innocence

Innocent Lives in the Balance

In a death penalty system, there is always a real and unacceptable risk of executing an innocent person.

Since 1973, 138 people nationwide have been exonerated from death row because new evidence came to light after they were sentenced to die for crimes they did not commit.

Even with the best intentions, police officers, lab technicians, prosecutors, judges, and witnesses can make mistakes or errors in judgment.  In a capital case, even a small mistake can risk the execution of an innocent person.

In Kansas, a quarter of the death sentences handed down since 1994 have been overturned by the Kansas Supreme Court due to errors made during trials.

In recent years, Kansas has also seen a prominent felony exoneration for Eddie Lowery, who was mistakenly convicted of rape in 1982.  In 2010,  Lowery received a settlement of $7.5 million from Riley County and the City of Manhattan for his wrongful conviction and imprisonment.

To help clarify just how innocent people can be convicted and executed for crimes they never committed, KCADP has put together a series of profiles on innocence cases.  In come of these cases, mistakes led to wrongful imprisonment.  In other cases, men were wrongfully placed on death row, and some were even executed.

Please visit the “Voices of Innocence” section of our website to read about these cases.

 

Voices of Innocence: Eddie Lowery

Eddie Lowery: A Kansas Wrongful Conviction

Eddie Lowery

In the early morning hours of July 26, 1981, an Ogden, Kansas woman was brutally raped in her home.  Nearby that same night, Eddie Lowery, a 22 year-old soldier stationed at Fort Riley, was involved in a car accident.

Because of his accident’s proximity to the location of the rape, Lowery was questioned by police about the rape all day with no food or rest.  When he requested an attorney, he was told he did not need one.

“I didn’t know any way out of that [situation], except to tell them what they wanted to hear.  And then get a lawyer to prove my innocence,” said Lowery in 2010.

Exhausted and scared, Lowery confessed to a crime he did not commit, believing the truth would come out in court.  After his arrest, Lowery quickly recanted his confession.  But, during his trial, it was used as evidence against him.

Lowery was convicted of the rape, and sentenced to 11 years to life in prison.  He served nearly 10 years at the Lansing Correctional Facility for a crime he did not commit.  In 1991, he was paroled, required to register as a sex offender and was dishonorably discharged from the military.

With the help of his attorney and the Innocence Project, Lowery paid to have the rape kit and other evidence from his case tested in hopes of proving his innocence.  Twenty years after his wrongful conviction, Lowery was officially exonerated by DNA evidence.  In 2010, the City of Manhattan and Riley County settled a $7.5 million civil suit for Lowery’s wrongful conviction and the 10 years he served in prison.

Eddie Lowery’s case is a clear example of how even with the best intentions, mistakes happen in Kansas criminal trials.  Since 1994, a quarter of Kansas death sentences have been overturned by the Kansas Supreme Court due to errors made during the trials.  As long as Kansas has the death penalty, wrongful convictions and wrongful executions remain an unacceptable risk.

 

Voices of Innocence: Juan Melendez

A Death Row Exoneration.

Juan Melendez

Juan Melendez spent nearly 18 years on Florida’s death row for a crime he did not commit.  Convicted of the brutal murder of Delbert Baker in 1984, Melendez was eventually exonerated in 2002.

But how does an innocent man get convicted of murder?

Barely able to understand English at the time of his arrest, Melendez unknowingly waived his rights.  Even though Melendez had a strong alibi, more than 16 pieces of evidence proving his innocence were withheld by the prosecution during the trial.  Less than a week after his trial began, Melendez was convicted and sentenced to death.

Additionally, Melendez’s conviction was bolstered by the testimony of two questionable witnesses: a police informant with a criminal record and a co-defendant who was threatened with execution, but received a deal for two years probation after testifying against Melendez.

Melendez’s exoneration was only possible after the discovery of a transcript of a taped confession from the real killer, which was found 16 years after Melendez was sentenced to death.

These errors can happen in any trial, but when the death penalty is involved, even one small mistake can put an innocent life at risk.  Since 1978, 138 people nationwide have been exonerated because new evidence came to light after they were sentenced to die for crimes they did not commit.  An execution cannot be undone.  Replacing the death penalty with life without the possibility of parole is the only way to ensure that an innocent person is never at risk of being executed.