Exoneration Round Up – January 19, 2015

  • Belated congratulations to Johnnie Lee Savory, who also received a pardon from now-former Governor Pat Quinn. Read more about Quinn’s pardon of Alan Beaman – Illinois’ first pardon based on actual innocence – here. Quinn issued 43 pardons on the day before he left office. Mr. Savory, of Peoria, has worked diligently to prove his innocence of a 1981 double-murder conviction ever since he was paroled eight years ago. Two of the three witnesses against Mr. Savory recanted their testimony after he was convicted. Regardless of whether the courts find actual innocence for Mr. Savory, his murder conviction will now be expunged from his record. The pardon signaled a “good day for the courts,” according to attorney Joshua Tepfer of Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions.
  • WBEZ, which produces This American Life, recently finished this series of videos and interviews, titled the Exoneree Diaries, concerning wrongful convictions and the lives of the individuals who have suffered through them. The program features stories on Life After Innocence clients Antione Day, James Kluppelberg, and Jacques Rivera, among others.
  • Read here about how individuals can become convinced they committed a crime that did not involve them at all. According to the article, which cites to research published in Psychological Science, evidence from wrongful conviction cases suggests that crime suspects can be questioned by police in a manner that causes them to falsely believe and confess to crimes they did not commit. Suspects may internalize the stories told by investigators, and they are thus able to provide details of an environment or scene they never actually encountered. This research is a sobering reminder of how easily police interrogations can influence a wrongful conviction by cultivating a false narrative.
  • Finally, read this New York Times op-ed on the convoluted requirements  exonerees must undergo to obtain compensation for their time wrongfully served — even in the 30 states (plus the federal government and District of Columbia) that have laws mandating such compensation. As a result, one-third of exonerees get nothing. Those that do receive compensation – anywhere from $5,000 per year in Wisconsin to $80,000 per year in Texas – must generally suffer through years of litigation or prove “actual” innocence, which might involve showing intentional misconduct by police or prosecutors. After reading this editorial, consider how most exonerees are in immediate need upon release from prison, and contemplate whether these policies are in fact just.

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