Holiday Exoneration Round Up – January 12, 2015

  • Congratulations to Alan Beaman, of Rockford, Illinois, who was pardoned last week by Governor Pat Quinn after his 1993 wrongful conviction for murder was overturned in 2008 and he was granted a certificate of innocence in 2013. Beaman, who was exonerated through DNA evidence, was Governor Quinn’s first innocence-based pardon. Beaman’s attorney said that the pardon is an important symbolic statement to all exonerees. Quinn has acted on more clemency petitions than any other governor in Illinois history.
  • Derrick Hamilton was his “own best advocate” in proving that he was innocent of a wrongful 1991 murder conviction in Brooklyn (NY), according to this New York Times feature piece. Mr. Hamilton’s conviction was vacated this past Friday. In the two decades following his conviction, Mr. Hamilton spent every week in the prison’s law library conducting research and discussing United States Supreme Court decisions with fellow inmates. He filed motions, sent letters to influential persons, and secured affidavits arguing his innocence, all on his own. Mr. Hamilton’s exoneration fell under the review of the Brooklyn DA’s Office Conviction Review Unit, which utilized scientific and medical evidence to help overturn the conviction. Congratulations to Mr. Hamilton.
  • A South Carolina judge tossed out the murder conviction of George Stinney Jr., 70 years after he was executed as a 14-year-old. South Carolina authorities sent Stinney to the electric chair only three months after he was charged with the murder of two young white girls – despite having a solid alibi – in what was clearly a racially-prejudiced verdict. Stinney was the youngest person executed in United States history. While we hope this decision brings a measure of peace to his family, this horrific injustice and unspeakably cruel use of the death penalty is cause for anger and disgust, and should serve as a reminder of the haunting consequences of a wrongful conviction.
  • Read here about Governor Quinn’s decision to commute the sentence of Tyrone Hood, who was convicted and sentenced to 50 years for the 1993 shooting death of Chicago basketball standout Marshall Morgan Jr. Mr. Hood’s conviction is under investigation by the Cook County Conviction Integrity Unit. Read more about Mr. Hood’s case and how police can coerce witness testimony in this August 2014 New Yorker piece. It is unclear when Mr. Hood will be released.
  • Listen to this enthralling BBC radio snippet detailing the process of how law students in Wales worked with the Innocence Project to prove Dwaine George’s innocence in a wrongful 2002 murder conviction. The students’ research efforts ultimately took six years, as they had to sift through an exhaustive amount of evidence.
  • Read this Texas Bar Journal piece on the one-year anniversary of the “Michael Morton Act”, which spells out amended discovery requirements so that Texas prosecutors cannot suppress evidence or withhold witnesses capable of establishing the innocence of the accused. In theory, the Act should encourage prosecutors and defense attorneys to work together to privilege justice and freedom for the innocent rather than obtainment of a conviction. The article also contains an informative sidebar on exoneration statistics.
  • Finally, listeners of the wildly popular Serial podcast on NPR, which explored the nature of truth and memory through the lens of a questionable 1999 murder conviction in Baltimore County, should read this update on the investigation into Adnan Syed’s innocence. Deirdre Enright, Director of the University of Virginia School of Law Innocence Project, is leading a thorough examination of the evidence in Mr. Syed’s case and determining potential alternate suspects with the aid of her students. Currently, the UVA Law Innocence Project is drafting and preparing to file a motion for forensic testing of evidence found on the murder victim.
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