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Articles about Wrongful Convictions

Florida Juveniles Get Lost among Transfer Shuffle, Extending Stays in Wasting Money

Florida Juveniles Get Lost among Transfer Shuffle, Extending Stays in
Wasting Money

By David M. Reutter


Florida's Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) regularly transfers its
wards among several programs, resulting in extended terms of incarceration,
which has unnecessarily cost taxpayers $20 million.

The transfers caused under-age offenders to restart a treatment program.
Critics decry a greater harm. The theft of adolescents that results in
juveniles remaining in a sometimes - violent environment long after they
should have been sent home.

The violence is not always at the hands of fellow residents. Often it is
at the hands of DJJ authorize theft. Since 1996, DJJ has been the most
egregious abuser of children in Florida was 661 confirmed cases of child
abuse and neglect.

Uncertain Custody Limits

Florida's criminal justice system treats children much different than its
adults. That system sentences adults to a specified sentence to be served
in jail or prison with a small portion clipped off for good behavior, in
most cases.

Juveniles, however, have no set sentence. Under the juvenile system, a
judge determines whether a child should be committed into DJJ's custody.
The commitment is not considered punishment, but is supposed to be for
treatment of ...

Japanese Man Awarded $500,000 For Being Held In Bahamas Prison For 8 Years Without A Court Hearing

Japanese Man Awarded $500,000 For Being Held In Bahamas Prison For 8 Years
Without A Court Hearing

In August 1992, Atain Takitota traveled from his home in Osaka, Japan to
Paradise Island, Bahamas. After losing about $7,500 in a casino, he
discovered that his luggage, including his passport and the remainder of
his money, had been stolen. Bahamas police arrested him later that night.
He was subsequently held in a Bahamas prison for 8 years and 2 months, in
part because he had amnesia and couldn't tell Bahamas authorities who he
was. The only justification offered by those authorities for holding
Takitota was that he was "an undesirable and his presence was not
conducive to the public good."

In November of 2002, the Bahamas Court of Appeal awarded Takitota $500,000
for his ordeal, saying that his being held for over 8 years was "particularly troubling."

See: Japanese Amnesiac awarded $500K for 8 years in Bahamas prison, http://www.
mercurynews.com/mld/mercurynews/news/world/14077945.htm.

Mediation Costs Not Taxable in §1983 Suit

Mediation Costs Not Taxable in §1983 Suit

The U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals held that state officials named as defendants in a prisoner's civil rights suit could not be taxed costs for mediation. The decision reverses the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Cynthia E. Brisco-Wade, ...

Overt Act Unnecessary to Allege Conspiracy Claim in 7th Circuit

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit held that it is not necessary to allege an overt act to state a conspiracy claim. The court also held that dismissal of a prisoner's retaliation claim for failure to exhaust administrative remedies was proper.


Wisconsin state prisoner Tony Walker brought suit against prison officials and a former Governor, alleging that defendants: conspired to confine him and other prisoners beyond their mandatory release dates; and retaliated against him for using the law library and for filing grievances complaining about prison conditions.


The district court dismissed the suit for failure to state a claim, concluding that Walker's conspiracy claim must be dismissed because the complaint failed to allege an overt act, and complaints concerning the duration of a prisoner's confinement must be brought in a habeas corpus action. The dismissal of Walker's retaliation claim was based upon his failure to exhaust administrative remedies within the deadline provided by state law.


The Seventh Circuit reversed the dismissal of Walker's conspiracy claim, noting that the Supreme Court held in Swierkiewicz v. Sorema, N.A, 534 U.S. 506, 122 S.Ct. 992 (2002) that "there is no requirement in federal suits of pleading the facts or ...

Compensating the Wrongly Convicted, or Not

by Matthew T. Clarke

Hundreds of thousands of men and women are hidden from society—social failures convicted of felonies—behind concrete walls and razor wire in isolated parts of our country. Nestled among them are society's silenced victims—the wrongfully convicted.

Society is loath to admit its mistakes. Citizens would rather believe the police are trustworthy than accept they plant evidence. The community would rather believe that a criminal was captured and brought to justice than a crime remains unsolved. Prosecutors who have publicly accused a person of a crime are reluctant to admit a mistake. Indictments and press releases are the life-blood of public officials.

This bias is further magnified when a series of similar crimes occurs, causing community pressure on police, judges, and prosecutors to find and convict someone—anyone. Harried prosecutors manipulate police, forensic experts, and other witnesses to conform their testimony to the desired outcome. All this leads to conviction of the innocent along with the guilty. Once convicted, this injustice is seldom undone.

It is uncomfortable to believe that innocent people are in prison or worse—executed. Therefore, prosecutors, police, witnesses, judges, juries, victims and the media join in a great festival of public denial insisting-that wrongful convictions are ...

Gov. Ryan's Song

by Mumia Abu Jamal


Illinois Gov. George Ryan, in the last passing days of his first and only term, saved the best for last.


He sent shock waves across the nation when he issued four pardons to men sitting on the Condemned Units of the state's prison system, opening the doors of the dungeon for four men, one who sat in the shadow of the gallows for nearly two decades. Speaking in a soft Midwestern accent, his words were as damning as the death sentences that his orders negated: "The system is broken."


With these orders, he ushered four men-Stanley Howard, Madison Hobley, Aaron Patterson and Leroy Orange-from the darkest corners of the land into the light. Quoting a tale of that famed Illinoisan, Lincoln, he recalled the job of the nation's chief executive, who, reviewing execution orders for those who were convicted of violating the military code during the Civil War, asked one of his generals why one young man had no letters in his file from any who wished his life spared. The general, shrugging his shoulders matter-of-factly, said, "He's got no friends," Lincoln, lifting his pen, remarked, "He's got one friend," and pardoned the man from the ...

Wichita Kansas Pays $6.2 Million to Settle Detainees' Lawsuit

Wichita Kansas Pays $6.2 Million
to Settle Detainees' Lawsuit


On May 7, 2002, Wichita's City Council approved $6.2 million to be awarded to the 7,000 citizens who had their 14th Amendment rights violated. The suit filed by what the city has labeled as Municipal Court Scofflaws, (scofflaws means one who ...

Ohio Prison Officials Cannot Alter Jail-Time Credit Award

The Court of Common Pleas of Marion County, Ohio, has granted release to an Ohio prisoner on habeas corpus after finding that Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (DORC) officials illegally altered a court sentencing entry to "correct" a perceived error in awarding jail-time credit. Issuance of the writ was not appealed by DORC.


William R. Dailey was a DORC prisoner at North Central Correctional Institution (NCCI), in Marion County, Ohio. He received consecutive sentences of eighteen and six months from the Court of Common Pleas of Marion County.


Subsequently, he received an eight-month sentence from the Court of Common Pleas of Summit County, Ohio, the time to be served consecutively to the Marion County terms. The Summit County Court also awarded Dailey 139 days of local jail credit, and later confirmed that award by a subsequent entry.


The Records Supervisor at NCCI refused to grant Dailey the jail-time credit. The Supervisor testified that it was DORC policy to deny credit to prisoners already serving prison time on other charges. DORC claimed that the jail-time credit award was contrary to law and must be corrected by DORC in order to comply with the law. DORC filed a motion to dismiss and ...

New Jersey Over Detains Prisoner Two Years Due to Illegal Sentence Calculation

The Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division has held that the New Jersey Department of Corrections (NJDOC) cannot depart from the terms a sentencing judge imposes. In September 1994, prisoner Larry Hill was released on parole for a 1990 conviction. On January 31, 1997 and July 25, 1997, he received five year sentences for new charges, which were to run concurrently. On May 21, 1997, Hill's parole was revoked. Because the sentences were imposed at different times and with the parole violation considered an aggregation, the NJDOC ran the five year sentences consecutively, and Hill's established maximum release date was set for October 29, 2004.

Hill wrote the trial judge, Honorable Hector DeSoto, who twice clarified his order to NJDOC as the sentences to be run concurrently pursuant to the plea bargain. Unfortunately, the state has shown a dogged resistance to admit that they committed error," wrote Hill in court documents after NJDOC refused to heed Judge DeSoto's clarification.

The NJDOC argued that state law allowed it to: 1) aggregate the January 31, 1997 with the May parole violation; and 2) sentences imposed at different times cannot be run concurrently and consecutively. The Superior Court noted the NJDOC failed ...

Washington Police Scientists' Work Under Scrutiny

Innocence Project Northwest (IPNW) is undertaking a review of cases in which Washington State Patrol scientists Arnold Melnikoff and Michael Hoover conducted forensic testing or offered expert testimony.


It was recently revealed that Melnikoff engaged in scientific fraud during his tenure as the director and hair examiner for the Montana State Crime Laboratory during the 1980's. Melnikoff's false testimony about hair comparisons led to at least two wrongful convictions of factually innocent men in Montana. The most recent exoneration involved Jimmy Ray Bromgard. Mr. Bromgard was released from prison on September 30, 2002, when DNA testing established his innocence. He had served 15 years of his 40-year sentence.


Melnikoff served as the director of the Montana State crime laboratory from 1970 to 1989. He then moved to the Washington State Patrol, working briefly in the Kelso office before moving to the Spokane office. At least initially, it appears that his work in Washington was restricted to drug analysis and site inspections at alleged clandestine drug labs. Melnikoff's work is undergoing an audit by the Washington State Patrol, in conjunction with IPNW and the Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School.


Michael Hoover, a chemist with the Washington State Patrol, was sentenced ...