In one of our first articles I talked about the book 'The Innocent Man' by John Grisham and how it opened my eyes to things I'd never seen before. In a more recent article, we profiled the extraordinary wrongful conviction, release, then exoneration of Brian Banks. When we heard 'Virginia- The Innocence Project' was hosting a fundraiser with John Grisham and Brian Banks there to lecture, we knew we couldn't miss it.
If ever looking for a good cause to donate to, please consider The Innocence Project. These attorneys, paralegals and any support they may receive are strictly on a volunteer basis. They work countless hours to free these victims of wrongful incarceration just because its the right thing to do. In our eyes, they are true heroes.
One of my favorite parts of learning about these cases and looking through hundreds of pictures is coming across a picture of the exoneree taking their first step to freedom with their attorneys. The expression on the face of the attorney is always just as emotional and heart warming as the defendants.
Donations are used for DNA testing, expert witnesses, anything needed to fight for the freedom of their wrongfully convicted clients.
Not surprisingly, John Grisham is a wonderful speaker and said quite a few very interesting things in a very short amount of time. The first thing that struck me was when he began speaking about his book 'The Innocent Man', and said researching and writing the book opened his eyes to the world of wrongful incarceration. The exact same thing I have always said about reading the book. Its very easy to know nothing about the high rate of wrongful convictions because most people are never faced with this and never have reason to look. Nobody knows about it yet, it could happen to anyone at anytime.
A former criminal attorney in Mississippi, Grisham had seen his fair share of court rooms and convictions and still had no idea about all the wrongful convictions taking place. Not until he began working on the book did he realize that there was a whole other side to our legal system, a much darker side than most can comprehend.
Quotes from the evening- John Grisham
The system is not designed to get people out of prison
Studies show that there are between 2% to 10% innocent behind bars,
Its easy to send the innocent to prison but next to impossible to get them out
Brian's story is definitely one of a kind, but more than that you can see the goodness in him, in pictures and reading what he's written or others have written about him. Meeting Brian in person, the effect is magnified by 1000, he has a definite warm light about him and we both feel very honored to have met him. He has taken his tragedy and turned it into something very positive; he not only speaks for the wrongfully convicted but is also a motivational speaker.
We also heard from Deirde Enright of the Virginia Innocence Project and she briefly went through cases of Edgar Coker, Justin Wolfe and Michael Hash and we will cover these cases in the very near future.
Quotes from the evening- Brian Banks
I have struggled, feared and persevered!
Instead of searching for the reason, I started searching for meaning.
Loss of freedom, guilty or innocent, can be used as opportunity.
I left behind my mother, football, the team and my dream!
I was holding all this anger then realized that these people didn't even know, or if they did, they didn't care.
And just like that, another Death Row Exoneree comes our way. Enter Glenn Ford. His case has all the earmarks that we have become accustomed to in these situations. He has been on death row for about 30 years. He hasn't seen sunlight for the last seven. He was convicted and sentenced to death by a jury of his peers (you know, 12 white people). His trial lawyers were extremely inexperienced. It all comes down to the same thing. Again, his case is unique in its own way however. He was the longest serving death row prisoner to be exonerated.
The Case Against
Glenn Ford was originally brought to the attention of police in the murder of Isadore Rozeman, for whom Ford did occasional yard work, because he had been seen in the area near the scene of the murder that day. He told the police that a man named 'OB' had given him some jewelry to pawn and this put him in the detective's sights. He suggested one possible suspect for the crime as Jake Robinson and said he thought that 'OB' might be Robinson's brother. He was not charged however until three months later when he was charged along with the Robinson's after Jake's girlfriend implicated all three to the police, adding that Ford was in possession of a firearm on the day of the murder.
The expert testimony against Glenn consisted of the parish coroner who had NOT examined the body personally, but managed to testify under oath as to the time of death and that the shooter was left-handed; an expert who claimed to have found particles "unique to or charactertistic of" gunshot residue on Ford's hands; and a police officer NOT certified as a fingerprint expert who concluded a 'whorl' pattern on Ford's fingerprints matched a single print lifted from a bag at the crime scene
No murder weapon. No eyewitnesses. Primary witness against Ford was at best 'unreliable'.
The (Kangaroo Court) Trial
To lead the charge, Glenn's trial lawyers were horribly inexperienced, and thus, completely ineffective. His lead attorney specialized in oil and gas and had tried neither a criminal nor civil case before a jury before. The second attorney, even less capable of helping someone facing the death penalty, was two years out of law school and working slip-and-fall cases for an insurance defense firm prior to this. Both lawyers were selected alphabetically by the local bar association.
The prosecution's primary attack was the girlfriend, Brown, who ON THE STAND admitted that the police had helped her concoct her story, and that she had made it up. This was the story that led to Ford's arrest. They then relied on their 'expert' witnesses, whose testimony might have easily been refuted had the defense even tried to bring some expert witnesses of their own. But the defense lawyers were so inexperienced they didn't even know the protocol for issuing a subpoena out of state.
The (all white) jury convicted Glenn Ford in less than three hours.
As it is in most capital cases, the appellate history of the case is tortuous. All through the years, in both explicit and implicit ways, the Louisiana appellate courts expressed their unease with the results of Ford's trial. But no court, ever, reversed the conviction and sentence against him and ordered a new trial. This is so even though the first court to review the case, the Louisiana Supreme Court itself, concluded it had "serious questions" about the result. -Freedom After 30 Years on Death Row
Hindsight is 20/20
Ford's case had so many glaring inconsistencies and holes in the plot line that hearings were twice ordered to evaluate his claims of an unfair trial; once for his claims of race bias in jury selection, and once for his claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and prosecution's failure to disclose exculpatory evidence. In both cases (first the Louisiana courts and then the trial courts, respectively) the decisions backed up the prosecutors and gave no credit to Glenn's very legitimate claims.
It was this ruling, in October 2009, that perhaps best illustrates the farce this case was. Yes, a Louisiana judge conceded, Ford would have been benefited from having those California witnesses testify for him during the mitigation phase of his trial. Yes, he would have benefited had his lawyers hired their own experts. But none of this constituted "ineffective assistance." The Louisiana Supreme Court, in a two-word order, accepted this dreadful interpretation of law. - Freedom After 30 Years on Death Row
The Open Door
Court records show that in 2013 a confidential informant told prosecutors that Jake Robinson had admitted to shooting and killing Rozeman. Prosecutors then filed a motion to vacate Ford's conviction and sentence, citing 'credible information' that they had received in regards to the actual killer and the fact that Ford had no part in the murder on any level.
We can't even pretend to imagine what someone like Glenn Ford has been through. Thirty years in prison, facing the death penalty. You talk about against all odds. Glenn Ford has showed us that the truth does come out. Our prayers are with him as he re-enters society as a free man. Good luck, Glenn.
Sources and Links
Freedom After 30 Years on Death Row
Death Row Inmate Glenn Ford Released 30 Years After Wrongful Conviction
Prosecutors to Vacate Murder Conviction, Death Sentence of Glenn Ford
Article written by Mike Palmer
Copyright © 2014
Freedom For All
All Rights Reserved
Part 1- The History
European immigrants have long been credited with sailing the ocean blue and risking their lives for the benefit of ours to explore the 'unknown'. According to text books, during these travels, Europeans or 'white man' discovered and civilized the United States of America.
Americans learn the history of these European explorers in elementary school and the United States celebrates Federal Holidays such as Thanksgiving and Columbus day. When Christopher Columbus landed in the West Indies (Caribbean), thinking he made land fall in India he began calling its many inhabitants 'Indians'. The term 'Indian' lasted for centuries and until very recently, when modern society changed the name to Native Americans. A much better fitting name.
American schools teach of Native Americans as well, only the part about them being pushed, almost to extinction seems to be lost somewhere. We learned that a long lasting war (good guys or frontier men Vs the vicious Indians or bad guys) over the land broke out but not of the horrible things done to these inherently peaceful people. Not to any sort of extent anyways.
Eventually the Native Americans were forced off their land and relocated to small reservations, today there are only a few remaining. Most Indian reservations that do remain are overridden with poverty and now face a new fierce battle, mass incarceration. Will the Native American culture survive another war on their people?
PRISON IS THE NEW EXTINCTION
Making up less than 2% of the American Population, the Native American community is almost nonexistent, thanks to that extinction plan of early American settlers and government that nearly succeeded. For a very long time, no one seemed to be paying attention to how the Native Americans were being treated, then came the liberals and Human Rights activists. Because of the newer laws and restrictions, racist politicians have had to become much more crafty, and by that, I mean abuse their power.
“Living in South Dakota is a very different experience for white people than it is for Indians,” says Jennifer Ring, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of the Dakotas. “Discrimination against Indians here is a longstanding, dirty little secret.” http://www.progressive.org/mag_pember0207
In South Dakota where many reservations remain today and the 'The Yankton 4' case is based, they can't give an exact number of Native American residents because The Census Bureau groups "American Indian" and "Alaska Native" in one category. However, both of these groups combined only equals 8.9% of the South Dakota population. While Native Americans only make up a very small amount of the South Dakota population they make up a HUGE 29% of the adult prison population and 38% of juvenile offenders as of 2011.
The Native American Prison population can only be compared to that of the African American, it is overwhelmingly obvious that something is very wrong in both of these scenarios. Both communities are suffering because of the lack of men (fathers) in their community and it has had a crippling effect on the growth of their children and future. The vicious cycle.
Mass Incarceration- Social Causes and Consequences
"I think every family on this reservation has (a family member) in prison," Rose Bear Robe, a member of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, told CNN. "It's beginning to be normal now, when people used to be ashamed of it."
"In states where Native Americans are a significant portion of the state population, we see generally very significant disparity in (incarceration rates)," said Mark Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a nonprofit organization which pushes for prison reform in the U.S. "Native Americans tend to be incarcerated at high rates overall."
"Someone will leave the reservation, go to town, get drunk, do something dumb and if a white kid had done it, they'd call their parents and take them home," he said. "But if its some strange native kid, they'll put them in jail."
"Looking back at the numbers, why is there this disparity? It's not objectively clear. While their prison rates sometimes mirror similar state figures for African-Americans, Native Americans make up such a small percentage of the national population (fewer than 2%, according to the Census Bureau) that there are few or no studies that offer an explanation for, or even an estimate of, their overall imprisonment rate."
Part 2- The Case
"The Rouse Family case is nothing less than the symbolic representation of the continuation of the racial genocide against Native Americans."