Hash case: Convictions need to be policed, experts say | Daily Progress

Posted: March 19, 2012 by scaryhouse in Uncategorized

By: RON COUNTS

CULPEPER — No agencies or commissions exist in Virginia to investigate prosecutorial misconduct and wrongful convictions, and a University of Virginia law professor says that needs to change.

“What the public needs to know is how many more murder convictions have been a result of these errors,” said Brandon Garrett, who joined the faculty in 2005 and specializes in wrong convictions. “There needs to be some sort of audit or investigation done, but that’s very rare.”

The Office of the Attorney General does employ a State Inspector General who “investigates the management and operations of state agencies and non-state agencies to determine whether acts of fraud, waste, abuse or corruption have been committed or are being committed by state officers or employees,” according to the duties described in the Code of Virginia.

However, the same document states, “no investigation of an elected official of the Commonwealth to determine whether a criminal violation has occurred, is occurring, or is about to occur under the provisions of § 52-8.1 shall be initiated, undertaken or continued except upon the request of the Governor, the Attorney General or a grand jury.”

Albemarle County Sheriff J.E. “Chip” Harding said Virginia needs two commissions: One that looks into police and prosecutorial procedures, and a second that investigates cases and convictions after the fact. He even has an idea for how to staff them.

“Some agencies may not think they have the resources,” Harding said. “I’ve been blessed with one of the largest Retired Volunteer Reserve Divisions in the state, and I know there would be a lot of retired guys willing to work pro-bono on these types of things.”

Harding singles out private investigator Stanley Lepakes — a retired FBI agent who donated countless hours investigating the Michael Wayne Hash case, and that organizations such as the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children routinely employ retired law enforcement.

A self-described champion of the Innocence Project, Harding has more than 30 years of experience in investigations, and he’s proud to be one of the first sheriffs in America featured on the organization’s website.

The Innocence Project is a national organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted individuals through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice.

“The Innocence Project is about justice,” Harding said. “It’s not just some liberal thing like a lot of people make it out to be.”

Harding summed up the importance of such agencies in one sentence: “If it wasn’t for Michael’s mom, he could still be sitting in jail right now.”

via Hash case: Convictions need to be policed, experts say | Daily Progress.

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