Criminal Justice

Innocence Roundup

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A roundup of innocence stories from the last few weeks:

  • Last month, I wrote a column about Michigan law student Nick Cheolas and convicted Michigan murderer Dwayne Provience. Cheolas was inspired by his own family's run-in with the criminal justice system to work on the University of Michigan law school's Innocence Clinic, where he worked on the team that helped winProvience a new trial. This week, prosecutors announced that they plan to proceed with trying Provience again. This, despite the fact that their main evidence against Provience is an eyewitness who has recanted his testimony, and that the same prosecutor's office actually argued in another trial that a different man committed the murder for which Provience was convicted. His trial is in April. There's better (but not exactly great) news in Cheolas' family's case. A judge has ruled against the town of Harper Woods' attempt to stick the Cheolas family with the town's legal expenses for their federal civil rights suit. The Cheolas family lost in district court, but plan to appeal.
  • A D.C. man has been exonerated by DNA testing after serving more than 25 years for the rape and murder of a Georgetown law student in 1981. Donald Gates was convicted on testimony from a now-discredited hair fiber analyst and a paid federal informant.
  • DNA testing has also cleared a Georgia man doing time for car theft. He was also convicted on testimony from an eyewitness.
  • Cedric Willis, the first man in Mississippi to be exonerated of murder due to DNA testing, will get $500,000 from the state to compensate for the 12 years he spent in Parchman Penitentiary. The Jackson Free Press is calling for Willis' prosecutors—who intentionally withheld evidence of Willis' innocence—to be prosecuted.
  • Attorneys for a Florida man who has served 35 years for the rape and murder of a young boy say DNA testing shows their client is innocent.

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  1. Well, the Mississippi compensation shows that it’s not all doom and gloom when Radley posts about the state. Just mostly.

  2. Hey, any word on that supreme court decision in Citizens United?

  3. for the rape and murder of a young boy

    Not to nitpick, but the article says that the victim is still alive.

    1. Yeah, but he was raped ergo he’s dead inside.

  4. The Jackson Free Press is calling for Willis’ prosecutors?who intentionally withheld evidence of Willis’ innocence?to be prosecuted.

    Good. Finally.

    1. I think the Jackson Free Press is the local black newspaper – the one that was “the most firebombed newspaper in America” in the 1960s.

      IOW, not the “MSM” of Jackson.

      1. BakedPenguin, we’re definitely not the MSM, but we’re not the Jackson Advocate, which you’re talking about. We’re a very diverse alt-weekly (and now daily online) that launched in 2002. Trivia, though: we are named after the Mississippi Free Press, which was a multiracial Civil Rights Movement paper of the 1960s (that the Advocate hated because it was diverse!) 😉

        We’ve followed the Cedric case, and raised issues with those prosecutors (Peters and DeLaughter) for a while now. DeLaughter was played by Alec Baldwin in “Ghosts of Mississippi” and portrayed as a hero, but all the while other things seemed to be happening, or not happening. The MSM here simply did not pay close enough attention to the Peters-DeLaughter team over the years.

        We run Radley’s column here, and are thrilled at the work he does and do everything possible to get it out in the state. We are a small paper that does a lot of investigative work, but Radley does amazing work that we just can’t get to. We consider him an honorary Mississippian and cheer him on from here.

        And thanks for the mention, Radley.

        Cheers,

        Donna

  5. This, despite the fact that their main evidence against Provience is an eyewitness who has recanted his testimony

    Because prosecutors know what I always say in these threads: Except in rare circumstances that are almost always pled around, any jury will convict anyone of anything. Amusingly (to them, I’m sure), this is one of those rare circumstances:

    the same prosecutor’s office actually argued in another trial that a different man committed the murder

    In the absence of perfect evidence, juries can be led to settle on an alternate scapegoat. But this one’s credential as prosecution-endorsed sounds kinda inadmissable, don’t you think? The prosecutors do. And they know their judges. If not, a little “we were wrong” never-resting-justice-seeker speech will erase it all.

    Add the deep-down evil fuck-ness of anyone who’d work as a prosecutor, and there you go. No “despite.” “Despite” is fun.

    1. I have a college friend who is a prosecutor in Alabama. I wonder if he would ever push to have someone disbarred for what amounts to obstruction of justice and false testimony. I’ll ask him next time we talk.

  6. Interesting paper by Peter Leeson on Ordeals.

  7. Hooray for mainly good news.

  8. The Tampa story is pretty fucking horrible. Two lives ruined, and the perpetrator of it all goes free. Fuck.

  9. See, the system works!!!! Hurray for Amerika!!!

  10. John Thacker, I admit that the half million dollars is way better than nothing, but he’ll never get those 12 years back and $41,667 per year seems rather shoddy.

    1. Oh, I agree. But better than nothing is better than the suppression that we normally see in Radley’s morning cheer.

  11. Did I say ‘Corpse Hatch?’ I meant ‘Innocence Tube’

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