Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Attorney for exonerated man says lawsuit being considered

November 18, 2008


The attorney for 1 of the six people wrongly convicted in the 1985 rape and murder of a Beatrice woman says he'll contact the six to see if there's interest in filing a lawsuit against the state.

The 1985 case was the first time in Nebraska history that inmates have been freed based on DNA evidence.

Doug Stratton is attorney for Joseph White, 1 of the six exonerated people who served long prison sentences.

Attorney General Jon Bruning has said he will pursue full pardons for all six.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cold case re-opened

Point Park forensics students take another look at Lizzie Borden mystery

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Daniel Malloy-Pittsburgh Post Gazette-Pittsburgh, PA

Though she was the only suspect and was in the house at the time, Lizzie Borden was acquitted of the 1892 ax murders of her father and stepmother in their Fall River, Mass., home because of a lack of evidence.

The sensational trial of Ms. Borden, who was widely considered guilty and even implicated in a nursery rhyme, could have turned out differently, according to some historians, if prosecutors had access to modern investigation techniques. For example, no fingerprints or DNA were taken from an ax found in the basement.

This year, students in the forensics and criminal justice departments at Point Park University will reopen the cold case.

A 1/12-scale model of the Borden house was unveiled yesterday at the school. The model house, about five feet high, was built by students at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and funded in part by a grant from the PNC Foundation.

"It's a big, glorified dollhouse," said James Hudak, a senior at the Art Institute who worked on the project, "where they found dead people, unfortunately."

The project is part of an effort by the criminal justice and forensics faculty to give a more hands-on learning experience to students, who will use the model house to study the steps investigators take in a murder case.

"You can't show all that on a PowerPoint -- the proportions, the size of the rooms," said Dr. Steven Koehler, an associate professor in the forensic science program.

"You need a big area to swing an ax."

Dr. Koehler dreamed up the idea a couple years ago when he came across the Borden case in a book about unsolved murders. He said the level of detail in diagrams and photographs of the house -- which has since been converted into a bed and breakfast -- made it possible to do a re-creation.

Mr. Hudak said he and a few other students spent a couple months designing and building the house as a project for a class on building miniature movie set pieces. Each floor of the house can be removed and examined, so you can see the second-floor bedroom where Abby Borden was found, the first-floor living room with Andrew Borden's miniature corpse, and the cellar where the ax was found.

Classes will begin using the model in the spring semester, and Point Park and the Art Institute already are planning another scale model for next year: The assassination of John F. Kennedy -- complete with grassy knoll -- which will be used to study ballistics.

Monday, November 10, 2008

D.N.A. Challenge Ruling

November 10, 2008

WBKO-Bowling Green, KY

A separate death row inmate has lost his bid to use D.N.A. testing to overturn his conviction and sentence.

Jefferson Circuit Judge James Shake ruled Friday that because D.N.A. tests in the case of 50-year-old Brian Keith Moore were inconclusive, there's nothing to undercut evidence presented at his trial for the 1979 murder of Virgil Harris in Louisville.

A jacket and shirt prosecutors say were worn by the killer were tested for D.N.A.

Samples from at least three people were found, but Moore could not be excluded as on of the donors.

Monday, November 3, 2008

UVa group aims to review death penalty cases

November 3, 2008

Charlottesville Daily Progress-Charlottesville, VA

Earlier in his studies at the University Of Virginia School Of Law, third-year law student James Cass spent a summer reading court opinions in cases that were later exonerated because of DNA evidence.

“To me, it became very apparent that they were innocent,” Cass said, “… even if a person is innocent, that alone is not enough to help them.”

That experience inspired Cass to get into UVa’s new Innocence Project Clinic. The 12-student clinic, which is a member of the Innocence Network, is reviewing death penalty cases to see if the students can overturn wrongful convictions.

The clinic is headed by Deirdre Enright, who said she was asked by the law school’s former dean to propose the student-requested project.

Enright, a 1992 UVa law graduate who has represented inmates facing the death penalty in Mississippi and Virginia, started the local office of the Virginia Capital Resource Center with her husband. She also represented Darrell Rice, who briefly was accused of being the “Route 29 stalker.”

Mary Martin, an investigator who works with the class, said the clinic takes the theory that the law students learn and helps them turn it into practice.

“I think that it makes the law flesh and blood,” Martin said. “This is really what has happened. It’s real life, when prosecution goes awry and evidence isn’t there.”

With the guidance of Enright and Martin, the clinic’s 12 students are researching cases handed down from the busy caseloads of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and the New York-based Innocence Project. Unlike some other innocence projects, UVa’s clinic will handle cases without DNA evidence.

“You shouldn’t be spared a second look just because you were unlucky enough to be falsely accused and not have any DNA evidence,” Enright said.

Students don’t necessarily have much to work with when they first start researching a case. Enright said clients sentenced to the death penalty sometimes only have a letter or a police report to pass on so that their appeal can begin. The research process can include requesting files under the Freedom of Information Act, knocking on doors and trying to track down decades-old evidence.

Diana Wielocha, a second-year law student, has already interviewed one potential client who was accused of rape and burglary. The grandfatherly man, who Wielocha said has been imprisoned for more than two decades, told her that he wasn’t in the state in which the crime occurred at the time.

Finding evidence of bad lawyering hasn’t caused the clinic students to shy away from their chosen path. For second-year student Kelly Hodges, it has made her want to be there for people even more than before.

Cass said it has reinforced his faith in his future career.

“It really makes me feel like less of a lawyer and more of an advocate, and that is what these people need,” he said.

If the clients whose cases are being reviewed by the clinic decide to hire them and go forward, Enright said she and Martin would keep the appeals moving forward. Enright said most of her clinic students probably won’t be criminal lawyers, but she hopes that the clinic will inspire them to take on an Innocence Project case.