NCIP-Sponsored Bill to Help Prevent Wrongful Convictions Heads to Governor Brown
NCIP-sponsored Senate Bill 1058, which would help exonerate innocent Californians who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes, is headed to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk. Authored by Senator Mark Leno, the legislation would allow a judge to overturn a wrongful conviction if technological or forensic scientific advances have subsequently discredited false expert testimony that served as the primary basis for an incarcerated person’s conviction. Read more…
Save the Date: NCIP’s Oktoberfest on October 11th!
Come join the fun at NCIP’s Oktoberfest on Saturday, October 11th, 5:30–8:30 p.m., at Gordon Biersch Brewery in San Jose. Celebrate exonerating the innocent with NCIP exonerees, staff, and supporters from around the Bay while enjoying all-you-can-eat Oktoberfest fare and all-you-can-drink beer. Your ticket also includes a brewery tour. Awesome innocence gear will be available for sale!
NCIP Eyewitness Identification Symposium Sparks Reform
On May 21, nearly 200 people attended NCIP’s Eyewitness Identification Best Practices Symposium, sponsored by a Flom Incubator Grant from the Skadden Fellowship Foundation. Hosted by NCIP and the International Institute of Criminal Justice Leadership at the University of San Francisco, the symposium was attended primarily by prosecutors and law enforcement, with the remainder composed of criminal defense attorneys, civil rights attorneys and forensic scientists.
During the day-long symposium, experts in the field discussed best practices for eyewitness identification procedures and how their use has helped to secure more reliable identifications. As a result of the symposium, some jurisdictions report instituting changes to their field admonishment language and moving closer to making double-blind identifications the standard protocol. Read more…
LinkedIn Employees Volunteer to Help Free the Innocent
On July 22, NCIP and Santa Clara Law’s Center for Social Justice and Public Service hosted six employees from LinkedIn, who volunteered as part of LinkedIn for Good Foundation’s inDay.
Each year, NCIP receives about 900 requests for assistance from California prisoners. The LinkedIn volunteers worked alongside NCIP clinical faculty, attorneys, and law student interns to screen prisoner letters for potential innocence claims. They also learned about wrongful conviction from former Santa Clara County Prosecutor and current NCIP Volunteer Attorney Karyn Sinunu-Towery, whose reinvestigation of Rick Walker’s murder conviction led to his exoneration.
“We are thrilled to partner with LinkedIn to provide meaningful pro bono opportunities for LinkedIn employees,” said NCIP Executive Director David Onek. “The participants provided valuable services that will help NCIP free more innocent prisoners, and NCIP in turn provided participants with an enriching, educational and enjoyable day.” Read more…
Happy Freedom Anniversary, George Souliotes
On Independence Day eve 2014, we celebrated the one-year freedom anniversary of George Souliotes! He walked out of prison on July 3, 2013, after 16 years of wrongful incarceration. Congratulations George!
Exoneree Maurice Caldwell Speaks to NCIP Students and Volunteers
NCIP exoneree Maurice Caldwell recently shared his story with NCIP students, interns, and volunteers about his wrongful conviction and his life in and after prison. Caldwell expressed his immense gratitude for NCIP, his desire to advocate on behalf of the wrongfully convicted, and his current efforts to spread awareness about the injustices in the criminal justice system that ultimately lead to wrongful convictions.
Exonerations around the nation
Texas: Systematic DNA testing exonerates–without requesting testing
Michael Phillips was convicted of rape, did his time, and then resigned himself to a lifetime of sex offender registration. But on July 25, he became the 34th exoneration through systematic DNA testing by the Dallas County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit–and the first DNA exoneration case through systematic testing by a prosecutor’s office in which the convicted individual had not requested the testing.
Washington D.C.: New DNA evidence discredits flawed FBI evidence
In 1982, Kevin Martin was convicted after an FBI forensic unit linked him to a hair found at a murder crime scene. Martin spent 26 years behind bars until a Superior Court judge exonerated him on July 21, citing new DNA evidence that discredited the original forensic finding that connected Martin to the crime. Martin is the fifth case where federal prosecutors have acknowledged errors by an FBI forensic unit that led to a wrongful conviction.
Exoneree Compensation and Juvenile Interrogation Bills Signed into Law
California Governor Jerry Brown signed into law two NCIP supported bills this past month. SB 618, authored by CA State Senator Mark Leno, eliminates obstacles exonerees face when trying to receive compensation. The bill sets time limits for the DA to respond to claims for compensation and eliminates the additional hearing exonerees had to face in order to reprove their innocence. SB 569 requires police to videotape interrogations of juvenile murder suspects in an effort to prevent false confessions. NCIP’s Paige Kaneb testified before the California Senate Public Safety Committee in support of this legislation.
NCIP exonerees Franky Carrillo and Maurice Caldwell traveled to Sacramento to urge state representatives to pass these vital bills, and advocated for Californians to sign a petition asking Governor Brown to sign them. This is a big win for California exonerees, NCIP, and all who worked on this legislation.
NCIP In the News
NCIP exonerees and attorneys continue to make news. The LA Times featured George Souliotes in October, reporting on his case and what life has been like since his release in July. SF Weekly profiled Maurice Caldwell in October, covering his wrongful conviction and his life after exoneration. In addition, KPIX CBS broadcast a report on false confessions last Friday, featuring NCIP attorney Maitreya Badami and an NCIP teen false confession case.
NCIP Reception Featuring Bestselling Author Jennifer Thompson December 12th
You are invited to a reception featuring Jennifer Thompson, New York Times bestselling author of “Picking Cotton,” an incredibly powerful true story of a shocking crime and devastating miscarriage of justice. Jennifer will join us at a reception in Los Gatos on Thursday, December 12th at 6 p.m. hosted by Orla Maclean and co-hosted by Maureen Tabari. We hope you can join us! More information and tickets here.
Date Set for Seventh Annual Justice for All Awards Dinner
Mark your calendar for NCIP’s Seventh Annual Justice for All Awards Dinner to be held on March 27th, 2014. This inspirational evening provides the resources for NCIP to free innocent prisoners and reform the criminal justice system. We have an incredible group of honorees including long-time advocate Denise Foderaro Quattrone, Morrison and Foerster’s Jim Brosnahan, Los Gatos Police Chief Scott Seaman, and NCIP exoneree George Souliotes. For more information or table and ticket purchases, visit www.justiceforalldinner.com or contact Audrey Redmond at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NCIP Family Welcomes Two New Additions
It’s Boys! NCIP is thrilled to welcome two new baby boys to the family. Maurice Caldwell and his partner Pam recently celebrated the birth of their son Maurice Dawaun Caldwell, who was born September 6th. Little Maurice weighed in at 7 pounds 6 ounces. Mother, son and family are all doing well. Franky Carrillo and his partner Efty just welcomed Akiva Francisco Carrillo Sharony, who arrived on November 3rd. Mother, son and dad are all well. Congratulations Pam and Maurice and Efty and Franky!
David Onek Party Welcomes Enthusiastic Crowd
A crowd of more than 100 gathered recently at Executive Director David Onek’s house to support NCIP, with State Senator Mark Leno and NCIP Exoneree Franky Carrillo as featured speakers. Senator Leno spoke about his legislative efforts with SB 618, and Carrillo shared with NCIP supporters his inspiring story. Thanks to all who attended and those who donated their services.
George Souliotes’ Conviction Overturned; Now Facing Retrial
In January 1997, a rental property owned by Souliotes burned down and three people died. Souliotes was charged then convicted of arson and triple murder in the tragedy and, now 72 years old, has served 16 years of three life without possibility of parole sentences. On April 12, 2013, a California federal district court judge found Souliotes had received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial, reversed his conviction and ordered him freed unless the state began to retry him within 90 days. That ruling came a year after NCIP and pro bono attorneys from the law firm of Orrick, Herrington and Sutcliffe LLP persuaded the judge of Souliotes’ actual innocence, successfully demonstrating that his conviction was based on faulty fire science and that no reasonable juror today would convict him. Although the attorney general conceded the purported scientific evidence used to convict Souliotes is false, the district attorney has opted to re-try him. Souliotes waits in jail for yet another trial, set to begin in July.
2013 Pro Bono Award Recipient Nominated to Serve on the U.S. District Court
Last Thursday the White House announced that President Obama nominated Shearman & Sterling LLP Partner Jim Donato (center), NCIP’s 2013 Pro Bono Award recipient and former advisory board member, to serve on the United States District Court. Congratulations Jim!
NCIP Attorney Testifies at State Capitol
NCIP Attorney Paige Kaneb recently testified before the California Senate Public Safety Committee in support of two bills. Senate Bill 618, sponsored by Senator Mark Leno, would streamline and expedite the process of securing compensation for exonerees. Senate Bill 569 would mandate the recording of all juvenile interrogations. Both bills were passed by the Senate on to the Assembly.
NBC Bay Area News Highlights NCIP Law Students’ Work
NBC Bay Area News recently ran a story about the successful work of NCIP’s law students, who have helped win the freedom of 16 people since 2001.
“It’s pretty amazing. I get to set innocent people free from prison. Let me tell you, that’s pretty powerful,” Earl Horner, a law student in NCIP’s clinical program told reporters.
NBC Bay Area News interviewed NCIP’s most recent exonerees, Ronald Ross and Johnny Williams. They expressed their gratitude toward NCIP and other pro bono law firms that assisted in their release from prison. Watch the news segment here.
NCIP Spring Newsletter Online
NCIP’s Spring 2013 newsletter is out! Learn more about Ronald Ross’ and Johnny Williams’ cases, fire science, and more. If you haven’t seen it, read it here.
Oklahoma becomes 50th State to Pass Post-Conviction DNA Testing Law
On May 24th, Oklahoma became the 50th state to pass a post-conviction DNA testing law! 306 people who were wrongfully convicted of crimes, including NCIP and California DNA Project client Johnny Williams, have been exonerated by DNA evidence in the United States since 1989.
Innocent Man Released From Prison After Spending 42 Years For Arson Conviction
Faulty fire science has contributed to another wrongful conviction. Louis Taylor, who spent 42 years in prison wrongfully convicted of setting a hotel fire in 1970 that killed 29 people in Tucson, Arizona, was released recently, thanks to assistance from the Arizona Justice Project. New methods of the investigation showed that there was no evidence of arson as the cause of the 1970 hotel fire. Through the help of lawyers who worked with the Arizona Justice Project, Taylor was released after pleading no contest to 28 counts of murder. Taylor emotionally stated after his release, “It’s a little kind of overwhelming. But I’m free, that’s the important thing.”
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!
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
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.
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.
“The difference made in Obie Anthony’s life is immeasurable and to be able to be a part of that is a feeling that is truly indescribable. It is a perfect example of how hard work, dedication and compassion can overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles and leave that kind of impact on the world that I had always dreamed of making.”
– Nick Sympson, NCIP student
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