August 2012 E-News
NCIP Client George Souliotes One Step Closer to Justice
On July 7, Chief U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii adopted the findings of a federal magistrate who found NCIP client, George Souliotes, to have made a sufficient showing of actual innocence to have the merits of his underlying claims heard regardless of whether the federal petition had been filed five days late. NCIP and the law firm Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe have represented Souliotes for over 10 years. Read more...
NCIP Honored by The Vanguard Court Watch of Yolo County
NCIP Legal Director Linda Starr accepted an award on behalf of the Northern California Innocence Project at the 2nd Annual Vanguard Court Watch Awards Dinner on July 26. The award was given to NCIP for its significant contributions to ensure the integrity of the justice system. Read more...
NCIP's Innocence Matters Breakfast Briefings Start Again this Fall
Join NCIP for its September 12, 2012 Breakfast Briefing, Absolute Immunity vs. Qualified Immunity: Why the Bad Prosecutors Never Pay. Margaret Johns, UC Davis Law Senior Lecturer, will discuss the history of absolute immunity and explain why qualified immunity could be the better solution for addressing prosecutors who commit misconduct. Read more...
New Jersey Supreme Court Announces Groundbreaking Rules for Eyewitness Identifications
The New Jersey Supreme Court recently issued the most detailed jury instructions on eyewitness identification in the nation. The new guidelines were designed to address growing skepticism in the reliability of eyewitness identification. Read more...
- Kirk Odom, 50, became the second man in two months to be exonerated in the District of Columbia. Read more...
- LaMonte Armstrong, 62, was released in June after a North Carolina judge threw out his murder conviction due to prosecutorial misconduct. Read more...
- David Lee Gavitt, 54, walked free in June after 26 years in a Michigan prison having been wrongly convicted of the arson murder of his wife and two daughters. Read more...
Hurry! It’s your last chance to have your support tripled!
By making a financial contribution to NCIP’s Speakers Bureau, you can make an immediate difference in the lives of innocent men and women. Help us engage, transition and connect them with employment opportunities that serve our communities and make a difference.
This is your last chance to have your donation TRIPLED. Get the most out of your contribution!
Matching Grant Deadline: July 31, 2012 Donate Now!
May 2012 E-News
Sign the Petition: Urge California's AG to Endorse an Eyewitness Model Policy
Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful conviction, approximately 75% of wrongful convictions proven by DNA testing. Simple enhancements to traditional line-up procedures, however, promise to ensure the detection of dangerous criminals and prevent wrongful conviction of the innocent. These enhancements have been adopted across the nation.
Sign our online petition urging California Attorney General Kamala Harris to endorse a statewide model policy encouraging California law enforcement agencies to adopt the eyewitness identification procedures recommended by the California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice that are scientifically-supported, evidence-based “best practices.”
NCIP's Eyewitness Identification Reform Breakfast Briefing Takes an Insightful Look at Implementing Best Practices
More than 60 people came out to hear Santa Clara County Special Assistant District Attorney David Angel, Captain John Murphy of the San Francisco Police Department Major Crime Unit, Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen and Scott Seaman, Chief of the Los Gatos/Monte Sereno Police Department discuss the state of eyewitness identification procedures in California. NCIP research found that less than 10% of California law enforcement are using best practices for eyewitness identification procedures. However, as NCIP Supervising Attorney Maitreya Badami stated, there is reason for hope. Some jurisdictions such as those in Santa Clara and San Francisco counties are already using many best practices. The panelists, whose jurisdictions are on the leading edge of implementing eyewitness identification reforms, discussed how well it has served criminal justice in their areas.
NCIP Exoneree Maurice Caldwell Featured on CBS
CBS aired a piece about NCIP exoneree Maurice Caldwell and the need for law enforcement to use best practices in their eyewitness identification procedures. Reforms could help reduce the number of wrongful convictions like Maurice's.
Watch the video here.
Robert Dewey, 51, was freed May 1st after a joint motion to reverse his conviction was granted by a Mesa County, Colorado judge. A re-examination of DNA evidence in the rape and murder case exonerated Dewey and pointed to another man in prison for a similar crime. Dewey spent nearly 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. Dewey’s attorney, Danyel Joffe, gave credit to the Mesa County prosecutor, the attorney general’s office and law enforcement for agreeing to re-investigate the case. “It takes real character to stand up and say we made a mistake 17 years ago,” she said in court. For more information: http://bit.ly/Jbttln
James Curtis Williams and Raymond Jackson were released in April in Dallas after being misidentified and wrongfully convicted in a 30-year-old rape and shooting. They were exonerated through DNA testing. Two other men have been identified from the DNA and charged with attempted murder. For more on this story go to: http://bit.ly/JsaPRD
Souliotes One Step Closer to Freedom: May 2012
NCIP client, George Souliotes, 71, is one step closer to freedom, having won a major victory last week in federal court.
On Thursday, April 26, federal magistrate Michael Seng in a 99 page decision, found that Mr. Souliotes made a sufficient showing of actual innocence and recommended that the district court now consider his underlying constitutional claims raised in his federal petition for a writ of habeas corpus. Those claims had previously been dismissed by the district court as having been untimely filed.
"This court lacks confidence" in the guilty verdict, Seng wrote.
It is now for the federal district court judge to decide whether to accept the findings and recommendations. If he does, the matter should proceed to a hearing on Mr. Souliotes's claims of ineffective assistance of counsel, juror misconduct and actual innocence.
We look forward to reporting more positive news soon. See the story in the LA Times here and read more about his case below.
From NCIP Newsletter Fall 2011
Ninth Circuit Orders Hearing on NCIP Client’s Innocence Case
NCIP client George Souliotes will finally get his day in court. Souliotes was sentenced to life in prison for a triple homicide after a 1997 house fire killed his tenant and her two children in Modesto, California.
However, at the request of NCIP, a fire science expert re-examined the evidence using techniques not available in 1997. He established that new scientific techniques discredited evidence placing Souliotes at the scene of the crime by proving that the substance on Souliotes’s shoes was not the same as the accelerant allegedly used to set the fire, as had been argued by prosecutors.
In addition, Mr. Souliotes’s attorneys failed to expose that factors which the prosecutors relied upon to prove arson were invalid.
For years, NCIP attorneys along with attorneys from the law firm of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe have argued that Souliotes is innocent. For years, that argument has been barred from being heard in court because of a five-day delay in filing paperwork. In August 2011, the Ninth Circuit issued a new order directing a federal district judge to hold an expedited evidentiary hearing regarding Souliotes’s claim of actual innocence. And according to a court order of the federal district court, NCIP attorneys will finally be able to present persuasive evidence of Souliotes’s innocence and how inaccurate fire science contributed to the incorrect determination that Souliotes deliberately set the fire. Once Mr. Souliotes can sufficiently establish his claim of innocence, the court will consider his underlying claim of ineffective assistance of counsel as well.
NCIP 2011 Year in Review Email
This holiday season, as I reflect on our accomplishments over the past year - NCIP's 10th anniversary year - I am overwhelmed by all we have accomplished. NCIP operates on a modest budget that is made up primarily of donations from caring individuals. It is my sincere hope that you will continue that support to help us build on the extraordinary progress we have made thus far.
NCIP's three-pronged mission is to exonerate, educate, and reform. Here are some highlights from 2011 around these core initiatives:
With the hard work and dedication of our legal team, this year NCIP celebrated three exonerations-of men who together lost 57 years of their lives to wrongful conviction. This is an extraordinary achievement and your financial support was instrumental in these successes.
- On March 14, the Los Angeles County Superior Court reversed Francisco “Franky” Carrillo Jr.’s 1992 conviction for the murder of Donald Sarpy, and ordered his release from incarceration. The conviction was overturned when the six eyewitnesses admitted they did not really see anything and were influenced to make their identifications of Carrillo. Two other men have confessed to the shooting and said Carrillo was not involved.
- On March 28, a San Francisco Superior Court judge overturned the conviction and ordered the release of Maurice Caldwell from prison, where he had spent the last 20 years after being convicted of a murder he did not commit. NCIP re-investigated the case and was located two witnesses who saw the murder and stated that Caldwell was not involved and located the real killer, who confessed to the murder and had gone on to commit another murder.
- On September 30, Obie Anthony was freed from a Los Angeles prison for a murder and attempted robbery for which he was not responsible. When NCIP conducted an extensive re-investigation of the case, previously undisclosed evidence was uncovered that proved that the prosecution’s key eyewitness lied during the original trial. The witness also admitted he never saw the perpetrators well enough to identify them.
NCIP's clinical program has grown exponentially in the past 10 years, graduating 600 students from its Basic and Advanced clinical programs. These exceptional programs teach students key lawyering skills, in addition to the critical skill of ethical lawyering, for both prosecution and defense.
While at Santa Clara Law, students test these skills in moot court competitions. Recently, NCIP students won awards in several of these competitions, proving that their hard work in NCIP’s clinical setting is elevating their overall lawyering skills. NCIP students who attended exoneration hearings this year expressed how being a part of the exoneration deeply impacted them.
NCIP also extended its education to the community at large with its Innocence Matters Breakfast Briefing speaker series. This speaker series educates the community about wrongful conviction and its causes and has become a mainstay of our educational mission.
NCIP's Veritas Initiative (www.veritasinitiative.org) is dedicated to advancing the integrity of our justice system through data-driven reform. As the leading research and policy organization on prosecutorial misconduct, we are participating in a national tour to raise awareness and promote solutions.
The Veritas Initiative has published two studies on prosecutorial misconduct since its inception and continues to research other important areas such as eyewitness identification, post-conviction DNA access/testing, and compensation for the exonerated (see www.veritasinitiative.org).
The Veritas Initiative studies have gained positive national attention. In addition to numerous news articles, the initial study, “Preventable Error: Prosecutorial Misconduct in California 1997-2009” was cited in a Yale Law Journal article.
The widespread attention the studies received has given NCIP a leading role in national reform efforts and in a national tour to raise awareness about prosecutorial misconduct. The tour, “Prosecutorial Oversight: A National Dialogue in the Wake of Connick v. Thompson,” is a collaboration with the Innocence Project, Innocence Project New Orleans and Voices of Innocence and will invite discourse about strategies to address the problem.
We Need Your Help
2011 truly has been one of the most successful years in our history, and your year-end gift is more vital than ever to build on the momentum of these successes . Here are some ways you can help:
- Justice for All Dinner Table or Ticket Sponsorship: Join us for our annual Fifth Annual Justice for All Awards Dinner. Visit www.justiceforalldinner.com for more information.
- Donate Today: Your gift would provide much-needed funding for NCIP’s most important programs. Go to www.ncip.scu.edu or return your gift in the enclosed envelope today.
- Five-year Pledge: Consider expanding your support over a five year period. On our donation page, choose “recurring gift”, then “annually”.
Your gift right now will help us free more wrongfully convicted and help prevent others from suffering the same fate. We cannot succeed without you.
With high hopes,
Cookie Ridolfi on behalf of The Northern California Innocence Project
Northern California Innocence Project
Santa Clara University School of Law
900 Lafayette Street
Santa Clara, CA 95050
Phone: (408) 554-4790| Fax: (408) 554-5440