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The 2017 Injustice Anywhere Newsletter is now online

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, courts in the United States overturned 165 wrongful convictions in 2016, which broke 2015’s record of 149 corrected wrongful convictions. It is promising to see that the numbers continue to be on the rise. If you look at data over the past 25 years, we are now seeing substantial progress.

Over the past quarter-century, America has incarcerated more people than any civilized nation on earth. A disturbing number of those incarcerations have been wrongful convictions. Hundreds of exonerations can be credited to advanced DNA technology. But research on topics like, bite mark evidence, fire investigation technology, and shaken baby syndrome, have all played a significant role as well. The ability to distribute information via the internet has also proven to be an invaluable resource when fighting wrongful convictions.

Exoneration statistics show that we are on the right track, but we have a long way to go. We need to correct the mistakes we have made, all while working to reforming the system which allowed those mistakes to occur in the first place. Sadly, the wrongful conviction problem is far more pervasive than most people realize, and even with increased interest, most cases continue to lack the attention they warrant. Many innocent people remain in prison. They need others to be their voice. They need you. Please join us in the fight to free the innocent.

Click on the image below to download the newsletter.

 

Supporters Asking For Funds To Support Melissa Calusinski’s Family As She Continues To Fight For Her Freedom

Paul and Cheryl Calusinski

A gofundme account has been set up to help Paul and Cheryl Calusinski, the parents of Melissa Calusinski. Paul and Cheryl have suffered financial hardship as they have fought to free their daughter from prison.

Melissa Calusinski was convicted of murder in 2011 and was sentenced to 31 years in prison in Illinois. Calusinski was accused of throwing a child to the floor, causing fatal injuries, while working as a teacher’s aide at a day care center.

Calusinski has long maintained her innocence, and evidence now shows that she was wrongfully convicted based on false medical testimony and a coerced confession. In 2013, Eupil Choi, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on the child, stated in a sworn affidavit that he had missed an old injury. Choi’s statement was a major breakthrough in the case, because it supported Calusinski’s defense team’s longstanding argument that the child’s death was the result of a pre-existing injury. But the real bombshell came last year, which blew the case wide open. Lake County’s coroner, Dr. Thomas Rudd, reclassified the child’s death from a homicide to undetermined, after a new set of X-rays was discovered by his office. These X-rays show no sign of fresh injuries on the child at the time of death.

Melissa Calusinski

Calusinski is currently being represented by Kathleen Zellner, a high profile defense attorney who is credited with overturning eighteen wrongful convictions to date. Calusinski’s supporters are hopeful that Zellner will soon be adding one more case to her long list of successful exonerations.

Zellner’s involvement has been a blessing for the Calusinski family. Unfortunately, even with the best representation, the wheels of justice turn very slowly. The vast majority of wrongful convictions which are overturned go through multiple appeals over the course of many years before being corrected.

Paul and Cheryl Calusinski will continue to fight for their daughter for as long as it takes. And they have a strong group of supporters who are determined to make sure that they never have to fight the battle alone.

Please visit the Official Justice for Melissa Calusinski Family Page on Facebook to learn more about the Melissa Calusinski case.

If you would like to make a donation to help the Calusinski family, you can do so here: https://www.gofundme.com/paulandcherylcalusinski

Jason Flom Interviews Amanda Knox

Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom is a podcast about tragedy, triumph, unequal justice and actual innocence.  Based on the files of the lawyers who freed them, Wrongful Conviction features interviews with men and women who have spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit – some of them had even been sentenced to death.  These are their stories.

GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/darryl-pinkins-roosevelt-glenn-convicted-in-1989-rape-guilty-until-proven-innocent/

HAMMOND, Ind. — For nearly two decades, Sally Glenn went to prison every other weekend to visit her son, Roosevelt.

“It would hurt me. And when we’d leave there I would cry,” she told “48 Hours” correspondent Maureen Maher.

Roosevelt Glenn’s daughter, Darniese, who was just 7 when her father went to prison, was often by her grandmother’s side on those visits.

“I was nervous for him due to the fact I knew he was a very innocent man behind bars with very bad criminals,” she said.”I had suicide all over me … for a while,” Roosevelt Glenn said in tears.

“And what stopped you?” Maher asked.

“I believe it was the power of God,” Glenn said. “I was a good man before I went to prison, but I wasn’t a man of faith.  Prison changed my way of thinking and it made me a man of faith.”

Darryl Pinkins was also in prison.

“How do you survive in that environment?” Maher asked Pinkins.

“You have to become … colder, as far as emotions,” he said, “because I don’t trust people like I used to.”

“I don’t know if they realize you’ve pretty much taken the most valuable thing people have… time,” Pinkins’ son, Dameon, said. “I feel like I’ve lost the most important time of my life, where — a son bonds with his father and becomes a man.” Read more >>

Incredibly, prosecutors are still defending bite mark evidence

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2017/01/30/incredibly-prosecutors-are-still-defending-bite-mark-evidence/?utm_term=.bb52cd7018fa

As of today, bite mark evidence has led to more than two dozen wrongful arrests or convictions. Two men sentenced to death on bite mark evidence were later exonerated by DNA testing. Multiple proficiency tests have shown that bite mark analysts can’t even agree on whether marks on human skin were made by human teeth or teeth at all, much less agreement on which set of teeth made them. There are two underlying assumptions that need to be true in order for bite mark evidence to be valid — that the marks we make when we bite are unique to us and that human skin is capable of recording those marks in a way that allows analysts to distinguish them. So far, there is no scientific research to support either assumption, and the research that has been done suggests both claims are false. Bite mark evidence has been strongly criticized by several scientific bodies, including the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and, most recently, by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The Texas Forensic Science Commission, a body convened specifically to review the validity of questionable fields of forensics, recommended a moratorium on the use of bite mark analysis in court. Read more >>

Endorsed Case: Hank Skinner (Requires Additional Testing)

Hank Skinner

Updates

July 9, 2012: Witness Implicates Alternative Suspect in Texas Death Penalty Case

June 13, 2012: Evidence Missing in Skinner Case

June 2, 2012: Update: State Backs DNA Testing for Hank Skinner

Case Overview

By Bruce Fischer

Hank Skinner was convicted on March 18, 1995, for the murder of his girlfriend and her two sons in Pampa, Texas on New Year’s Eve, 1993. Skinner was given the death sentence for his alleged crimes.

Skinner has maintained his innocence from day one. At the time of the murders, Skinner was living with the victims, Twila Busby and her two sons, Randy Busby, and Elwin “Scooter” Caler. He admitted being in the house at the time of the murders but claims he was passed out on a couch in a comatose condition from a near-lethal dose of alcohol and codeine.

According to Skinner, he was awoken by Elwin Caler after Caler had already suffered mortal wounds. Caler then left the house and died on a neighbor’s porch, apparently trying to get help. Skinner left the house as well, going four blocks away to the home of Andrea Joyce Reed, an ex-girlfriend of Skinner’s. Skinner was arrested hours later in Reed’s home wearing blood-spattered clothing that tested positive for two of the victims.

This was an easy case for the authorities. The blood-spattered clothes put Skinner at the scene and Reed testified that Skinner threatened her and told her not to call the police. Why would anyone believe Skinner’s steadfast pleas of innocence?

Let’s take a closer look at the case as it has unfolded over the past 17 years. Then you can decide if Hank Skinner should be put to death.

Was Hank Skinner in any condition to commit the horrendous crime? The defense’s toxicology expert at trial indicated that Skinner was nearly comatose at the time of the murders from a near-lethal mixture of codeine and vodka. Skinner had a blood alcohol level of .2 (more than twice the legal limit), and .44 grams of codeine per 100 ml. of blood.

Dr. Harold Kalant, professor emeritus of Toxicology and Pharmacology at the University of Toronto, reviewed the case in 2010 and had this to say: “I wouldn’t be surprised if the heavy drinker would be able to move about somewhat, but he would be very confused and badly impaired and would have difficulty standing or walking in a coordinated manner”

Hank Skinner is 5’9″ tall and weighed 140 pounds at the time of the murders. Skinners right hand is severely handicapped due to an accident causing nerve damage. When looking at Skinner’s physical stature along with his impaired condition, one has to ask if it was even remotely possible that he committed the crime. Keep in mind that Elwin Caler was 6’6″ tall and weighed 265 pounds.

Skinner was convicted based on the clothing he was wearing along with the testimony of Andrea Joyce Reed. If we look at the case today, we see that Reed has recanted her testimony and that numerous pieces of evidence were never properly analyzed.

Reed recanted her testimony in a 1997 affidavit. Reed states in the affidavit that her testimony was false. She admits that Skinner was unable to stand when he arrived at her home and that she had to practically carry him wherever he went.

Why did Reed Lie? Reed claimed that she feared that she was being looked at as a suspect. She said that comments were made to her at the police station that she could be arrested and charged with being an accessory to capital murder after the fact, and for harboring a fugitive. Here are a couple of excerpts from her affidavit:

“Officers were constantly questioning me as I was giving my statement, which resulted in ameliorations of the facts of what actually occurred that night. Things were suggested to me and I complied, out of fear of arrest and the police taking my children away, which was mentioned several times.”

“At trial, I stated that, in my opinion, he was capable of committing the crime with which he was charged. The truth is that, in my opinion, and as a matter of fact, he was incapable of committing any physical act against any person. He could not even use the bathroom facilities on his own. I had to hold him up and help him.”

The Affidavit can be read in full here:

 http://injustice-anywhere.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Reed.pdf

The evidence that has been left untested or completely ignored is shocking. It was never revealed at trial that two of the murder weapons could not be traced to Skinner. Bloody fingerprints found on a pickax handle and knife did not belong to Skinner, yet they were not discussed at trial. A second knife was also recovered from the scene, along with a bloody towel and jacket. None of these items have been tested.

Blood and skin were found under the fingernails of Busby indicating that she put up a fight. Tests were never conducted on Busby’s fingernail clippings. The hair found in Busby’s hands along with vaginal swabs taken at the time of her autopsy has also never been tested.

Why did Skinner’s attorney allow this evidence to be ignored at trial? Harold Lee Comer was Skinner’s appointed counsel. Comer was a former district attorney that had lost his job after pleading guilty to embezzling seized drug money. On top of losing his job, Comer was hit with a $90,000 bill from the IRS for unpaid income taxes. Times were tough for Comer. Thankfully he had a good friend in Judge M. Kent Sims, the judge presiding over Skinner’s murder trial. Judge Sims appointed Comer to represent Skinner, awarding him with an $86,000 payday. This was the largest paycheck given to a court-appointed attorney in Texas history.

It gets better. Comer had twice tried to convict Skinner for non-violent felonies while he was district attorney. This caused an obvious conflict of interest. Judge Sims knew of the conflict and by law should have given Skinner an opportunity to request new counsel but Sims never did so.

Whether the details of Comer’s arrival had anything to do with his poor performance in court is anyone’s guess. He failed miserably when it came to presenting the evidence. He didn’t even request for additional DNA testing and left out crucial details when suggesting another possible suspect, Twila Busby’s uncle, Robert Donnell (Donnell died in an automobile accident in 1997). According to eyewitness reports, Busby had been harassed at a New Year’s eve party by Donnell shortly before she was murdered. Critical information regarding Donnell was never heard at trial. One witness’s affidavit wasn’t collected until 2 1/2 years after the trial concluded. You can read more about Robert Donnell at TheSkepticalJuror.com.

Hank Skinner is now represented by Rob Owen, co-director of the University of Texas at Austin School of Law’s Capital Punishment Clinic. All DNA that Skinner’s defense team seeks to have analyzed, was available for testing at Skinner’s first trial. Skinner’s attorney, Harold Comer, chose not to have it analyzed believing it could further incriminate his client. Skinner contends that he never agreed with the decision made by Comer.

All requests for additional DNA testing have been denied on the grounds that Skinner’s trial attorney, Harold Comer, did not seek the analysis during the first trial. Should Hank Skinner be put to death because he was given inadequate counsel?

Skinner’s life is now in the hands of the Supreme Court. Do defendants have the right to request DNA testing? When the sentence is death, should we not take extra precautions?

Do I believe that Hank Skinner is innocent? Much like the Troy Davis case, I cannot say that I know the answer. What I do know is that there are too many unanswered questions in both cases to put either of the two to death. Unfortunately, it is too late for Troy Davis. We cannot allow this to happen again. Test the DNA! Answer the Questions!

Like Hank Skinner Says: “all the District Attorney’s gotta do is turn over the evidence, test it and let the chips fall where they may. If I’m innocent, I go home, if I’m guilty I die…”

Resources

The Skeptical Juror: Hank Skinner 10 Part Series

 

Judge rules against police immunity in Ryan Ferguson’s civil rights case

Ryan Ferguson

http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/local/judge-rules-against-police-immunity-in-ryan-ferguson-s-civil/article_72de379e-fc23-5d88-ada7-3639253e49f6.html

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that six Columbia police officers who worked on the case against Ryan Ferguson are not entitled to immunity from the remaining counts of Ferguson’s civil rights lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey issued the order about three months after the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had sent the case back, instructing her to clarify whether the officers should be entitled to qualified immunity. The order clears up the issue and allows the case to go to trial on several claims of constitutional violations, pending any further appeals at the Eighth Circuit level.

Qualified immunity protects government officials from legal liability unless their conduct clearly violates a person’s rights and an official acting reasonably would have known the conduct was unlawful. The doctrine is meant to shield officials from frivolous lawsuits.

Kathleen Zellner, Ferguson’s lawyer, did not respond to a message seeking comment. Brad Letterman, attorney for the officers, declined to comment. Read more >>

The unimaginable, infamous case of Pam Hupp

ILLUSTRATION BY RAÚL ALLÉN

https://www.stlmag.com/longform/pam-hupp/#.WIKFTGk3wdo.facebook

The 911 operator heard a woman refusing to get into a vehicle and begging for help. Gunshots—loud and staccato—cut through the confusion of noises. A smoke alarm shrilled.

When police arrived, a 33-year-old man lay dead inside an O’Fallon, Missouri, house. The caller said the man had climbed into her SUV, held a knife against her throat, and demanded that she take him to a bank to get “Russ’s money.” Terrified for her life, she said, she’d knocked the knife away, run inside through the garage door, dashed into the master bedroom, and grabbed a .38 Ruger revolver from her nightstand. He came after her like “a madman.”

The 911 caller—a 58-year-old woman named Pamela Hupp—was questioned and released.

Seven days later, she was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Before being booked, she asked to use the restroom and stabbed herself in the neck and wrists with a ballpoint pen.

St. Louisans squinted at their TV screens, trying to fathom this blond woman, her square jaw set hard, her face impassive. This was the same woman who’d testified three years earlier in a murder trial after her friend was stabbed 55 times. The friend’s husband was convicted and later acquitted. In the meantime, Hupp’s mother had died in a suspicious fall from a third-floor balcony.

The only possible motive connecting all three cases was money. Hupp, who’d held several jobs in the insurance industry, was the beneficiary of both her friend’s and mother’s policies. But would somebody really stab a sick friend and shove her own mother off a balcony to get cash she’d receive in a few years anyway, then shoot a perfect stranger just to twist the plot?

“Even Hollywood,” one St. Louisan tweeted, “doesn’t write scripts this convoluted.”


Pamela Neumann Hupp grew up in an orderly Catholic household in Dellwood, the third of four kids, their mother a schoolteacher, their father a union man who worked for decades at Union Electric. Pam rode bikes with her friends, went Christmas caroling, occasionally skipped Sunday school. At Riverview Gardens High School, she was a blond pompommer with a laugh that burst forth like a geyser, no stopping it.

Pam was always ready for fun, friends recall—no moodiness or drama, no talking behind people’s backs. Her grades could’ve been higher, one friend guesses, “but she was boy-crazy.” By senior year, she’d made a real catch: a boy who was soft-spoken and well-liked, a member of the soccer team, golf team, and National Honor Society. They went to their senior prom together. Three months later they “had to get married.”

Pam’s devout mother couldn’t have been pleased about the pregnancy. Pam did the responsible thing, but her friends sensed a wistful resentment: Everybody else was caught up in the whirl of college, while here she was, sitting in a cheap apartment spooning strained beets.

The marriage lasted six years. Soon after her divorce, Pam married Mark Hupp, a quiet, easygoing guy who played minor-league baseball for the Texas Rangers and, when he didn’t get drafted, fell back on carpentry. They gave Pam’s daughter a little brother, and in 1989 moved to Naples, Florida. When they returned in 2001, they settled in O’Fallon, Missouri, and started flipping houses on the side.

Pam also took a clerical job in a State Farm office, and Betsy Faria was the first person she met there. Eleven years younger than Pam, Betsy was warm-hearted and bubbly and scatterbrained, always short of cash but shored up emotionally by dozens of friends who adored her. Even at 32, she looked like a greeting card illustration—round face, curly hair, pink cheeks, bright-blue eyes—and in her part-time gig as a DJ, she could coax anybody onto the dance floor. Read more >>

‘Justice Nightmare’: 32 Years in Texas Prisons After Conviction Voided

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/19/us/jerry-hartfield-texas-prison.html?_r=0

The legal record shows that Jerry Hartfield’s first murder conviction was thrown out on appeal, and for the next 32 years, he was not officially guilty of anything, not sentenced to anything. Yet he spent that time in Texas prisons, in what an appellate court now calls “a criminal justice nightmare.”

He was finally tried and convicted again in 2015, but on Thursday, Mr. Hartfield moved closer to freedom than he has been in decades. A state Court of Appeals ruled that he was not only denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial, but to a degree the court had neither seen nor imagined before; it noted that the important precedents dealt with delays of three years, six years, eight years — not 32.

The three-judge panel dismissed the indictment against Mr. Hartfield, who is developmentally disabled, in effect erasing the recent conviction. But it is still not clear whether, or when, he will get out of prison. Read more >>

After Seventeen Years David Thorne Continues To Wait For Justice

David Thorne

David Thorne was convicted on January 25, 2000, and sentenced to life without parole in Ohio, for allegedly hiring an acquaintance to kill his son’s mother Yvonne Layne in 1999. The problem is that evidence clearly shows that David Thorne is an innocent man.

The appeals system in the United States operates at an incredibly slow pace, making it difficult to correct a wrongful conviction no matter how strong the case for innocence may be. And, as seen in Thorne’s case, the system often fails to recognize wrongful convictions even when presented with overwhelming evidence of innocence. As a result, an estimated 100,000 innocent people remain in our prisons today, all but forgotten by society.

Thorne has proclaimed his innocence from the beginning, and evidence has come forward since his trial showing that egregious misconduct took place during the investigation and prosecution of his case. Investigators displayed a bad case of tunnel vision by failing to pursue other possible suspects. They also obtained a coerced false confession from a young man with a cognitive deficiency, who not only implicated himself but also implicated Thorne. The prosecution furthered the misconduct by withholding exculpatory witness evidence from the defense which could have greatly benefited their case. Sadly, two innocent people are now in prison, while the perpetrator remains free.

Thorne, who has an iron-clad alibi, was implicated by a mentally and emotionally impaired man named Joseph Wilkes. After being interrogated and threatened with the death penalty, Wilkes told his interrogators that he was hired by Thorne to commit the murder. The problem was that Wilkes was unable to provide accurate details of the crime scene. Forensic Scientist Brent Turvey analyzed the case for Thorne’s defense during his appeals. According to Turvey, Wilkes got every detail of the crime wrong, except the type of weapon used. Shockingly, the jury bought the flawed confession, despite its glaring inconsistencies, putting Wilkes and Thorne in prison for the rest of their lives. Wilkes has since recanted his confession and implication of Thorne, stating that he recited everything the police told him because he was fearful of being put to death. Continue reading>>

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