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Tag: jail

Sen. Grassley Demands Answers from DEA about ‘Brutal Captivity’ of College Student

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Sen. Chuck Grassley wants answers.

The Republican from Iowa is demanding details of the treatment of Daniel Chong, who was detained and deprived of water and food for five days, the Hill reports.

“The American people still do not know the full details about Mr. Chong’s mistreatment and abuse,” Grassley wrote. “And despite this inexcusable behavior and long-overdue findings, the American people still have no idea whether these agents and administrators are still working for the DEA.”

The letter to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart comes after an Inspector General report that “raises even more questions.”

“Not only were there specific failures by specific agents and employees that led to Mr. Chong’s brutal captivity, as well as a possible attempted cover up by senior DEA officials, but the entire system itself was set up to fail and forestall any future review,” Grassley wrote. “This is wholly unacceptable.”

Chong, a college student, reached a $4.1 million settlement with the DEA.

ProPublica Presents, Criminal Injustice: The Best Reporting on Wrongful Convictions

By Theodoric Meyer and Christie Thompson
ProPublica

In 1991, an unemployed printer named David Ranta was convicted of killing a Hasidic rabbi in Brooklyn.

Last week, Ranta was released from the maximum-security prison in which he’d spent nearly 22 years, after almost every piece of evidence used to convict him fell away. The New York Times reported that the lead detectives on the case “broke rule after rule” — they “kept few written records, coached a witness and took Mr. Ranta’s confession under what a judge described as highly dubious circumstances.”

 Last Friday, just a day after he was released, Ranta suffered a serious heart attack.

With Ranta’s case in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the best reporting on wrongful convictions.

CASE FLAWS

Trial By Fire, The New Yorker, September 2009
In 2004, Texas executed Cameron Todd Willingham, an unemployed mechanic from Corsicana who had been convicted of killing his three children 12 years earlier by setting fire to his house. But as The New Yorker’s David Grann reports, the arson investigation findings that the prosecutors used to convict Willingham were based on “junk science,” according to a highly acclaimed fire investigator. The jailhouse informant who testified against him was unstable and had a history of addiction and mental illness. The year after Willingham’s execution, a fire scientist hired by a state commission concurred that the original investigators had no scientific basis for claiming the fire was arson.

Are Memphis Prosecutors Trying to Send an Innocent Man Back to Death Row?, The Nation, March 2013
Timothy Terrell McKinney is facing his third trial for the murder of an off-duty police officer in Memphis. His first case was overturned after the prosecution suppressed evidence that questioned McKinney’s guilt. Multiple testimonies now suggest it would be near impossible for McKinney to have committed the murder. But as one local put it, “when it’s a police officer killed here in Memphis, you know, they quick to nail somebody.”

Defendants Left Unaware of Flaws Found in Cases, The Washington Post, April 2012
In the 1990s, reviews by the Justice Department found shoddy testing in FBI labs was producing unreliable evidence. But that news failed to make its way to defendants who may have been wrongfully convicted based on flawed forensics. “Hundreds of defendants nationwide remain in prison or on parole for crimes that might merit exoneration [or] a retrial,” the Washington Post found.

The Hardest Cases: When Children Die, Justice Can Be Elusive, ProPublica, June 2011
Our 2011 investigation with Frontline and NPR found mistakes made by coroners and medical examiners led to the wrongful conviction of numerous babysitters, parents and others for murdering children. Ernie Lopez may be one such case: he was convicted for murdering a 6-month-old girl, despite evidence that later suggested she may have died from a rare blood disease. (Lopez later agreed to a plea deal for a reduced charge.)

Death Row Justice Derailed, The Chicago Tribune, November 1999
The first part of an epic investigation by Ken Armstrong and Steve Mills of how Illinois had sent innocent men to death row. “Capital punishment in Illinois,” Armstrong and Mills reported, “is a system so riddled with faulty evidence, unscrupulous trial tactics and legal incompetence that justice has been forsaken, a Tribune investigation has found.” The series helped convince Gov. George Ryan to put a moratorium on the death penalty in Illinois the next year, which remains in effect today.

House of Screams, The Chicago Reader, 1990
Over 20 years ago, journalist John Conroy broke a story that shook the foundation of Chicago’s criminal justice system. Conroy unearthed the routine torture tactics used by then-police commander Jon Burge — from suffocation to electric shocks — that resulted in numerous false confessions and wrongful convictions.

DNA EVIDENCE

 

The Innocent Man, Parts 1 and 2, Texas Monthly, November 2012
Michael Morton spent a quarter-century wrongfully behind bars for the brutal murder of his wife, Christine. In a two-part investigation, journalist Pamela Colloff reconstructs the exhausting years spent fighting for his innocence: from the fight for DNA testing to his battered relationship with his son.

Who Shot Valerie Finley?, Boston Review, March 2013
An examination of convictions overturned by DNA testing found three-quarters involved mistaken eyewitness identification. The Boston Review examines the case against Rodney Stanberry, accused of shooting 29-year-old Valerie Finley. Finley identified Stanberry as her shooter after awaking in the hospital from a coma. Stanberry was convicted, despite an alibi corroborated by at least six other testimonies. But without DNA evidence, his innocence has been nearly impossible to prove.

A Blind Faith in Eyewitnesses, The Dallas Morning News, October 2008
Wiley Fountain spent 15 years in prison after his rape conviction before DNA testing proved his innocence in 2002. The Dallas Morning News examined his case and those of 18 other exonerated men in Dallas County — which led the nation in DNA exonerations. Of the 19 cases, 18 of them were based on eyewitness testimony, which frequently convinces juries but is often fatally flawed.

DNA Evidence Exonerates Louisiana Death Row Inmate, The Washington Post, September 2012
Damon Thibodeaux, a deckhand on a Mississippi River workboat, spent more than 15 years in solitary confinement on death row in Louisiana, convicted of the rape and murder of his 14-year-old cousin. In September, Douglas A. Blackmon reports, he “became the 300th wrongly convicted person and 18th death-row inmate exonerated in the United States substantially on the basis of DNA evidence.”

AFTER INCARCERATION

Freed Prisoners Lose Their Innocence, The Wisconsin State Journal, December 2011
Prisoners who are exonerated typically don’t receive the same support — a parole officer, mental health treatment, help finding employment — after they’re released that other inmates do, which can make for a hard readjustment. Take Forest Shomberg, The Wisconsin State Journal reports spent six years in jail before a judge overturned his sexual assault conviction on the basis of DNA evidence. But two years later, he was back in prison with a yearlong sentence after a suicide attempt.

The Exonerated, Texas Monthly, November 2008
By 2008, Texas had exonerated 37 men — who had served a combined 525 years in prison — on the basis of DNA evidence. Texas Monthly’s Michael Hall tracked down 32 of them: One has tried to kill himself three time since being released. Half a dozen of them spent more than two decades in prison. One man, James Waller, works in counseling now. “Send me the worst people they got,” he told Hall, “and I can give them a story where they will want to live again.”

Larry Peterson: Beyond Exoneration, NPR, June 2007
NPR’s Robert Siegel spent two years following the case of Larry Peterson, who was convicted of raping and murdering 25-year-old Jacqueline Harrison in 1989. Peterson spent almost 18 years in jail before being freed on the basis of DNA evidence. But two years after his release, Peterson was unemployed and was only beginning the long battle for restitution for his time in prison. And Patricia Harrison, Jacqueline’s sister, still believes he did it. “If I had my way, he’d be dead,” she told Siegel.

ProPublica is a non-profit, investigative journalism website.

Justice Department: One in Four Women in Jail Have Serious Mental Health Issues

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

A Justice Department study has found that one in four women in jail have serious mental illnesses.

The Justice Department announced the findings Wednesday in what is certain to spark more debates about access to mental health care in prison.

The study also found that half of incarcerated women had received treatment for mental health or substance abuse disorders.

“The overrepresentation of women with mental illness in jails has tragic consequences for children and families. It is important that the field of criminal justice understands how mental illness, trauma, and other disorders are related to women becoming involved in the criminal justice system,” said BJA Director Denise E. O’Donnell. “The information from this study can help us develop strategies to address and respond to these issues.”

STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST


FBI Hunts Down Two Daring Inmates Who Escaped from High-Rise Jail in Chicago

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

The FBI is on the hunt for two inmates who made a daring escape from a high-rise jail in Chicago early Wednesday morning, the Chicago Tribune reports.

New videos show the two fugitive bank robbers hopping a cab a few blocks from the Metropolitan Correctional Facility, where authorities said they slid down a rope made off bedsheets, the tribune reported.

The Tribune wrote that the pair, Joseph “Jose” Banks and Kenneth Conley, fled to Conley’s mom’s house, but they were shooed away.

As the FBI tracked down more leads, it’s offering a $50,000 reward to capture the two fugitives.

 

STORIES OF OTHER INTEREST

Justice Department: Number of Adults in Jail, on Probation or Parole Reaches 12-Year Low

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com 

The number of people paying time for a crime last year dropped to its lowest level since 2000, according to a newly released Justice Department report, the Associated Press writes.

The report shows there are nearly 7 million people – or 2.9% of U.S. adults, are in jail, on probation or on parole. That’s a 1.4% drop over the year before and the third consecutive decline, the AP reported.

Three of 10 people under some kind of supervision were behind bars, while the rest were on probation or parole.

The numbers are a promising indicator that fewer crimes are being committed, criminologists said.

“There is a lag between crime drops and correctional drops because of the length of sentences being served,” James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology, law and public policy at Northeastern University told the AP. “It is likely that the correctional population will continue to decline as releases outpace admissions.”

 

Texas Man Posing as DEA Agent Fools No One

Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

No one knows what Ford Cummings was thinking when he walked into a Texas jail, posing as a DEA agent who needed the release of an inmate.

The 32-year-old with a gun tucked into his belt and no ID raised some eyebrows, the Houston Press reports.

Cummings was charged with third-degree count of carrying a prohibited weapon and a count of impersonating a public servant.

Suspended NBA Star Gilbert Arenas Dodges Bullet: Avoids Jail But Will Serve 30 Days in Halfway House on Gun Charge

nba-logo_1By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Suspended NBA Washington Wizards star Gilbert Arenas dodged the bullet Friday during sentencing. He won’t be going to jail, but he will have to spend 30 days in a halfway house and two years on probation, the Associated Press reported.

The D.C. U.S. Attorney’s Office had recommended a 3 month jail sentence, saying Arenas was not remorseful and was less than candid about bringing four guns to the locker room at the Verizon Center and getting into a confrontation with a teammate Javaris Crittenon.

After getting in a gambling dispute with Crittenton, he brought the guns to the Verizon Center and put them in front of Crittenton’s locker with a note that said to pick one.

D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert Morin also ordered Arenas to perform 400 hours of community service and contribute $5,000 to a victims of violence fund, CNN reported.

Bernie Kerik to Stay Behind Bars For Now

Bernie Kerik/facebook

Bernie Kerik/facebook

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

One-time national hero Bernie Kerik, the former N.Y. City Police commissioner, will remain behind bars in the Westchester County Jail for now.

A 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals Judge in New York denied his request “to stay the revocation of his bail on pending trial in corruption charges, but granted an expedited hearing on the merits of the former NY Police Commissioner’s appeal,” Courthouse News Service reported. The hearing is set for this Thursday.

U.S. District Judge Stephen C. Robinson of White Plains tossed Kerik in the can last week after revoking his $500,000 bond and calling him a “toxic combination of self-minded focus and arrogance.” He is now known as inmate 210717.

The judge declared that Kerik had violated a court order by sending confidential information to a fund raiser for his defense fund.

Kerik, who became a national hero after 9/11 as the N.Y. police chief, faces three trials on a host of charges including conspiracy, tax fraud and corruption.

His first trial was set to begin today, but has been postponed.