by Matt Clarke
On June 3, 2019, the Supreme Court of Utah held that a district court erred when it applied an incorrect standard in dismissing a man’s lawsuit alleging his state constitutional rights were violated when he was held in a county jail for 17 days without being brought before a judge.
Robert Kuchcinski was driving a tractor-trailer when a Utah highway patrolman pulled him over, cited him for failure to stay in his lane and asked him to take a breath test.
When the Breathalyzer showed no alcohol, the trooper muttered something like, “Well, that can’t be right,” then had Kuchcinski perform a complete field sobriety test. He passed all parts of the test except for the balance portion. Despite his explanation that he was being treated for an inner ear infection that affected his balance, the trooper arrested him for DUI and had him booked into the Box Elder County jail.
The next day, without Kuchcinski being present, the Box Elder County Justice Court entered a finding of probable cause based solely on the trooper’s statement – authorizing the warrantless arrest and continued detention – and set bond at $1,350. Kuchcinski was allegedly not informed of the ...
by Dale Chappell
A man sat in jail for nearly three months while the police tried twice at different labs to prove that jars of honey he had in his possession contained liquid methamphetamine. And even when they discovered it was in fact honey, they wouldn’t let him go.
Leon Haughton, 46, a legal green-card holder from Jamaica who has lived in Maryland for nearly a decade, was arrested at the Baltimore/Washington International Airport on December 29, 2018 after his annual visit back home. U.S. Customs and Border Protection detained him after a drug-dog sniff alerted to possible drugs in his bag. Agents found bottles labeled “honey,” a field test falsely indicated it was meth and he was arrested.
Nineteen days later, the Maryland State Police lab confirmed what the label on the bottles stated: It was honey. Yet prosecutors didn’t drop the three felony drug charges for another sixdays.
Haughton then faced just a remaining misdemeanor charge, which wouldn’t have kept him in jail. He could have been released on his own recognizance.
Yet he remained in custody because the felony charges triggered an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainer, which meant he would be deported if he had ...
by Matt Clarke
In April 2019, social justice advocacy nonprofit Texas Appleseed released an analysis of jail bookings in a dozen of the most populous counties throughout Texas. The study examined the most serious charge that people faced when booked into jail, to determine the percentage of misdemeanor bookings. In all but one county, there were overwhelmingly more misdemeanor bookings than felony bookings. Further, thousands of people were jailed on fine-only charges eligible for citations – that is, ticketing offenses.
Texas has three classes of misdemeanors. Class A carries up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. Class B charges have a maximum of 180 days in jail and a fine of $2,000. Class C is fine-only, with a maximum of $500. All Class C misdemeanors, some Class B – such as possession of marijuana and petty theft – and a few Class A are subject to citations. That means booking into a jail is not required, but at the arresting officer’s discretion.
“Jail stays, even short ones, can cause sustained damage to people’s lives,” according to the analysis. “When people are booked into jail they may lose their employment, damaging their families’ economic stability. They may also ...
by Ed Lyon
While Terrell Hales was imprisoned at the Cayuga Correctional Facility (CCF) of New York’s Department of Corrections and Community Supervision (DCCS), he was charged with drug misuse.
On April 15, 2013, he filed a Freedom of Information Law request to DCCS’s commissioner for a copy of the operations manual to the drug testing machine. The request was denied on April 29, 2013, but Hales was given the manufacturer’s address so he could write and request a copy.
The manufacturer would not comply with a copy request.
Hales’ wife found the manual on the internet. She downloaded a copy and mailed it to Hales. The mailroom allowed him to receive the copy.
A later search of Hales’ property by guards found the manual, and Hales was charged with possession of contraband, convicted and sentenced to 90 days in a Special Housing Unit (SHU).
An administrative appeal overturned this finding and sentence on November 28, 2014, but Hales was not returned to CCF until December 12, 2014.
A New York Court of Claims entertained Hales’ challenge to the disciplinary process and 14 days spent in the SHU after the administrative reversal.
The court held the disciplinary procedures were “quasi-judicial ...
A Philadelphia jury awarded Khanefah Boozer $10 million in a state court lawsuit that alleged police officer Ryan Waltman had falsely accused Boozer of firing shots at him.
Boozer was the designated driver during a January 22, 2011 night out with friends. After an evening at a bar, Boozer’s friends ...
by Matt Clarke
An Austin, Texas couple wrongly convicted of sexually abusing a child at the day-care center they ran in the 1990s has been declared innocent and received over $3.4 million in compensation from the state.
Starting in the 1980s, the United States experienced an episode of mass hysteria now known as “Satanic Panic,” during which it was widely believed that Satanists had infiltrated the child-care industry and were sexually abusing children, brainwashing them and using them in satanic rituals. The first large-scale prosecution of alleged day care Satanists was the McMartin Preschool case in California. One of the last was that of Austin, Texas couple Dan and Frances “Fran” Keller, who both spent 21 years in prison.
The Kellers were convicted of sexually assaulting a three-year-old girl in 1992 and sentenced to 48 years. In 2015, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned their convictions because the physician who gave the only scientific evidence against them at trial realized he was mistaken.
During a 2013 hearing, emergency room doctor Michael Mouw testified he was wrong when he testified at the Kellers’ trial that tears he found in the girl’s hymen indicated sexual abuse. Years later, he attended a ...
A North Carolina man who served 37 years for a double homicide he did not commit has received a $4 million settlement from the Bladen County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) in a federal lawsuit.
Joseph Sledge, Jr. became a suspect in the September 5, 1976 murder of Josephine Davis, 74, and ...
by Matt Clarke
In October 2017, a $9 million settlement was reached in a lawsuit brought by an Illinois man who spent 15 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. The suit alleged law enforcement officials fabricated a false murder scenario, coerced false confessions and witness statements, and ...
by Derek Gilna
On October 5, 1994, Sabein Burgess’ life changed forever when his girlfriend, Michelle Dyson, was brutally murdered at her home in Baltimore, Maryland. Burgess discovered his girlfriend’s body, called for help and then returned to cradle Dyson’s head in his hands until police officers arrived. As horrible ...
by Matt Clarke
On July 31, 2017, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a judgment for a U.S. citizen who was improperly held in an immigration detention facility for 1,273 days.
Davino Watson was born in Jamaica. When he was 13, he entered the U.S as a lawful permanent resident to live with his father, a Jamaican citizen who was a lawful permanent resident. His father became a naturalized U.S. citizen four years later. Under the law in effect at that time, this automatically made Watson a naturalized U.S. citizen.
Five years later, Watson pleaded guilty in New York state court to selling cocaine, and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents investigated his citizenship status. He claimed to be a U.S. citizen and provided the names, addresses and phone numbers for his father, Hopeton Ulando Watson, and step-mother, Clare Watson. ICE officials made no attempt to verify this information. Instead, they looked for those names in the ICE database and found files for Hopeton Livingston Watson and Calrie Watson, both of whom were Jamaican citizens. Although a cursory reading of the files would have shown they were not Watson’s parents, an ICE agent used the files to justify deportation ...