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This holiday season, don't forget to struggle for the most abused, act for social, prison, and human justice :)
Abolition Times - December 23, 2009 :)
DECEMBER 23, 2009
The Board of Directors and Staff of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty wishes you and yours a joyous Holiday Season and a safe, healthy and happy New Year!
Office Closed Next Week
The NCADP office will close at mid-day on Thursday, December 24, and re-open on Monday, January 4 at 9 a.m. EST. If you need anything related to the conference, please email Aimee Gabel, conference coordinator, at email@example.com. You can also contact Sachin Chheda, Deputy Director, anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or via phone at 414-412-6099.
New Witness in Troy Davis Case Names Another Person as Policeman's Killer
The extraordinary U.S. Supreme Court-ordered evidentiary hearing for Troy Anthony Davis in Georgia has not been scheduled yet. But developments continue to give supporters of Davis hope that his strong claims of actual innocence will be heard and get Davis off death row. Recently, yet another witness has come forward and said that another man confessed to her that he, not Davis, committed the murder of a Savannah police officer. See an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis.
Troy Davis' sister, Martina Correia, will have more information about the case and will discuss her experiences fighting to obtain clemency for her brother at the 2010 NCADP Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, January 14-17. Register today!
Speaking of the Conference, It's Not Too Late
The NCADP Annual Conference is coming up fast. Please join us in Louisville, Kentucky, from January 14-17, 2010, for the largest and best annual gathering of abolitionists! Hotel rooms are still available at the discounted rate of $114 a night, but you must make your reservation before Friday. After Friday, rooms may still be available but we cannot guarantee the discounted rate.
The Faith-Based Community and Abolition
This year marks the 20th anniversary of NCADP's "Lighting the Torch of Conscience" campaign, which mobilized organizations and individuals of many faith traditions to work to end the death penalty. A holiday-themed op-ed posted in the Washington Post's "On Faith" blog and co-authored by United Church of Christ's General Minister and President Geoffrey Black; Reverend Linda Jaramillo, United Church of Christ's Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries; and Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, recounts the campaign, and suggests that faith-based communities still have a key role to play in the abolition movement.
DPIC Year End Report Says 2009 Death Sentences at Record Low
The Death Penalty Information Center's (DPIC) 2009 Year End Report says that the imposition of death sentences this year was at an all-time low, that costs involved in implementing capital punishment prompted eleven states to consider ending it, and that several were only one legislative house or a few votes short of repeal. AP Story. Texas Story. Full Report (pdf).
Texan of the Year
The Dallas Morning News has nominated former Texas Forensic Science Commission Chair Sam Bassett as its "Texan of the Year" for the calm and poise he displayed after his sudden removal from the Commission. Governor Rick Perry fired Bassett, and three others, just days prior to the panel's review of a report by fire scientist Craig Beyler, confirming that the fire which destroyed Cameron Todd Willingham's house in 1991 and killed his children could not be proved to have been caused by arson - a finding which indicates that Willingham was wrongly convicted and executed. Although he is no longer a Commissioner, Bassett has refused to remain silent about Governor Perry's apparent efforts to suppress the Beyler report.
Kansas Legislature to Consider Death Penalty Repeal
Kansas is confronting the fact that in difficult budget times, an expensive, failing death penalty system is hard to justify keeping. We are working closely with our state affiliate, the Kansas Coalition Against the Death Penalty (KsCADP), to educate the public about the failings of the death penalty, as Kansas' state legislature prepares for hearings in January to discuss repeal.
New Hampshire House Leaders Block Bill to Expand Death Penalty
In the Granite State, our affiliate, the New Hampshire Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, in cooperation with Equal Justice USA, is working hard to end capital punishment. Local activists had a great victory as the New Hampshire House Rules Committee voted against an effort to expand the death penalty to include the crime of home invasions. A commission is studying the death penalty there, and recently heard testimony about cost.
Hoosiers Take Note
The death penalty does nothing to deter crime in Indiana, it costs too much, and it frequently results in convictions and executions of innocent people. For details, read the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette op-ed, "Hoosiers should examine what executions accomplish," by Will McAuliffe, Executive Director of the Indiana Coalition Acting to Suspend Executions, an NCADP affiliate.
State Legislators' Organization Endorses the Crime Victims Fund Preservation Act
The National Conference of State Legislators, a bipartisan organization which advocates for the interests of state governments before Congress and federal agencies, has endorsed the passage of the federal Crime Victims Fund Preservation Act. The measure would increase the minimum "caps" on Fund obligations through 2014. It would also significantly increase the amount of funds available for states' Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) victim assistance grants and discretionary grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Justice Office for Victims of Crime without jeopardizing the long-term sustainability of the Fund. The National Conference of State Legislators' policy resolution regarding the Act can be found here.
Make Your End of Year Gift, Honor a Friend or Family Member, and Get a Tax Benefit!
As we get through the holiday season, a great gift for your friends, family and colleagues is a contribution in their honor to NCADP. In the new year, we will post all gifts made now in honor of others on our website, on a special "Honor Wall." As a 501c(3) organization, your contribution is tax-deductible, so go online and make your gift today!
Upcoming Conferences and Conventions of Interest
NCADP Annual Conference, "Training for the Long Run - Building Bridges to Wider Audiences," January 14-17, 2010, Seelbach Hotel, Louisville, Kentucky. Register online at www.ncadp.org, make sure to book your hotel room by December 25 to get the special conference rate!
Coloradans Against the Death Penalty, Benefit Concert and Silent Auction, featuring Phoenix Rising, a 12-piece R&B Band. At the Mercury Café, 2199 California Street, Denver, Colorado. January 16, 2010, doors open at 7 p.m., $25 at the door, $20 in advance. See www.coadp.org for more info.
2010 Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Annual Conference
Seizing the Momentum: Building Capacity, Community, and Coalition
February 20, 2010, 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Highland Park United Methodist Church, 3300 Mockingbird Lane, Dallas, Texas
Co-Sponsored by the Southern Methodist University Human Rights Education Program
Conference information: http://tcadp.org/index.php?page=top-2010-2
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IN THIS ISSUE
Abolition Times is an information service for supporters of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.
photo in banner provided courtesy of Scott Langley, www.langleycreations.com.
Exoneration Uncovers Forensic Problems :)
Act, Can Do :)
News from the innocence movement around the United States
Free After 35 Years
James Bain was exonerated last week in Florida after spending 35 years in prison for a 1974 sexual assault he didn't commit. DNA testing obtained by the Innocence Project of Florida proved Bain's innocence and led to his release. He was 19 years old when arrested and is 55 today.
2007 Conviction Overturned
Michael Marshall walked out of a Georgia prison last week after serving nearly two years in prison for an auto theft DNA proves he didn't commit. He was convicted in 2007, and although DNA testing was available at the time of his conviction, it was not conducted. He was represented on appeal by the Georgia Innocence Project, which he contacted in 2008.
Improving Exoneree Compensation
Just weeks after the Innocence Project released a report finding that most states were failing to compensate the exonerated and provide post-release services, New Jersey lawmakers are considering a proposal to increase the state's compensation to meet the federal standard of $50,000 for each year of wrongful incarceration.
An editorial in the Newark Star Ledger this weekend called the state's current law - which pays exonerees $20,000 per year they served - "inadequate."
Mom Is Cleared in Son's Death
A Canadian woman was cleared this month, ten years after false forensic testimony led to her wrongful conviction of causing her son's death. She is the second person cleared after being convicted based on faulty forensic analysis by Dr. Charles Smith and 30 other cases involving his work are under review.
Return to the Ring
Dewey Bozella was a promising young boxer in 1983 when he was convicted of an upstate New York murder he didn't commit. After 26 years in prison, he was set free last month with the help of pro bono attorneys at WilmerHale. The firm took the case when the Innocence Project had to close it because the evidence had been destroyed, making DNA testing impossible. This month, Bozella was enjoying his newfound freedom as he sat ringside at a boxing match in Chicago.
Use our easy online form to forward this message to friends, family and colleagues.
Connect with other Innocence Project supporters on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube.
We welcome your feedback. Please contact us at the address below. Cases for review must be submitted via postal mail.
The Innocence Project
Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva Unversity
100 Fifth Ave., 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10011
A Banner Year: 27 Exonerations in 12 States
Wrongful convictions are more common than many people know, and the injustices overturned in 2009 point to the pressing need for reform in the American criminal justice system.
A new report reviews the cases of 27 people exonerated this year through the work of Innocence Network member organizations and details a group of exonerees from diverse backgrounds, convicted of crimes from murder to auto theft. They were convicted in 12 states and served a combined total of 421 years.
The 27 exonerees have one thing in common: they were sent to prison by a flawed criminal justice system for a crime they didn't commit. Thanks to the work of organizations around the country - the Innocence Network now has 54 member organizations, 45 of which are in the U.S. - each one of these people will celebrate the New Year in freedom.
"Every one of these cases had ripple effects well beyond the innocent person who was in prison. Entire families are forever changed when a loved one is wrongfully convicted, and victims of crime are poorly served when true perpetrators evade justice," said Keith Findley, President of the Innocence Network, Co-Director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project and Clinical Professor at University of Wisconsin Law School.
Download the full report.
Learn more about the Innocence Network.
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D.C. Exoneration Uncovers Serious Forensic Problems
Donald Eugene Gates served 27 years in federal prisons for a 1981 murder in Washington, D.C., before DNA tests proved his innocence and led to his release last week. He could be officially cleared at a hearing this morning.
Gates was convicted based in part on improper testimony from an FBI forensic analyst whose work has since been widely discredited. Analyst Michael Malone testified at Gates' trial that hairs from the crime scene were "microscopically indistinguishable" from Gates' hairs. This statement vastly overstated the conclusions that can be drawn from hair comparison.
Although a 1997 report from the U.S. Department of Justice found significant errors in Malone's work, no thorough review of convictions relying on his analysis has been conducted. In overturning Gates' conviction last week, a D.C. judge ordered the U.S. Attorney's Office to open a sweeping investigation of Malone's work.
Inconsistencies are widespread in forensic labs across the country, however, and the problem isn't limited to a few "bad apples." A report released last week by the New York Inspector General found that a major state crime lab had covered up errors and misconduct for more than a decade.
The Innocence Project is moving forward to create a federal government entity in 2010 to make forensic science more accurate and reliable. The new federal office would direct and fund research in forensic sciences, set standards and enforce those standards. Take action today. Urge Congress to enact forensic reform that can strengthen our criminal justice system.
(Photo: Fox 5 D.C.)
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Massachusetts Group Calls for DNA Access
Massachusetts is one of just three states without a law providing access to DNA testing for prisoners with valid claims of innocence. That could change in 2010.
A new report released last week by the Boston Bar Association calls for important criminal justice reforms in the state, and calls on lawmakers to join 47 other states by passing a law granting post-conviction DNA access.
Access to DNA testing after conviction is critical not only to overturn wrongful convictions, but also to identify the true perpetrators of crimes. When an innocent person sits behind bars, the guilty party evades justice. The report clearly calls for the state to provide access to DNA testing, and to ensure that biological evidence is preserved for possible testing after conviction.
When the Innocence Project was founded in 1992, not a single state had a DNA access law. Today, 47 states have such laws -- though they vary in scope and some need immediate revision or expansion. The other two states lacking any post-conviction DNA access law are Alaska and Oklahoma.
Get the details of your state's law on our interactive map and learn why post-conviction DNA access is critical for our criminal justice system.
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Why I Give: Krista Parkinson
Senior Vice President, Content Partners LLC
Los Angeles, CA
Two years ago, a former client invited me to an evening of conversation with The Innocence Project. It wasn't your typical Hollywood charity event. There were no flashing lights, no glitz, no glamour, no evening gowns, no open bar, no crowded rope lines of people clamoring to get in, no paparazzi and no reporters. Yet what happened in that room was worthy of all of that attention.
We were invited to someone's home. The living room was filled with jeans-wearing attorneys, Hollywood executives, moms and others who were merely asked to listen to a story of a man who was helped by the Innocence Project. That's all. We were just to listen. We sat captivated by the story of Herman Atkins, a son of a California Highway Patrol officer who served 12 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit and without the Innocence Project and DNA testing, he would still be in a cell today.
What struck me most was that Herman was not angry. He wasn't bitter. Yet he was fueled by a determination to tell everyone his story and spread the message that being falsely accused and imprisoned can happen to anyone. This is a terrifying thought. Regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic background, we're all susceptible to this kind of injustice until our criminal justice system institutes safeguards recommended by the Innocence Project. Herman was the child of a California Highway Patrol officer. If it can happen to him, it can happen to me.
Personal stories like Herman's bring home the harsh reality of wrongful convictions. Until hearing Herman speak, I never gave much thought to the operations of our criminal justice system. Now I know I was ignoring an important issue in our society. I know plenty of people who don't give a single thought to criminal justice and wrongful convictions. They think this issue doesn't affect them. They're wrong. Even if you aren't accused of a crime you didn't commit, your safety is compromised when an innocent person is convicted and the guilty party goes free.
As soon as I began to understand the importance of this cause, I became an Innocence Project donor. I know that even small donations add up to advance this critical work. Together, the broad community of Innocence Project supporters can really make a dent in this issue.
Please join me today by making an online donation to the Innocence Project. Your support doesn't only free the innocent, it protects us all.
Join the Resolution :)
Take Action Now :)
Make criminal justice reform a reality. That's our resolution for 2010.
What a difference a year makes. Times are changing, and with help from our friends like you, The Sentencing Project spent 2009 helping to make that happen.
Today, criminal justice reform is far more possible than it was just one year ago. As I write this, four bills that would enact reforms supported by The Sentencing Project are scheduled for mark-up in Congress, and states around the country are considering sentencing and parole reforms.
Won't you make another gift of $20.01 today to help us to make the most of this momentum? Make a secure gift online today, and help The Sentencing Project continue to fight for more rational, effective and compassionate policies.
Stay with us as we work to bring these goals closer to reality in 2010:
Elimination of the disparity in sentences for crack vs. powder cocaine offensesEnding juvenile life without parole sentences Reducing racial disparities at all stages of criminal justice systemsSufficient funding for federal programming to provide people returning to the community a meaningful chance for successCreation of a national commission to examine the criminal justice systemRestoration of voting rights for people with felony convictionsAlternatives to incarceration for defendants who can be supervised in the community
Since 1986, we have been striving for criminal justice policies that actually ill make our communities safer. We support evidence-based policies that hold individuals accountable for their actions, without further weakening already vulnerable communities and often fragile families.
Please make another tax-deductible year-end gift of $20.01 today, and join us in our effort for more fair, effective criminal justice policies.
Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year in 2010,
Send an email to The Sentencing Project. » CONTACT
The Sentencing Project
514 Tenth Street, NW, Suite 1000, Washington, DC 20004, 202.628.0871
The Sentencing Project is a national organization working for a fair and effective criminal justice system by promoting reforms in sentencing law and practice, and alternatives to incarceration.
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