A Letter

March 29, 2011

The Honorable Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General of the United States
United States Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001

James M. Reams, Esq.
President of the National District Attorneys Association
Rockingham County Attorney’s Office
Rockingham County Superior Courthouse,
10 Rte. 125
Brentwood, N.H. 03833

Roy Cooper
President of the National Association of Attorneys General
2030 M Street NW, 8th Floor
Washington, D.C. 20036

Dear Sirs,

Today the U.S. Supreme Court in Connick v. Thompson took away most of the only remaining means those of us who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime had for holding prosecutors liable for their misconduct. Although all other professionals, from doctors to airline pilots to clergy, can be held liable for their misconduct, the Supreme Court has effectively given prosecutors complete immunity for their actions. We, the undersigned and our families, have suffered profound harm at the hands of careless, overzealous and unethical prosecutors. Unfortunately, today’s ruling only threatens to further embolden those prosecutors who are willing to abandon their responsibility to seek justice in their zeal to win convictions.

Now that the wrongfully convicted have virtually no meaningful access to the courts to hold prosecutors liable for their misdeeds, we demand to know what you intend to do to put a check on the otherwise unchecked and enormous power that prosecutors wield over the justice system.

Former United States Attorney General and Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson once said, “The prosecutor has more power over life, liberty, and reputation than any other person in America.” Unfortunately recent reports have shown that prosecutors are abusing this power at alarming rates and are facing no consequences for their actions. According to Preventable Error: A Report on Prosecutorial Misconduct in California 1997-2009, prosecutors were guilty of misconduct 707 times from 1997 to 2009, yet were disciplined only seven times. A USA Today investigation by Brad Heath and Kevin McCoy that was published on Sept. 23, 2010, documented 201 instances where federal prosecutors violated laws or ethics rules since 1997 and noted that only one of those prosecutors was suspended from practicing law—and that was only for one year.

In many of our wrongful conviction cases prosecutorial misconduct was found but later declared “harmless” by the courts. Nothing could be further from the truth. In our cases, each act had profoundly harmful effects on our lives. Together we represent hundreds of years in prison, separated from our wives, husbands, children, parents, brothers, sisters, grandparents and other loved ones, who suffered their own shame and wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on lawyers and spent countless sleepless nights worrying about our well being. The misconduct contributed to nearly unbearable depression and unhappiness, loss of jobs and career opportunities, the derailing of educations and forever destroyed hopes and dreams. Each of us has worked long and hard to repair what has happened to us, but we will never regain the lives we had before we were wrongfully convicted at the hands of careless or deceitful prosecutors.

According to the friend-of-the-court briefs submitted in recent Supreme Court cases dealing with prosecutorial misconduct the National District Attorneys Association, the National Association of Assistant United States Attorney’s Attorney Generals and the Solicitor General claim that there are already plenty of systems in place to cure the problems of misconduct, including: internal disciplinary systems, state bar disciplinary systems, monitoring by the courts and, in extreme cases, criminal prosecution. These systems didn’t do a thing to prevent prosecutorial misconduct in our cases. As far as we can tell, none of these systems were brought to bear on the prosecutors in our cases. Our sense is that they do nothing at all.

We demand to know what you are doing to stop these abuses. What has happened to the prosecutors whose knowing acts contributed to our suffering? What have you done to make them understand that they cannot do it again? How have the systems been fixed to prevent future misconduct and errors? What makes you think these solutions have worked when so many people continue to be wrongfully convicted?

The power to charge and prosecute someone with a crime comes with grave responsibility. Now that the Supreme Court has said that prosecutors cannot be held civilly liable for their actions, it’s up to you to make sure that prosecutors take that responsibility as seriously as the job demands. As you consider the significance of today’s decision, please know that those of us who have been the victims of prosecutorial misconduct are eager to hear what you intend to do to ensure that others don’t suffer injustice as we have.

Sincerely,

Kennedy Brewer
Noxubee County, MS

Roy Brown
Cayuga County, NY

Darryl Burton
Saint Louis, MO

Kirk Bloodsworth
Baltimore County, MD

Algie Crivens
Cook County, IL

Clarence Elkins
Summit County, OH

Michael Evans
Cook County, IL

Dennis Fritz
Pontotoc County, OK

James Giles
Dallas County, TX

Bruce Godschalk
Montgomery County, PA

Thomas Goldstein
Los Angeles County, CA

Michael Green
Cuyahoga County, OH

Lesly Jean
Onslow County, NC

Joshua Kezer
Cole County, MO

Ray Krone
Maricopa County, AZ

Curtis McCarty
Oklahoma County, OK

Gene and Elizabeth Sodersten,
parents on behalf of Mark Sodersten,
who died in prison
Tulare County, CA

John Thompson
Orleans Parrish, LA

Keith Turner
Dallas County, TX

from The Innocence Project’s March 29, 2016 report:
Prosecutorial Oversight: A National Dialogue in the Wake of Connick v. Thompson

Bennett Death Sentence Overturned

A Judge Overturned a Death Sentence Because the Prosecutor Compared a Black Defendant to King Kong

A federal trial judge in South Carolina last week overturned the death sentence of a man convicted of stabbing his victim more than 70 times with a screwdriver. The sentencing phase of the trial of Johnny O’Landis Bennett was so infected by racial animus by the prosecutor and a juror, U.S. District Judge Richard Mark Gergel concluded, that Bennett was deprived of his constitutional right to due process.
Continue reading: The Marshall Project

Freed from death row, Anthony Graves uses compensation to help other inmates

NM_ANTHONYGRAVES_600x411. . . From the moment Graves was exonerated in 2010, he set out to reform the criminal justice system that stole 18 years of his life. He was determined to help others who have suffered under a regime he believes is fundamentally flawed.

In the last two years, Graves has invested more than $150,000 – part of the money the state paid him to compensate for the years he spent wrongly imprisoned – to launch the Anthony Graves Foundation. The still budding nonprofit is dedicated to freeing other innocent inmates and providing health care to recently released prisoners with medical problems and no means to pay for treatment.                            Read the article at the Dallas Morning News

11th Circuit Solicitor Won’t Run Again

According to the State, Donnie Myers, the prosecutor who regularly used racist language in his attempts to obtain death sentences (for example comparing a defendant to King Kong) will not run for the position of 11th Circuit Solicitor again.
Please note that links to articles are provided as information only and do not imply an endorsement by SCADP of either the article or its title. The State

One Man’s Haunting Look at PTSD and His Brother’s Execution

The Oscar-nominated short ‘Last Day of Freedom’ traces the troubled life of a black veteran.

The debate about the lack of diversity among Oscar nominees has mostly focused on the big, celebrity-driven categories. But scroll down the list and you’ll find “Last Day of Freedom,” a short animated documentary, made by two women, that explores race, war trauma, and the death penalty. The film, which is available on Netflix, follows the story of Manuel Babbitt, a black veteran of the Marines who served in Vietnam. A decade after his return, Babbitt murdered 78-year-old Leah Schendel during a break-in. His lawyers later claimed he was having a flashback.  Read more: The Marshall Project

If you have a netflix logon, you can watch the short here.

Senate Panel to Consider Lethal Injection Secrecy Bill

A bill that would veil lethal injections in secrecy has risen from the dead.

The proposed law, sponsored by 4 Republican senators, would protect the identities of companies that sell lethal injection drugs to the state Department of Corrections, and exempt those purchases from state procurement laws and pharmacy board regulation. It would also protect the identities of the execution team, and of any pharmacists involved in mixing lethal injection drugs.  Read more: Free Times

The bill mentioned in the article is S 553, and there is a companion bill in the House, H 3853, which will speed up the process and make it more likely that a bill becomes law.

This week neither the Senate, nor the House appears to have meetings scheduled for the bills, but meetings can be added any time and bills can be added to already scheduled meetings. Please check back; we will post new information as soon as we receive it.

The Harrowing Testimonies of Death Penalty Executioners

. . . “I know for a fact that I watched four innocent men being killed by the state of Texas, and many more men die who should never have been sent to the chamber… Of the innocent men, Carlos DeLuna was the hardest for me because I knew he had done nothing wrong. What was striking about him and the other innocent men was that they were the most peaceful at the point of their deaths.”
Read the article: attn:     (We are also saving it on this site; look under the Stories link.)