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 ...
by Christopher Zoukis
A Florida woman who claimed that an on-duty police officer forced her to give him oral sex was awarded $20,000 after suing him in Broward County Circuit Court.
On September 3, 2007, the 32-year-old woman had been arguing with her boyfriend near a gas station ...
by Christopher Zoukis
After the U.S. District Court granted summary judgment in favor of Atlanta Police officer M.H. Payne, claims of excessive force, false arrest, and malicious prosecution against the officer were settled for $20,000.
On June 18, 2005, Lamont Johnson, 40, was leaning on a safety barricade when ...
by Steve Horn
A new film, “Survivors Guide to Prison,” has hit the small screens on-demand on Amazon, iTunes, Fandango, Hulu and other online streaming venues. It provides not only a step-by-step guide to how to survive if you’re walled up in a U.S. jail or prison system, but also walks viewers through the brutal and seldom-told realities of life inside these penal institutions. It does so by presenting the audience with startling statistics and jaw-dropping horror stories of people serving time in the “big house,” making a de facto case that the title of the film could just as easily have been “How Hard it is to Survive in Prison.”
The movie hits hard and fast, and at times can be difficult to watch.
But the story also is told through the lens of survivors and offers a ray of hope for those locked away in prisons, jails and other detention facilities, whose voices often are not heard. Prison Legal News conducted a phone interview with the film’s lead producer, Steve DeVore, to talk about the issues covered in the movie, the art of making a film on this topic and the production team’s plan for getting ...
Ohio: Almost $3 Million Settlement in Suit Brought by Two Wrongfully Convicted Men
by Matt Clarke
In March 2017, a state court judge approved a $2.9 million settlement between Ohio and two men who each spent almost 17 years in prison after having been wrongfully convicted of rape and murder. ...
by Lance Tapley, Pine Tree Watch
In April, 2017, while incarcerated at the Maine State Prison’s Intensive Mental Health Unit in Warren, James Staples removed his own eyeball.
The 66-year-old prisoner, who has a lengthy history of both mental illness and assault and had previously been incarcerated at several of the state’s mental health institutions, tried unsuccessfully to remove his other eye with his fingernails. Nonetheless, he managed to render himself blind.
For Maine’s mentally ill, things were not supposed to be like this.
In 1989, after ten patients died from deficiencies in the care provided to them at the Augusta Mental Health Institute (AMHI), patient advocates sued the state and the following year achieved a sweeping legal settlement known as the “consent decree.” This 99-page document ordered what is now named the Department of Health and Human Services to create a decent, robust system to care for Maine’s seriously mentally ill citizens — and to do it within five years. The Department agreed.
But decades later, law enforcement officials, mental health experts and patient advocates agree that the state is still far from meeting the consent decree’s mandates. Despite the decree’s strict requirements, the shortcomings of the state’s mental ...
by Monte McCoin
In November 2017, Hamilton County, Tennessee Judge Tom Greenholtz sent several drug court participants to jail for a night after their drug tests came back positive – for nicotine.
“We routinely test for nicotine as we do for other controlled substances,” Greenholtz told Chattanooga TV station News Channel 9. “It shows how serious we are about combatting this.”
Ignoring the fact that nicotine is not a controlled substance and smoking cigarettes is not a crime, the judge said he punished defendants for smoking because he thought it would give them a “better chance at life.”
Indeed, a Columbia University study, published in 2017, found that 11 percent of people who kept smoking while in recovery programs relapsed, compared with around 8 percent who stopped smoking during treatment.
PLN has previously reported on growing scrutiny regarding drug court programs. For 20 years, they have sought to reduce illegal drug use by mandating substance abuse treatment within an overburdened criminal justice system that is generally more punitive than treatment-oriented. However, rather than diverting defendants to drug courts who otherwise would have gone to prison, participants tend to be those who would have received non-prison sentences anyway. Also, drug courts ...
On June 12, 2017, the Ohio Controlling Board voted to settle a wrongful incarceration suit brought by a man whom prosecutors had called a “major supplier” of cocaine, after a judge ignored the reversal of his conviction by an appellate court and kept him in prison.
Frank C. Davis was ...