Posts Tagged ‘cost of wrongful conviction’


http://wglt.org/…/suspect-convictions-episode-4-true-crime-…

Suspect Convictions Episode 4: True-Crime Experts Give Case Fresh Look

  6 HOURS AGO

The alternative suspect in this case, Misook Wang, has a post-conviction petition in court herself alleging innocence for a murder she allegedly confessed to police about at the time. She’ll be in court in Bloomington, IL next week on Monday, November 20, 2017. There is sure to be a lot of court watchers present on behalf of Barton McNeil and others. You can read police interviews with Misook on freebart.org. Aphrodite Jones is correct in this episode. Misook by action and in interview comes across as very intense and unaware that her behavior and words are strange and off-balance.

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An AP article was just posted about a defendant in Atlanta, GA who has been sitting in jail and waiting to go to trial for the past 10 years:

“Kharon Davis has spent nearly 10 years in jail. He’s had four sets of attorneys, with two judges on the bench. His co-defendants’ cases have wrapped up. Davis has appeared in court for several hearings, and a new prosecutor is assigned.

But Davis has had no trial. There’s been no jury, no verdict, no conviction. Police say he killed a man in a drug deal gone wrong, but he hasn’t had his day in court. He’s charged with capital murder and could face the death penalty. Trial dates have come and gone, and it’s now scheduled for September. By then, 10 years and three months will have passed since the crime.

The Constitution guarantees suspects “the right to a speedy trial.” Capital cases often take a year or longer to get to trial, but 10 years is rare – experts call it shocking and say it could be unconstitutional. Prisoner advocates and court-watchers say such delays take an exhaustive toll on suspects stuck behind bars and on victims’ families, who are robbed of closure that can come from trials…”

Read the full article at: http://www.waff.com/story/34537151/10-years-in-jail-and-still-no-trial-for-murder-suspect

 And, locally, the Richard Wanke case

Since yesterday, when it was announced that jury selection for Richard Wanke’s trial for the murder of Greg Clark has just started, some persons have been expressing surprise on social media that it has taken so long for this trial to start and wondering how and why this can happen. Wanke’s case isn’t taking 10 years to come to trial like Kharon Davis’s case, but it is now over 9 years since the Clark murder occurred in 2008, and the effect in Davis’s and Richard’s cases are the same; they have both spent literally years behind bars without their guilt or innocence being heard at trial. This amazes people because it’s hard for them to imagine just sitting in jail so long without trial or the right to one. We all generally believe that justice works faster and that people are protected from such harm until trial.

Yet both been Kharon Davis and Richard Wanke have been stuck in this legal quandary for years unable to do anything about it. 

The way each was put into legal limbo differs, but they’ve have no remedy. The Davis article discusses the constitutional right of defendants to a “Speedy Trial”, which, if exercised by a defendant can ensure that the defendant is brought to trial within a relatively short time span; sometimes that of a year and-a-half. This is important because serious cases virtually ensure that defendants are held jailed and held without bond the entire time they await trial.

What the Davis article fails to clarify is that currently the right to a speedy trial is interpreted to apply only to ensure that the State must not delay and if the speedy trial right is invoked by a defendant, then the State is forced to act and take you to trial quickly or the courts can throw a case out or dismiss it even without trial due to overlong delay. The Davis article does not say if Davis or his attorneys ever submitted a speedy trial request. Richard Wanke did so on his own the first time he appeared in Winnebago County court on the murder charge. If Davis’s attorneys did not protect his right, then they were ineffective at the time and may have cost him the opportunity to properly challenge the State.

The problem is that the Right to a Speedy Trial is not regarded as enforceable when the defendant’s own attorney or defense delays trial, and this has been the predicament facing both Davis and Richard Wanke  for the past several years. 

The Davis article explains how Davis has been harmed by repeated delays by his attorneys. His first attorney, Benjamin Meredith, should have immediately known to step off the case because his son was involved in it’s investigation. His second attorney, Derek Yarbrough, apparently took his sweet time or did nothing on the case till Davis yelled and had him removed. His third attorney had a conflict-of-interest and it appropriately only took him a few weeks to withdraw. His 4th, and most important attorney who will probably be stuck doing the job and representing Davis properly, has only been on the case since June 2016, and will now have a very hard time coming up to speed on it and doing the basic work on the case which probably hasn’t been done. Now, after all this time that county court although it wouldn’t comment on the handling of Davis’s case, it is probably aware of it and might now monitor it carefully to bring it to trial relatively quickly. Of course, there’s also a new prosecutor on the case so if Davis files his Speedy request now, it might now just apply.

In Richard Wanke’s situation, the State completely investigated his case and still waited years past 2008 to charge him with the murder, gambling on the small probability that it would uncover new, definitive evidence of his guilt. That says more about the weakness of the State’s case against Richard Wanke than anything else. Six years later in 2014, when it did charge him, the State was fully prepared and the defense was non-existant. From then to now, the trial delay has been caused by the defense taking time to learn the case and defend it. Richard hasn’t been able to do anything about that delay except sit waiting in jail.

The Davis article mentions how exhausting and stressful the wait for trial is. Just the example of the machinations in Davis’s defense team above illustrate the rise and fall of stress a defendant can face while waiting to learn his fate. It also mentions a likelihood that defendants will be physically (or psychologically too) damaged by the long wait in jail in close confinement, even in isolation, and away from those they love.  Davis’ mother says her son’s health is “suffering”. He was age 22 when first arrested. Since arrested in 2008, Richard Wanke’s health, aged 49 too has suffered from imprisonment and, he will appear at trial using court head-phones to hear, because he’s lost 50% of his hearing by an assault behind bars.

While both Davis and Wanke might have a legal claim on the unconstitutionality of the time and process they have endured to get to trial, the reader can bet they’d have a difficult time finding an attorney to aggressively fight the issue for them. This is just one of the ways in which defendants regularly lose out in the criminal justice system.


The uninformed public gives the testimony of “eyewitnesses” far too much credibility. Do any research on the reliability of eyewitness testimony and you find that not only do people not remember correctly what they think or are certain that they saw, but you learn that all too often studies show that ideas and suggestions made after an incident happens or the desire of an individual to be “helpful” ends up tainting or rewriting peoples memories of events. The final memory that people believe is accurate is fragile and can bear little resemblence to the truth.

People should be a little more self-aware of how fleeting and susceptible their own memories are about events that happen around them and their own interactions with other individuals, and that we should know that our memories often cannot be relied upon. You would think that we would be very cautious in expressing certainty based upon our observations; particularly when the lives and well-being of others are affected by what we claim we saw or know.

Yet humans continue to bear witness to false memories and the consequences upon others, as in the two articles below, is disastrous. Jacques Rivera, served 21 years of an 80-year sentence before the appeals court accepted the recanted testimony of Orlando Lopez, the man who fingered Rivera for murder and who originally testified against him. Even now, Rivera is not free, but remains held without bond in Cook County jail, (a jail no one wants to be held in) waiting for the state to decide if it will still retry him for the 1988 murder. Inmate Jamie Snow, has not been so lucky. Even though his attorneys state that a former police officer who is now an inmate can discredit a prime witness’s claim that he saw Snow leave the scene of a murder, and despite that recantation of the testimony of other witnesses, Snow was still recently denied the chance for a new trial. He is just fighting to get his argument heard without any assurance that his life sentence will be overturned.

New trial for man convicted in ’88 murder after witness recants

Inmate appeals denial of new trial in 1991 killing

IL needs a law which prevents eyewitness testimony to either be used alone or in conjunction with just circumstantial evidence to convict anyone of a crime, particularly serious crimes. The consequences to those wrongfully convicted are too great and the error rate in eyewitness testimony is too high to justify such heavy reliance upon it in those cases. There are too many wrongfully convicted, particularly in IL, and too few resources to help them after they have been screwed. Thank goodness for the efforts of Northwestern University Center on Wrongful Convictions and those individual attorneys who, in these tough times, still care enough to do the hard work and investigation required to prove the innocence of those convicted only by eyewitness testimony or circumstantial evidence.


Prosecutors are under pressure to obtain convictions at any cost; it does not seem to matter much to them whether or not a suspect is guilty. Once prosecutors charge an individual, police seldom continue to look for other suspects and the prosecutors push ahead to try to convict in court. Often evidence arises during or after trial indicating that the individual may be innocent. Although prosecutors are mandated by law to disclose all evidence to the defense which would exonerate the suspect; they seem to regard their responsibility as a technicality and seldom do. Consequently there are many wrongly convicted individuals serving prison terms for crimes they did not commit, and their ranks are swelling rapidly in some states as the emphasis on convictions continue.

The article below points out that the number of apparent wrongful convictions is now being recognized in progressive states which are recognizing the need to begin to remedy the problem.  These states are taking steps to ensure that two things are available to defendants:  physical evidence in criminal cases and greater access to biological evidence and DNA testing to give them the chance to prove their innocence, and states are establishing “innocence” commissions to investigate allegations of wrongful conviction and help free those who are unjustly imprisoned.

Illinois knows the extent of it’s problems with wrongful convictions. As the article points out, IL has established a “commission” to study state wrongful convictions and make recommendations lawmakers, police, and courts. This is not enough.

Illinois is one of the leading states for wrongful convictions and presently, there are only a couple of privately operated “innocence projects” in Illinois from which inmates can attempt to obtain help in investigating their cases and proving their innocence once convicted. These innocence projects are woefully underfunded and understaffed, with few resources to investigate the mountains of applications from inmates they receive yearly, in comparison to the resources available to States Attorneys to help them convict anyone.

Like North Carolina, Illinois desperately needs to establish a state-operated investigative innocence commission; lawmakers need to make legal post-conviction DNA testing a right, and prosecutors need to stop opposing reasonable efforts of individual prisoners to prove their innocence.

States look to right wrong convictions


ONEIDA COUNTY, N.Y. (WKTV) – A court of claims has awarded $3.5 million to the local man wrongfully convicted of a murder he didn’t commit.

Steven Barnes spent nearly 20 years in prison for the 1985 murder of Kimberly Simon.

Former State Court of Claims Judge Norman Siegel awarded Barnes the $3.5 million back in October, but the New York City law firm that represented Barnes in his claim only recently made public the settlement.

The money comes from New York State.

Barnes has been working for Oneida County Workforce development, helping released prisoners find work and housing.

In 2009, we asked Barnes, what made him choose the job.

“Guys run into these obstacles, I talk to them and they say ‘what do you know,'” Barnes said. “I say ‘I know. I’ve been in there.’ And to come out into the community and try to get out on the right foot sometimes…you need assistance and help.”

An Oneida County Judge vacated Barnes’ conviction and sentence in November 2008, citing a joint motion by the Oneida County District Attorney’s Office and The Innocence Project.

via Court of claims awards $3.5 million to Steven Barnes for wrongful conviction | NBC-WKTV News Channel 2 – Utica News, Weather, Sports – | Local News.