Day: May 21, 2012

Innocent, but broke…Glen Chapman was exonerated from death row in 2008. Why hasn’t he received the $750K he deserves in compensation?

May 21, source :

Glen Edward Chapman, or “Ed,” was exonerated in 2008 after spending 15 years on death row for crimes he did not commit. Though North Carolina is one of the 27 states with statutes that provide some level of compensation for the wrongfully convicted, the state continues to refuse Chapman any compensation for the loss of his freedom, reputation, family, friends and much more.

Chapman was sentenced to death in 1994 at the age of 26 for the murders of Betty Jean Ramseur and Tenene Yvette Conley in Hickory, N.C. After more than a decade of court appeals, Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin ordered a new trial based on revelations that detectives “lost, misplaced or destroyed” several pieces of evidence that pointed to another suspect. It was also discovered that lead investigator Dennis Rhoney lied on the witness stand at Chapman’s original trial. Shortly thereafter, the district attorney dismissed all charges against Chapman due to lack of sufficient evidence leading to his exoneration in 2008.

Chapman is just one of a growing number of wrongfully convicted inmates who have been cleared thanks to criminal justice reforms and new DNA testing laws put in place over the last decade. But oftentimes the hardship doesn’t end there.

In 2007, the New York Times interviewed 137 former prisoners exonerated by modern DNA testing methods and found that half were “struggling — drifting from job to job, dependent on others for housing or battling deep emotional scars. More than two dozen ended up back in prison or addicted to drugs or alcohol.”

According to a 2009 report by the Innocence Project, an organization devoted to exonerating the wrongfully convicted, an astounding 40 percent of people exonerated by DNA testing have received zero compensation, due in part to the 23 states around the country that do not offer assistance to the wrongfully convicted. That leaves exonerees like Alan Northrop, who lost 17 years behind bars in the state of Washington, with little to no help in rebuilding their lives.

Even in states that do offer compensation, the amount is often woefully inadequate in helping exonerees reestablish themselves, though compensation varies by state ranging from $20,000 in New Hampshire regardless of the years spent behind bars to $80,000 per year of wrongful imprisonment in Texas.

Most state compensation statutes, however, include conditions for eligibility. Last year, Texas refused to compensate Anthony Graves the $1.4 million he would have received for the 18 years he spent on death row because the judge did not include the words “actual innocence” on the document ordering his release. Texas reversed its decision only after nationwide media attention led to a massive public outcry.

In North Carolina, the exonerated are eligible to receive $50,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment capping out at $750,000 but only if they are granted a pardon of innocence by the governor who is not required to give a reason for her decision. Chapman filed a pardon request in 2009 but a decision has yet to be made. The office of North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue did not respond to a request for comment.

Chapman’s experience is consistent with statistics from the Innocence Project that show it takes an average of three years to secure compensation. Meanwhile, the wrongfully imprisoned face an uphill battle almost immediately upon release, starting with where they will sleep that night and how they will get their next meal. Only 10 states even offer the kinds of services — housing, transportation, education, healthcare, job placement, etc. — crucial to helping exonerees transition back into society as free citizens.

Chapman was not notified he was going to be released until the day he was freed. On April 2, 2008, a guard told him to “Pack up” and 10 minutes later he was out the door.  No one asked if he had a ride or a place to stay.

Luckily he had help from Pamela Laughon, a college professor and chairwoman of the psychology department at the University of North Carolina, who spent eight years working on Chapman’s appeal as a court-appointed investigator. The two immediately clicked when they met and have been inseparable since.

Laughon told Salon she was shocked her client was released with just 10 minutes’ notice and no ride or money. “Years ago they used to let them out with at least a bus ticket,” she says. Nevertheless, the two had already decided that if and when Chapman was released he would live with Laughon until he got on his feet.

That meant Chapman would have to move to Asheville, N.C., which worked out for the best because he did not want to return to Hickory. “When I go back to Hickory the hair on my neck stands up,” says Chapman. The town reminds him of the trauma from his trial when family members testified against him and the time he spent incarcerated instead of watching his two young sons grow up.

Laughon was happy to help. “I had lawyers calling me from all over the state asking me if I was nuts. I spent eight years trying to get this man released. There was no way I was going to drop him off at a homeless shelter or the projects where he grew up,” she told Salon.

With Laughon’s assistance, Chapman set up a checking account, got a driver’s license for the first time, found housing, learned how to use a cellphone and more.

She helped him manage his finances, which quickly dwindled given that he hadn’t received an income in 15 years. Over a decade in prison led him to mishandle the money he did have because, Chapman says, “I was so unused to having things that I wanted to buy everything. I went shopping crazy.” It was moments like this that having Laughon’s support was crucial to Chapman’s ability to readjust to society as a free man.

Laughon also went on job interviews with him to help explain his background to prospective employers. “I’m a college professor and chair of a department, so I have some cred,” she says. “He’s a black guy in the south. If he told an employer ‘by the way I was wrongfully convicted and spent the last 15 years on death row,’ people would look at him like he was crazy and laugh.”

With help from one of Laughon’s students, Chapman found a job at a hotel a few weeks after his release. Four years later, he still works there, which he says is the longest he’s ever held a job.

Still, life is a struggle. Laughon argues that Chapman needs the compensation because, “He’s stuck in minimum wage, being paid the lowest legal amounts you can pay a human being.”

The pardon of innocence pending before Gov. Perdue is important to Chapman not just for the compensation but also because it would be an official declaration of innocence. Laughon calls his current predicament “a no man’s land between not being guilty or innocent.”

Rev. Dr. T. Anthony Spearman, a pastor in Hickory and third vice president of the North Carolina NAACP, points out that without an official declaration of innocence, “His family is still at odds with him, not knowing whether he’s a criminal or not. The stigma of being a felon is still on him.”

Spearman went on to compare wrongful conviction to a crime in and of itself. “To be incarcerated, locked up for 15 years wrongfully, is to me a criminal act and the state needs to make up for that,” he told Salon. “The government needs to go head over heals to make sure these men receive apologies and make sure that they can get on with their lives meaning compensation, education, whatever they need to survive.”

Jean Parks, an active member of Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation (her sister was murdered) and People of Faith Against the Death Penalty in Asheville, agrees that Chapman needs be pardoned but feels that monetary compensation for the wrongfully convicted does not go far enough. “Money should be a part of it to help cover for lost wages and lost opportunities but the state’s response should go beyond that,” says Parks. “It should include an official apology and some social services to help the person get reacclimated to society, find a job, and reestablish oneself as a productive member of the community.”

Laughon argues that states should provide a “life coach” to do for the exonerated what she did for Chapman, which she describes as “somebody that’s going to navigate all the many day-to-day things like managing a bank account, how paychecks will be taxed, and the other kinds of life skills you and I do second nature.” She believes her experience with Chapman serves as a successful case study of the “life coach” approach.

In the meantime, Chapman has an interview with the clemency office on May 30, a signal that Gov. Perdue will likely come to a decision soon. He is determined to stay positive no matter what the outcome and insists he has no bitterness toward the people who put him on death row. “I can forgive. That doesn’t mean I have to forget,” says Chapman.

He upholds that principle by traveling across the state when he can to speak about his exoneration and bring awareness to the flaws in the criminal justice system. He admits he was not aware of the death penalty before his conviction but “now that I do know, I’m going to do everything I can to put an end to it.”

Since his exoneration, Chapman has written a book called “Life After Death Row.” His next book, “Within These Walls,” will be released later this year and includes his diary entries from death row. He says, “It’s going to be a tear-jerker.” Chapman will also be featured in an upcoming episode of B.E.T.’s “Vindicated,” a documentary-style television show that tells the stories of exonerated prisoners.

If he receives compensation, Chapman hopes to open a bed and breakfast. He also dreams of one day opening a shelter for at-risk women.

Chapman acknowledges that none of this would be possible without someone like Laughon in his life. “When I first met Pam it was like meeting an old friend for the first time. To this day, she’s like my big sister,” he says. “She’s been there for me from start to finish. I don’t think I would have made it without her.

TEXAS – Bobby Lee Hines – Execution DELAYED

may 21, 2012 Source :

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — The execution of a man early next month for the slaying of a Dallas woman at her apartment more than 20 years ago has been delayed.

Dallas County prosecutors asked a judge to withdraw the June 6 execution date for 39-year-old Bobby Lee Hines because results of additional DNA testing in his case won’t be available by then. District Court Judge Don Adams in Dallas approved the request Friday.

Hines was convicted of the 1991 murder of 26-year-old Michelle Wendy Haupt. She was stabbed with an ice pick and strangled.

Hines was 19 at the time and on probation for a burglary conviction. He was staying with the apartment complex maintenance man who lived next door to the victim and had access to all the keys in the development.

US – Over 2,000 People Exonerated In 23 Years

May 21, 2012 Source :

WASHINGTON (AP) – More than 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes have been exonerated in the United States in the past 23 years, according to a new archive compiled at two universities.

There is no official record-keeping system for exonerations of convicted criminals in the country, so academics set one up. The new national registry, or database, painstakingly assembled by the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, is the most complete list of exonerations ever compiled.

The database compiled and analyzed by the researchers contains information on 873 exonerations for which they have the most detailed evidence. The researchers are aware of nearly 1,200 other exonerations, for which they have less data.

They found that those 873 exonerated defendants spent a combined total of more than 10,000 years in prison, an average of more than 11 years each. Nine out of 10 of them are men and half are African-American.

Nearly half of the 873 exonerations were homicide cases, including 101 death sentences. Over one-third of the cases were sexual assaults.

DNA evidence led to exoneration in nearly one-third of the 416 homicides and in nearly two-thirds of the 305 sexual assaults.

Researchers estimate the total number of felony convictions in the United States is nearly a million a year.

The overall registry/list begins at the start of 1989. It gives an unprecedented view of the scope of the problem of wrongful convictions in the United States and the figure of more than 2,000 exonerations “is a good start,” said Rob Warden, executive director of the Center on Wrongful Convictions.

“We know there are many more that we haven’t found,” added University of Michigan law professor Samuel Gross, the editor of the newly opened National Registry of Exonerations.

Counties such as San Bernardino in California and Bexar County in Texas are heavily populated, yet seemingly have no exonerations, a circumstance that the academics say cannot possibly be correct.

The registry excludes at least 1,170 additional defendants. Their convictions were thrown out starting in 1995 amid the periodic exposures of 13 major police scandals around the country. In all the cases, police officers fabricated crimes, usually by planting drugs or guns on innocent defendants.

Regarding the 1,170 additional defendants who were left out of the registry, “we have only sketchy information about most of these cases,” the report said. “Some of these group exonerations are well known; most are comparatively obscure. We began to notice them by accident, as a byproduct of searches for individual cases.”

In half of the 873 exonerations studied in detail, the most common factor leading to false convictions was perjured testimony or false accusations. Forty-three percent of the cases involved mistaken eyewitness identification, and 24 percent of the cases involved false or misleading forensic evidence.

In two out of three homicides, perjury or false accusation was the most common factor leading to false conviction. In four out of five sexual assaults, mistaken eyewitness identification was the leading cause of false conviction.

Seven percent of the exonerations were drug, white-collar and other nonviolent crimes, 5 percent were robberies and 5 percent were other types of violent crimes.

“It used to be that almost all the exonerations we knew about were murder and rape cases. We’re finally beginning to see beyond that. This is a sea change,” said Gross.

Exonerations often take place with no public fanfare and the 106-page report that coincides with the opening of the registry explains why.

On TV, an exoneration looks like a singular victory for a criminal defense attorney, “but there’s usually someone to blame for the underlying tragedy, often more than one person, and the common culprits include defense lawyers as well as police officers, prosecutors and judges. In many cases, everybody involved has egg on their face,” according to the report.

Despite a claim of wrongful conviction that was widely publicized last week, a Texas convict executed two decades ago is not in the database because he has not been officially exonerated. Carlos deLuna was executed for the fatal stabbing of a Corpus Christi convenience store clerk. A team headed by a Columbia University law professor just published a 400-page report that contends DeLuna didn’t kill the clerk, Wanda Jean Lopez.

MISSOURI : Missouri finds a drug option for executions: Propofol

May 18, source :

KANSAS CITY, Mo. _ The state of Missouri is back in the execution business with a drug that’s never been used to put prisoners to death in the United States.

Stymied by a chemical shortage affecting every death-penalty state, the Missouri Department of Corrections said this week that it now will carry out death sentences with propofol, a widely used surgical anesthetic that also played a factor in singer Michael Jackson’s death.

Attorneys representing some of the state’s death row inmates learned of the plan Thursday, after corrections officials met with some inmates and informed them of the new protocol.

Defense attorneys said it’s too early to say what, if any, legal challenges might be mounted in regard to the new one-drug execution protocol that replaces Missouri’s previous three-drug cocktail.

“It’s something we will have to look at very carefully,” said Joseph Luby, an attorney with the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic in Kansas City. “Propofol has no track record in executions.”

Missouri is the first state to formally adopt the use of propofol, also known by the brand name Diprivan, for use in lethal injections, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C.

“No one has used it yet,” Dieter said. “Other states may have considered it.”

Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University in New York and nationally known expert on lethal injection issues, called it a “pretty extraordinary development” that raises many questions.

“I would anticipate legal challenges,” she said.

Missouri’s last execution took place in February 2011. Since shortly after that, the state has been unable to obtain the anesthetic that put inmates to sleep before they are injected with two other chemicals that stop the lungs and heart. Officials also had been unable to obtain an alternative drug that some states had adopted to take its place.

With news that the corrections department had obtained a different drug, Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster on Thursday asked the state Supreme Court to set execution dates for 19 inmates. They include Michael Taylor, one of the killers of Ann Harrison, a Kansas City teenager kidnapped in 1989 while waiting for the school bus in front of her house, and Allen Nicklasson, convicted of kidnapping and killing Excelsior Springs businessman Richard Drummond in 1994 after Drummond stopped to help Nicklasson and a co-defendant when their car broke down.

Koster said in his motion that there are no legal impediments or stays now in place to stop the executions.

“Unless this court sets an execution date after a capital murder defendant’s legal process is exhausted, the people of Missouri are without legal remedy,” Koster said in his motion.

According to Supreme Court procedures, lawyers for the inmates must be given the opportunity to file responses before the Supreme Court sets execution dates.

“There is no timetable as far as when the court would rule (on dates),” said spokeswoman Beth Riggert. “The court rules when it deems it appropriate.”

Missouri and every other state using lethal injection once used the same three-drug mixture that employed sodium thiopental to anesthetize prisoners. The drug has been employed in all 68 executions Missouri has carried out since 1989.

Inmates in Missouri and across the country had filed numerous legal challenges to the method, alleging that it created the risk of inflicting cruel and unusual punishment if not administered properly. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the method was not unconstitutional.

In early 2010, shortages of sodium thiopental began cropping up, and in early 2011 the only domestic supplier announced it would no longer manufacture the drug.

States also had difficulty obtaining it from foreign sources, and on March 27, a federal court in Washington, D.C., banned any importation of sodium thiopental and ordered the Food and Drug Administration to contact every state that it believed had any foreign-manufactured thiopental and instruct them to surrender it to the FDA. It also permanently prohibited importation of the drug.

With thiopental in short supply, some states began to substitute another anesthetic, pentobarbital, for use in the three-drug method.

In February 2011, Ohio began using pentobarbital by itself to execute prisoners. Earlier this year, Arizona became the second state to switch to one-drug executions using pentobarbital.

Dieter, with the death penalty information center, said pentobarbital has been used, either by itself or in combination with other drugs, in the last 45 executions in the United States.

But last July, its Danish manufacturer announced that it was imposing restrictions on how pentobarbital was distributed to prevent its use in executions.

Since its on-hand supply of thiopental expired in March 2011, Missouri had been unsuccessful in finding it or pentobarbital.

In announcing its new protocol this week, Missouri Department of Corrections officials did not comment on when they obtained the new drug or where it was obtained.

According to Missouri’s new written protocol, inmates will be injected with 2 grams of propofol. A Kansas City anesthesiologist said that amount is 10 times the dosage that would be used in a surgical setting for a 220-pound patient.

According to Missouri’s new protocol, the chemical will be prepared by a doctor, nurse or pharmacist. An intravenous line will be inserted and monitored by a doctor, nurse or emergency medical technician. Department employees will inject the chemicals.

Doctors say the drug is used widely in medical settings and does not have some of the side effects, like post-operative nausea and vomiting, of previously used anesthetics. It was developed in England in the late 1970s.

Currently, only one execution date is pending in Missouri. Michael Tisius, convicted of killing two jailers in Randolph County, is scheduled to be put to death Aug. 3.

An attorney representing Tisius could not be reached for comment Friday.