« The Generation Why Podcast

Innocence Work - 372


On this bonus episode, Aaron interviewed Marc M. Howard, a professor at Georgetown University, and Marty Tankleff, a man who was exonerated after a wrongful conviction that sent him to prison for 18 years, about their work re-investigating possible wrongful convictions.





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This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
From wondering you on this episode, of generation. Why I'm welcoming mark howard and marty tank cliff, and I like- for both? We need to introduce yourself so that the audiences clear who you are many of the people? Listen, no who marty is at least some idea but mark. Let's start with you
Sure, sir mark howard, professor government and larger time university founded indirect prisons and justice initiative, which is an organization that works on wrongful convictions, that teachers and provides course inside of prisons in jails and eventually be offering georgetown degrees we also have some re entry programmes for formal incarcerated people. and on the side. I also recently founded a nonprofit called the frederick douglass project for justice, which to bring in tens of thousands of visitors inside prisons and jails to connect, with the tremendous humanity of people that are behind prison walls. Now, thank you mark and marty. Sure hi, my name is we can't live. I was one waken vacated murder of my parents Maybe I was walking causeway promised each year's. Since I've been free I've been able to get my juris doctor degree
the lawyer in new york state, an urgent professor, george town university where mark howard and I co, teach a class which we have nicknamed making exonerate and they also teach a wrongful conviction, class of Torah law school and I work for a law firm in manhattan and I'm proud to have the opportunity. What would mark and speak your audience? I remember when I recorded the episode on your case Marty. The thing that stuck out to me was just how many people came forward and how port unanimously found dead, your wrongfully convicted. So that stuff is unique because, generally speaking, it seems like when people have their conviction tossed it's a whole other thing to be able to say I'm exonerated, and so many don't get that so. The quest becomes when we have people who are wrongfully convicted, but they can't get to that next step of exoneration, it seems like a takes. A village or the nation almost to make
nothing move. And so what do we tell people when they're, just starting out to get involved in this stuff, where, where should they go first, because it seems like we can get the information we know people are wrongfully convicted, but then we don't know how do we help people How can we make a difference? So I could say there is no easy task. I was recently brought into a rope aggravation case from pennsylvania, and one of the women involved I had been involved in some death penalty cases when an execution date was set and she was so gung HO she's like can we do this can reduce? Can we do this? Can we do this? Then? I tried to explain to her. I said wrongful conviction case so much different, because you need to take everything step by step and review. tat, the wrong way or somewhere along the line. You may mrs statutory deadline, you may rushed to get something into court and the court could turn around safe, not enough
so for mobile division case. I think it really is coming up with a strategy and to do that, you need to understand where the case has been before and the direction you want the case to go. and you need to assemble a what I would say that an army or a team of people back to work on different aspects of the case, and that is no easy task mark and I have had the opportunity to work on these cases and in a very fortunate have students, work or less, but will we ve learned that it really does take a village? In my case there was a problem. were two dozen warriors that what on the case If somebody wanted to figure out, where do you start, you really have to back from day one I'm getting a lot of the war for connection cases. We find it really does stand from what wasn't done me about what
wasn't gun is what aspect of the case wasn't investigated. Did the law enforcement or the prosecutors have what weaken claw institutional blinders a focus on one individual and that's all they do. Is they isolate their investigation around that one individual? In a lot of the cases we work on when we start delving into the paper we find out. Oh my god that was five ten other suspects, but there was no pursuit of those suspects so what you really need to do is- and I say that one primary people, and probably the most important person in a post conviction, is finding the right private investigator, because in some of these cases, what you really want to uncover new ever because that really is what we'll get you in the door. Either in a court system war through a a intend,
really bureau or innocence project medea s office, because if you have a new evidence acquired by a private investigator, you can get the lies in bonn on fighting that getting the private investigator first, your lawyer second, and then somebody who does public relations or public advocacy would be. Third. Now both of you teach. You Do co, teach a class about wrongful convictions mark. Can you give kind of an overview of what that entails? sure, so, first up it's an undergraduate class which is something that members of the media when they report on our class get wrong. Even they were always time these are not lost. Tendencies are undergraduates, worry, no twenty, twenty one, twenty years old and basically it's very competitive class to get into. Actually we have almost a hundred applicants, for
Fifteen spaces sum has been allowed, of excitement around the duration campus around it, and we had a re cases. So we're not doing the work ourselves were actually doing. Investigative work, which means were taken. case going back to square one and look into what investigation took place and then trying to see if we find another there. Now we pick cases that we already have a strong sense may have been wrongful convictions. But do an independent investigation and that's what we tasker students were. Were they documentaries that try to me? case for innocence. If that's what we come to believe what we do in almost all cases that respect and we find really just every single time, is that within Even just a few weeks of you know some undergraduates dunes reinvested, in cases that we find a much more complex story.
and ultimately more accurate story than what the police and prosecutors told a trial and that's it. Really disturbing? And so our class managed to get one exoneration already darting dixon, whose exonerated four months after our first class had ended thanks to everyone. but the students had uncovered, we have several more exoneration that we hope are coming with me. Tremendous progress, and we think there is a real chance for exoneration coming soon even in the other cases, some of which have reached at some of which were trying to fine legal representation for our political clients. We found is a shocking level of ineptitude of incompetence and really maliciousness, involve the framing of a person was likely innocent and that's a shake everyone to the core. Their work is not just about the ultimate exoneration and what we to realize that people were
marty and Valentino are ultimately the lucky ones because they actually got out, and there are. Tens of thousands of people in prison who don't you at the chance, and then even when they do get in, make a compelling case for their innocence. It is so hard to overturn the convictions up. But were showing. Is that Criminal justice system is deeply and fundamentally broken and that their good ways in which ordinary, people, students and others. Potentially play a role in helping to correct injustices. I'm not sure who did direct this question to baby. To both of you, but it seems like when I red comments by prosecutors who have six. Fully gotten can actions which have later been overturned. There's this yeah that it really just comes on two. We made an argument that was accepted the jury so we're not wrong and
I wonder how we can connect them from there to the fact that they, or essentially wrong, like how do we bridge that gap, It seems like there's such a disconnect. There, you take an academic standpoint from exonerate standpoint? Absolutely the problem of frost error. ash misconduct, and sometimes it is genuine air in good faith other times is for one conduct unethical behaviour, it it's fun. Mental. It goes into every single wrongful candy. that's been on earth, that's been overturned, but also so many, the others that will never hear about that. Because a couple things one is that. prosecutors have as their innovation as their incentive to win and to win no adversarial system that we have new states is to get a conviction which means there When there is ambiguity, when there is a lack of information,
when there's infirmity that goes in different directions: the incentive is to cut all of the noise out into simply paint a very simple picture. Tat is of guilt of the person whose being charged and There are so many incidents that we find a vertical brady violations when the prosecutors had discovered evans. That actually is, favourable to defend it and they dont turned over even other constitution, constitutionally obligated to do so. the tv. They're, not turning that over which is into wrongful convictions, but then perhaps it a deeper problem, or at least morally even more troubling. Is that there's facing no consequences for their role in wrongful convictions, and so does in some tail and create some fiction battle, into a jury that will We need a jury to convict and that's actually not nearly as hard as you might think. It is certainly not what you see on tv shows
all juries, wind up conducting and following the kind of stature and and office the state attorneys in and prosecutors, and so the motivation is to get a conviction and then what they do is to take their heels in and oppose any type of rain Instigation any uncovering of you know, The suspects or other evidence that they had ultimately, when even despite all of them efforts begets overturning you again exoneration there are- no consequences zero consequences enough. Cases, prosecutors have been disbarred. countless other cases, they simply at that wealth. We did the best way Given the ever to be bad, There are no criminal consequences there. No civil consequences, prosecutors have full immunity and I think that is so outrageous and and leads to a protection
what is essentially immoral and really, I think, should be criminal and criminalized behaviour on the part of prosecutors and not for conviction, is itself what we're to do shine, a light on these points This is that, unfortunately, are routine hopefully at some point he pushed in the direction of consequences, because if there are consequences, Here's wisely undertake does behaviors and make those choices. unfortunately, right now the incentives are entirely towards getting conviction, and then there are no consequences for having a conviction that was actually in correcting wrongful. The marty can talk about it from his own experience. maybe one of the biggest problems with with prosecutors and wrongful convictions and and and I really hate you use- were word wrongful convictions, because someone in these convictions or intentional, when we When we took our warm four, we think a mistake
when you have a prosecutor who intentionally withhold evidence, that's intentional, when you have a police officer who intimidates witnesses that intentional, when you have a police officer who bribes witnesses that intentional and if you think about all the intentional acts that occur in a lot of work, full conviction cases there's nothing waffle about sinister evil as intentional what we find a lot of times? Is that prosecutors? Never question? What did you take over a police officer? Bring them serve? You other data. You bring your prosecutor? I witness and the wind says I was at the crime scene. I sore gin smith, shoot Bobby Jones. The prosecutor doesn't even really question that way.
or the detective, because quite often, they've had a long standing working relationship and I think that's a problem when prosecutors start accepting everything that is brought to them without questioning the accuracy of it. That leads. Wrongful convictions. One of the other problems- and this is something I have in my case- was the lead detective was bringing witnesses into the evidence locker room prior to them. A fine showing them crime scene photos showing a piece of evidence ever to intimidate the witnesses to testify a certain way. At this way, one of egypt, ev intimidated three young girls to justify a certain way, and it wasn't so after I was free that a private to get her spoke to one of the girls who said
We all lie because the cops made us lie and the problem there is because when you start looking back at the facts, there's three girls all said I was at their house on a particular day and looked a particular way. Had the prosecutor done his due diligence to find out the day they were talking about. What actually look like that day? He would realise all three of them were committing perjury and that's when the biggest issues and prosecuting nellie witness is not telling the truth. They actually have an ethical duty to correct their testimony. However, rarely if ever do they do that, because so many of them have failed to recognize that their duties to see justice, none. We convictions, but the problem becomes anything. The media in some ways is motivating factor is when you have a high profile case society. The man
the berries in a rest and a prosecution in conviction. Connection I find is all too often when I ask a group of people, I say if there was a murder in your community on Monday and all a sudden wednesday police say we've arrested. Somebody how many of you are comfortable with neighbour russia. The right person everyone, room raised a hand, and I say what does not for my person and everyone knew him since well, we never thought of that, because the police said they arrested the right person. That's one of the problems. Is we don't kind of ensure that law enforcement is doing the right job arresting the right person, because if you think about how many wrongful conviction cases would have been avoided,
I mean intentionally innocent men and women were wrongfully convicted, and if law enforcement would just have done a proper investigation taking their time and- and I think that's one of the biggest issues- is that there's a rush to judgment. There's a rush to arrest the the rush to prosecute and when there is a russian all these aspects, we ended with two innocent men and women being widely committed serving death is in prison. With no fees or minimums banking with capital. One is the easiest decision in the history of decisions even easier, then deciding to listen to another episode of your favorite podcast, with no We're draft ease, isn't he the decision that banking re imagined, what's in your wallet term supply see capital one dot, com, slash bank capital, one in a member of the icy price line it goes without saying that we're all missing travel right now, but you know we're missing getting more for less with price? Fine, you can see
up to sixty percent on your favorite hotels, and you can also get whose deals on car rentals flights and more when used the more you can do more more wow. This view is incredible. More another round of room service. More sorry, boss, I'm going to extend my view. haitian price. I knows every trip is a big deal so when you're ready to book your next one check out pricing, dot com for the easiest way to get more how an extent vacations gets well said one thing about a case in particular. Marty is when I first heard of it and I I may have said this on the episode, but when you first read about what happened and the two gaiters theory on what happened in who had done meaning you it makes sense, but there Nothing to do with justice, justice requires that there be an investigation that you put the facts together, that you vet the information, so
it doesn't matter where perceptions are there should be. Some sort of responsibility on those that are supposed to bring justice to actually do it the right way and it so often feels like all they have to do is present their case and if they win it, they ve done their job, but this is all The reason is so important because it involves people and I think it is often lost on the public. Who wants someone arrested, someone convicted therapy, involved, and so you know you get sent away for twenty years. We haven't even discuss what happens so somebody gets put away, I mean so many come out with ptsd. Don't they oh without a doubt
this future. They were missing here too, is that when a prosecutor's office convicts the wrong person, they have been part of the victimizing aspect of it, because what they ve done is a semi innocent person to prison. They extended their family and friends to prison. We have allowed the guilty party to remain free in the community to commit additional crimes and victimized other people. That's wife so important when we talk about accountability when a prosecutor and police officers are involved in swimming innocent person to prison, allowing the guilty parties to remain free to victimize other people. There should be some accountability, because there are cases where they've sent an innocent person to prison for
and the real murderer went on to kill someone else. Why should I press your that police officer have some accountability because they put an innocent person The prison which allowed a murderer to kill someone else nothing wrong with that whole picture, because we all return with human lives and would processes and police intentionally do wrong and is known on ability, what's stopping them from doing it again and again and again, just like we saw in the sky, so a cases in brooklyn, Yeah, let me just add to that, because that is so important and- You know Marty and I know several people in that situation, one of them jeff desk of it. Who is we can be spent to sixteen have years in prison. There was leaving dna evidence at the time that excluded him, but there had been a date. Coercive fast confession, out of him after manipulated
Recent disgusting. these interrogation and the jury We believe the fast confession over the dynamic suggests that seventeen years time over and over to get the dna testing match with a database on the code is dead is that has all the people convicted of crimes and when you Finally, do almost two decades later it met someone else, would rate and killed another woman, and to me, those prosecutors who who just relentlessly, and, frankly, I think, knowingly. When after the wrong person, because they wanted their conviction that the other day that blood is on them. That's on their hands that was conduct to think that their acting in representing the state, the people and that's what they do, They they ruined someone's life. In this case, by sending the prison for us all and then
another person dies as a result, and this has happened over and over and over in moscow conviction cases, and I think it is just cannot be stressed enough how this oppose it it's part of a tough on prime reaction, like we ve gotta put some away for this. We gotta make someone justice is about. You know closure. Well, A closure is the wrong closure. You're, actually opening up the possibility of more crime, more victims, and that should be like. together, and I think you should be consequences for that matter one of the things I noticed was when you speak up about it either in an individual case, and you say in this case- and we could say marty's case we can go through and list what the prosecutor dead wrong with the investigators that wrong, but sometimes the risk once you get back from some of the public, is Oh your anti law enforcement, your anti prosecutors- and it couldn't be further from the truth for me,
mean we need those people, we need them, but the thing is is just because your criticism, rising doesn't mean you hate someone, it just means what's been happening is acceptable, and there needs to be a better way. implementing the system, meaning, as we already discussed so far account reality you you want accountability, because it makes things run better if it of a ceo of a company and their decisions have ended up ruining the company stock. Essentially, you don't just hold on them because you like them, you have them, the decision to better they come benny and make it better for the employees and the stockholders etc. and actually many. The prosecutors were involved, particularly profile cases that to wrongful convictions, by the time that exoneration my camera, their judges, they ve been promoted. those cases actually make their careers or just as another element of current discussed. I think to this, but
me. Let me say that I completely agree that I'm not answer prosecutor, another does the amendment I live, for. I think that is a tremendous responsibility as a privilege to be an agent of the state and its one that where's the highest ethical integrity and That's why I'm so negative and critic about those who abuse it most mostar right and I think, his prosecutors are now I'm not trying to in any way I'm subsume prosecutors in all law enforcement? But though Who are involved in plain active in wrongful committee should have consequences, because what they're doing is actually bring down trust and believe and legitimacy of the whole state institution and that's really trouble, and so I think that when I have students who say,
you know they learn in my class ran the class in order that we do not work, which is to go, be a public defender. I tell them, you know it. You can do that and that's great, but why don't you become a prosecutor and be an ethical prosecutor which me pushed back against the press? as for conviction over justice and live up to your ethical duty. When you look at what the ethical duty the prosecutors are, their action beautiful. I completely support agree with them but we need to have our practice- are cut. match the ethical responsibilities and that's where wrongful convictions show how? Often there is a huge gap between the two and that's, what's really trouble when you got a problem here the train by somebody who may have a on ethical backgrounds or condemn. Some wrong doing. In his background. He passes those nose straight on those young prosecutors. Now becomes a problem when you were when you have it, I ask you that has a history What would you can change?
doing dirty, Everyone in the office knows they realise that they have is inherent believe get away with doing dirty. That recently happenings of it no new, where we had a new district attorney He had a new policy about disclosure, brady material and all the sunday was uncovered that an assistant is returning from the prime minister nation had been with holding brainy material high profile case. So I really does have a lot to do with the training of your prosecutors and some I said, for the long is that I think new prosecutor should meet with exonerates to help identify issues that, should be looking for when they get these types of cases. There some aspect other that you raise a red flag marked. Let's say you have a wrongful conviction, but then its overturned
So often and again it's not every prosecutor, but there are prosecutors out there who dig their heels in. Oh yeah almost halted, but why do you feel that we don't have more apologizing, because some do some have, but, what's so difficult lt for someone to say. I'm sorry because forget about your own price but someone went away to prison for five. and twenty years because you convicted them You made the argument and you won, but now their life is impacted. As marty, I said you know, the families are impacted. The societies impacted. Why not just say I'm sorry where is the humanity here where the concern for getting it right, yeah, the great question you know? To be honest, I asked myself that almost every day but d Empirical evidence shows that its stored, narrowly rare when you haven't
I ask you to say: I'm sorry, I messed up it's on me and deeply apologetic Instead, what you have is trust you, trying to pass the buck which, You know, that's it. Incontrovertible that there is no, No doubt anymore, there was wrongful conviction, they'll say no, we didn't know Is that what we saw? We thought it was accurate, don't try to minimize rollin agency they had in pursuing that conviction but then in other cases, they will try to cast down. and ll say well personally exonerated, but we still think he's guilty. We stop thinking We were right now. They'll pick themselves victims, and I think, ultimately comes down to a very basic human response. which is not wanting to say you are wrong and if you think about any person who's married? You as an argument with the spouse. Jefferson
We actually was always the other person's another person and in this case, is not just about something trivial about someone's wife who was was deeply damage no or wasted, or at least significant portion of that life was due to your mistakes, yet somehow people rarely. we'll say I was wrong and I'm sorry, and I think that's a real problem and I think we need to be building into their situation. The prosecutor's office is a mechanism for, four apologizing for recognition forsake, as I think tranquil if did that there would be a much better response from people like us saying. You know what I appreciate the fact you know they screwed up, and maybe they did some things that you know were really wrong, but at least
if owning up to it. That would be a huge step in the right direction, but I see very few of those steps at the market when we first talked. It said that you got into this idea, of justice reform because of marty tank live and yet you ve, And for a long time, can you give us a little over? view of how long you ve no marty in how you became friends yeah. It's really amazing story, because we go back to preschool we ve known each other since we're three years. All we want your views. We'll call lovey Debbie We then went to the same elementary school junior school high school, and I grew up in the same community and so well. Marty's parents were killed on september, seven. Nineteen, the aims of the first day of our senior in high school, today that I'll never forget it today that
was just so shocking to everyone in our community, everyone or student body, and I at the time covering it. I was the editor of a little high school newspaper called the purple para covering the story and even I cheated stern seventeen marty morning, I nine days apart in age, and I was covering the case, and I realize marty didn't do it I don't care what the headline say. What the prosecutors are saying what local media sang from my objective analysis of the case it became obvious that marty's fathers business partner was the person who using involved motive for an opportunity through head every means and and motive. To carry out this crime and so I wrote about it and
you know it- got drowned out, obviously, who reads a little high school newspaper but believed in marty- and then when was convicted. You know that I island I moved on. I've got a coward, we joke now and say no market, yeah marty went to jail and down in my life, but I would always tell people either a friend in prisons and at the time before, the innocents prodded existed before Dna technology had been developed pupils. We re to be honest, little nuts. When I say that because the belief back there is that in our criminal justice system is the greatest in the world, are you happy something of innocence. Yet your beyond reasonable doubt we ve got a jury sister and people thought as little nuts, but then I'll tell them more about the case and they go well. That's crazy for years. I will be telling people Marty and then at one point we be connected. and we started writing letters. I have several shoe box is full of marty's. Letters from prison,
and then I started visiting him and we became very close and Yeah. We then embarked on a journey. We really know at the time were released. But now we're working together, we're in touch jerry. You know me students you're mobilise we ve gotten already one exoneration together, we ve got more coming our lives. become so deeply intertwined, and our friendship has become just so so powerful, an inspirational and so those who would have that it will be deviltry school. This is crazy journey would have gotten underway but you know we're still were so going places and we ve got in a more people that we want to get out and more. laws that we want to change and and opinion overall, that we want to change and really for me It all started with Marty morning his exceptional courage and strengthen gonna. Do it ordeal inspired me to change my life. I went to law school
initially, when marty was still in prison, my goal was to get him out of prison, and then I kept going and got my lot agree in and Marty got his lot agree were both now lawyers members than you are I'm, so our lives are really so. Intertwined and unconnected that it's free, extraordinary anything, add money. there's a lot that it I just want to say is that you know just want to step back for a second talk about prosecutors, and many people think that I despise prosecutors. I despise law enforcement, it's really the farthest thing from the truth. In the spies, the ones were bad and so many good ones. I'm know in the valentino dixon case mark- and I got to me- you know from the district attorney all the way down to the assistant district attorneys that did the investigation and even from them. They were so honour to work on the case and, if it openly,
it's because they said it was one of the most challenging and difficult case. We ever had to work on because they realize an innocent person was in prison and I think when cost you to step back, and hopefully they their their human at life, for the human angle should really thinking and think about. You know before there is a conviction I have to say. Is this the right. Am I doing here s a really revert back to one of my voice. You worked on a case. where young man was accused of killing a four year old boy on figures, easter sunday on his way to charge and the lorries bruce market. And I was what the bridges office during the beginning of a case and bruce said to me
It's like Marty, guys the guys innocent the guy's innocent. I said well, how come the prosecution won't? Listen because I don't know it every time. We come up with a new piece of evidence and we show it to them. The process, just don't want to listen. They finally went to trial bruce made the opening statement in the case and thank god for the judge who was on the case after the opening statement. The judge said to Bruce said you know: have you told the linus? Isn't everything you just said in court today and bruce said you ought to. I I've been trying to tell them two years. They just won't, listen to me and the judge with his great wisdom and integrity said, would you consent to a mistrial if I get you a meeting with the da and hopefully new prosecutors will be assigned after consulting-
this cry. They agree there was a mistrial granted new prosecutors worst sign. Forty five days later, the murder tribes were dismissed against nicholas mars and is free from jail, It was about six or seven years later, the actual murderer was arrested and charged with the murder in sydney. There's there's two aspects that that one. He was a defense lawyer who is persistent, but it was also the judge. in that case- and I think what ended up happening there was. The judge saw that something was wrong and he brought to the attention of the lead prosecutor, not the line assistant, because the lone assistant just stood his ground and refused to listen to what bruce was saying- and I think that's where it's so important too- is that our defense lawyers, I'm number one- are really take a hard stance when they believe their client is innocent and
I also think we need to make sure that our process, our defence lawyers in public defenders of private lawyers on overworked she began issues. As far as marco's arena. We really do joke about from yale to jail, but wasn't for market is a part of me that I wouldn't be where I am today: market although my life, when I was in prison, and he made a commitment that he would go to law school you'd fight to get me out faithfully? before he even went to law school, he was very active working with the defense lawyers. For the you know, the individuals that led the public campaign to free me. He wrote an article spree for a friend of the court brief on behalf of himself, and I think almost sixty of my high school bless me, though he was a boy before he was aware, and
he really just became inspiration to. May I help you I do not want to go to law school in joining in the fight, because you know how many people don't more courage and their life through the work we find it so many the innocent people we work on Ebay, we never had familiar, listen to us. We never had somebody was willing to be our voice, and I think my can I have become the voice for so many voiceless individuals that it really is spiralling. Rewarding work, we do our students who leave our class had said that it was probably the best experience they ve ever had in college and for many Students. It was such an impact on their lives, haven't been able to walk away from the cases, and I think that, just as telltale fine,
mark and I are relationship and what we can do in part on the students that what we're teaching them is more than just re, investigating cases about humanity. It's about understanding who you are as individuals, it's about, proving to them that they can accomplish just about anything. They put their heart and mind to it about overcoming fears that they may have about society or dealing with those people who are incarcerated or pursuing justice. I'm in so many of our students are so inspired by the incarcerated individuals that they walk away. Saying we'll never stop doing this. and I think she also just gives us more motivation to you know, move forward and continue doing this work and expand on what we're doing you know. As Marx said he saw his new not for profit. Ah, and I think the more people
let's see what we're doing the more they want to get involved, because when you see undergraduate students taking a five credit card, as a junior or a senior working twenty to thirty hours outside of class travelling to taxes to rhode island two year to wherever the cases are, I think, comes very inspiring to others to want to do this work and help you had said There was an exoneration already due to the class that you teach and I find this interesting because both of you have your knowledge. You have your experiences and you say that this can have then? But now you ve seen it and action. So could you give audience and overview of that case and how it got overturned. Sure. So valentino dixon spend twenty seven years in prison, most of them in attica,
notorious prison in upstate new york, and he was arrested, and two days later, another person in myanmar scott confessed to the crime lies. On television in tremendous detail. They had already arrested in charge. Balancing addiction The process had a problem which was they had the wrong guy and they knew they had the wrong guy. But what they did is they hold down- and they put mars got away and threatened him with other things in nature. He wouldn't testify and then, They got valentino dixon The valentino had a defense attorney who was representing both made no opening statement called no witnesses and made no closing statement cross, examining witnesses. There were couple witnesses who had certainly lied, and were later shown to have been incentivize until about no knowledge whatsoever and- over the years the same
person Lamar Scott repeating multiple times on camera there at least five incidents that were filmed where He was saying that, dixon did not commit that murder. I did and advancing are still in prison. So we took up that case. There's another side story that problem, probably not beginning to which, which dirty knows an extraordinary artists and he drew golf courses and he became However, many celebrity while in prison drawings. Forces that was picked up. I got digest in gaol channel matter. We first heard about him, so there was that the art and golf connection what our students were test case. They ended up interviewing the original, prosecute and heat retired. He had time at his hands and he gave the students. an interview wish for him turned out to be him, giving a lecture Really kind of trying to show off
students about how much he knew by turns out the stool knew a lot more than he did about the actual case that he had prosecutor and so they started running circles around him, asking him questions he started. Whipping up, you started sweating, getting nervous and then it he slipped up from his script and he admitted the fact that they conducted gunpowder residue testing about he knows hands and clothing and then come back negative and that turns out. I've never been revealed that the defence and that then went to Gardena had a lawyer at the time and that one immediately into his motion some new evidence that they had just discovered about, not turning over the negative gunpowder resident testing, and seven months after the class and advancing a walk out of prison into our arms. We were there with his family. Were there for his first meal, we've been with him, you know many times along the way. We we to him and see him regularly. We've done many events together, we hosted
a georgetown multiple times it has been a bit the story and triumphant valentino such a wonderful person that it again makes you think that that he's been deprived. from society. Societies been deprived of him and his talent for so long. You got it tiger woods. You went to the masters, he met nicholas it you'd make such a great impression on so many people and israel. Become so fishing in the gulf war, all in particular, but morning. I really proud that we set up a curse. With under greater students where they were able to get him out of prison, because otherwise it will still be there at anything with hidden about a little back story to it is that I was working at a low farm that was representing valentino. and while I was in Torah law school, we set up a wrongful conviction. Externship program and bounciness case was one of the case. They were students working on
here's one go anywhere. We condemn any movement american. developing isomorphism is gonna. Come some point in the future. Where I'm going to be able to help you when mark- and I decided to teach the class at Georgetown valentino's case was one of the cases that the students could choose from and we didn't push the case. The students could have picked some other case or you know. Thankfully, the students chose valentina the case and as he said, he said you know he said in one of his interviews. I knew ones georgetown was involved. I was going home. Ah it's one of those great lines where you just see the smile broke up, and the other thing is that the three students who worked on this case will all foreign exchange student, we had a young man from Japan, a young woman from France and a young woman from england, and I think for for each of them to be able to be involved.
You know in a class where you have a direct impact on someone wife at such a young age. I mean you have to think about that. They, valentino, serve more time in prison in male alive on this earth and fur to them to be able to be there the day he walked out of prison has to be, the greatest days of their lives, because you essentially help get his wife back. About. He knows warriors especially said if it was not for the students in the work that they did vow tuna may still be imprisoned Ah, so I I you know, I revert back that you know had mark not gone to law school and fought for me. Had I not sort of the extra shapiro Have we not been workin volcanoes case? No, all these little little coincidences,
You know we may not have been fortunate enough to work on valentino's case and he may not be free right now, but he's phrase doing great were thrilled. For that and we re looked forward to having other cases turner just like that He knows maybe not as quickly as the class then, but were confident that we will achieve more exonerations. Yet we have more coming. I mean we have several that have gone front of conviction, integrity units that have a real chance we have there's that now have legal tools in place that didn't happen before, We were working on a case right now, someone who is on ro for thirty two years and then was exonerated, and then it was reversed on the most You technicality. You could ever imagine, even though is demonstrably innocent and is now back in their throats Any word we're talking rio, insane cases and for people who are in prison wrongfully convicted. There's a there's, a hope,
feeling that they are for much of their incarceration, but when they can with us and specially having you know the anger with knowing that marty's bill he's. Actually been in their shoes. He knows what they're going through. He knows what it's like it gives them the hope and- and joy that someone is fighting for then I mean had someone recently that we were actually did a video call with I've. Who's been present frightened, twenty five years burst into tears. He goes for the first time I feel like someone's fighting for me. It was, incredibly moving and we're getting this over and over. We do about five cases, person after this no third semester doing in doing every spring semester even now covered nineteen and situation. Our students are doing this now resume through video, its strawberry. What they're doing the work is not fit to be, and this really proud of our students,
What were able to accomplish- and we think that you know in summer time we're gonna multiple, more exoneration common, because we really believe That means that we discovered a person's innocence- and we just want to be able to prove it- show the moon. Just mercy came early this year and there was a there was a scene in their wherever Michael Jordan hold the and your hearing and jenny far talks about, but even if he had served the rest of his time in prison, he feels framing the truth. Finally, came out some of the men that we worked on me. feel the same way. They feel that for for so many years the truth has never come out, because we try to stoner students that we know what what what we do very difficult, we're, not the decision makers, sometimes the statutory end.
news are very limited and sometimes getting back into court is virtually impossible. But if our students are able to uncover evidence and created documentary and expose the truth in the case of those men imprison feel a sense of freedom. The sense that the weights been lifted off their chest and obviously they want out of prison. But for so many people they just want the truth out there, and I think our students are coming to realize that the work that they're doing has so much of an impact on those individuals lies the day job. walk away from this type of work. I carefully how MR semester have said the day after this class ends when they grow. You re. They want to get involved in some aspects of the criminal justice system because they realise that these are human being their lives are being imported and they were
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We know there are many many cases out there that even getting looked at. What's your process for bringing a case and even put before the students do have emission process where people submit ideas or cases or are you personally looking for them Do I mean I think, the first time around when this, is brand new. We were looking for cases. and drew marty's network The fines and really good cases, but since that code I'd like to an exoneration I got a lot of media attention. We now are flooded and I mean flooded with letters from prison with emails from family members, desperate for us to look at cases in it's really hard, because we can only take five each year and we now have hundreds We have to go through, so we have a process were for a variety of different things. In cases we bring usually somewhere from attended,
looking forward to our students before each each cohorts class each semester and we the students pick the cases that they want to work, but it's very hard process. It also me we disappoint alot of people who are desperately hoping It will take their case and we can't do enough, and I think that just me, Stu. How fast the number of wrongful convictions, as did the injustice, the suffering of famine this is not just the person to us at the families who have been. Do the time with them, and you know we do the best we can't ever fair, transparent process, but its painful I'm not in a while. You know well, rejoice in the cases we can work out and we come to what these people and their families and really care about them. We also know that there are a lot of people whose cases we can't work on, or at least not in a given year. I'm so,
go process, but you know what we can do with the resources. We have the best way we can- and I think one of the big issues, I can't I, however morgan I hear why can't you guys replicate this programme I welcome. This programme can be taught somewhere else and is one big issue. There is no market morning when our students get become the class may seem more. Can I, They see somebody who was exonerated, which is what they're striving for and you're, seeing somebody who fought for their friend. So they get to see kind of the the whole package in one aspect, every time they come to class and they didn't valley so important that you can't replicate- or you can't replicate somebody who fought for their childhood friend who changed their whole career. Who has the
Akron and mark does a and you can't replicate you know in the average person somebody who was wrongfully incarcerated for eighteen years, who has seen more cases like this and most of the lawyers and and the students get to really experience something different. Every time You know that they may come to class. I beg you to hear real life stories. We brought exonerates to speak of the class. They get to work with some of the countries leading experts, and some said you know: how can we can she just twice a year or if people knew the amount of work that went into one semester, I think they would also understand it can't be done and you have to review one hundred cases and then you have to do follow ups in each one.
Those cases the fun out. Do you have lawyers do, however, the records because for us is one of the most important aspects of taking a case is that we want the individual about their entire court file, the first day of class, the ones they pick a case. They have access to a court transcripts police route words, medical examiner report, and by the second or third week they had a better grasp of the cave and probably their trial. Lawyers dead and I think that's one of the most difficult things that we have to it's. How are people that reach out to us that, if you don't have the case files, it's not a case. We can take right now, because it just takes too long to assemble that I'm going to be thinking about some of these cases, they've been in prison for ten. in twenty thirty years, if you could, gentlemen share links or books that you would recommend that people check out
any listeners who want to learn more about our programme. But our cases, its runs, the prisons injustice initiative at georgetown. We haven't you to channel where we make available all the documentaries that our students have created. we hope there will soon be a documentary and perhaps documentary series it better programmes well and there are a lot of resources about water convictions julius products of course, and if anyone interested more generally, larger issues of criminal justice reform and the problems just as in the united states. She doesn't seventy about unusually cruel prisons punish in the real american exceptionalism is something I'd be happy to recommend me. I think buddy, who wants to really get involved, can find something to do so often. I hear
people say well, I'm just an average citizen we're living in a time were average citizens can help raise money. They re social awareness, they can, if they her other technologically saudi, they can help develop website social media platforms. I think what we have. How is the ability to reach a larger population than ever before? A lot of these won't formulation cases there are witnesses or individuals who possess knowledge, about the case that they may not realise could have some impact. What we tried to strike a blow for commission kayser are like a big puzzle, and sometimes an individual may possess, just one piece of the puzzle. And had no idea that one little piece of the puzzle could fool find another piece, sir: by creating social media platforms or hotline
it, gives those individuals and opportune to come forward and give information, and I can tell you in my case we create a hotline, the? U s number three case there was a hotline and, in addition, The innocence project is the national registry of exonerations that people can go to to get information or obviously you know, Barry Scheck has books about criminal justice and innocence, or there is there's so much literature out there. Ah, but I would say that one of the the best starting points to either going to- let's say this is reading the website, but also understanding that vienna exaggerations are a very small percentage of exoneration that take place nationally and when you think about how many exoneration take place every year, that numbers scare people I think last year the year before
every year about two to three every two to three this is another exaggeration in those numbers should scare you, because you do but how limited number of people a people were doing this work and were able to achieve that Let me just shows us that we need more people to do this work and, unfortunately, for some of them It really does require resources or because, when you think about the time it gets invested into doing the work or it can be on the all consuming or if you ask law firms that have worked on these cases and us and how many billable hours They spent on a case something something to give you the exact number or will say so many that we start he stopped keeping track of them. But I it is the most rewarding work anyone can ever do. There's not a purse
in a lawyer on expert witness that has ever been in love exoneration. Ah, that doesn't say is one of the best ways of their life. Sure children s market other than the birth of his kid emerge to lease and have been, there when I walked out of prison and when valentino walk out of prison, I've gotta be in the top ten in a best moments of his life, I will tell you, there's not a lawyer who will walk away and not want to do this. Ah, but I think for your listeners there is so much that can be done. Don't shy away from wrongful conviction cases while there, challenging when you run from them. There is no success and, I think are under graduate students are able to demonstrate that success can be achieved with the right assemblage of eighteen,
and having passion year, two human beings, you have your own lives, you're working with students lawyer professors. Your plates are pretty full, as is so. Hopefully it will continue to hear of others who are working to free people who have been wrongly convicted. What I mean, if you think about when the products starting in the early nineties. There is one now I think, we're over seventy quota innocence. Projects around the world I wouldn't call what we do: innocents project its innocence work, and there are even reporters like that- sloppy in our moriarty who have taken a proper collection cases, health investigate them and how the two exaggerations and I think,
If we can do what we do to achieve agglomerations, every porters can get involved. I get exaggerations. I think lawyers should also be more open to working with us and our students and having a better understanding that so much of the criminal justice system in some ways is about public opinion and our students really do a great job, educating people, Nobody is trying to pull the wool over anyone. Eyes are stewards, your truth seekers and you know if you further documentaries, they're just presenting facts, and I think that's so important for society understand that these cases it is a human saw to it. What is it true cycle? and you know money, sir, you easy is the individual led. A campaign to freely has consistently said that
the human eyes, those individual incarcerated, some people look at the cases. We don't the most recent alma got. Some news was, we can become murder, you know when we identified down tuna dixon a result you dixon was a on a father. You know a grandson, an artist, an advocate immense amusement somebody you wrongfully convicted of because society. One of my people, unlike other persons in jail for murder. You may not be a connection, so we need to develop a connection with people. what will happen is then what will do is will transcend into having a better understanding of the system. I asked I believe that we need to expose the success story. Alexander Rees. Suing Judges- considering whether to release somebody, they can have a conference that the level of success
prior exonerates is so high that there should be a fear. Surely someone I feel call the movie the sounds a lamp which also read the book but they're talking about how the killer can operate killer operates by not seeing the humanity of the person in front of them and so to work and that we need to work gaps away. We need to be able to see, who they are and find out who they are so that we understand were fighting for human being here? It's not just convicted person? It's not a statistic actually right. and when the hour there, it's amazing about exonerates and I'd put Marty first and foremost among them, because you have to remember: marty was victimized, double we buy, losing his parents and then going to prison for that, just a level of suffering that just unimaginable. But you know many people would think
Someone like Marty and other exonerates would just be angry and bitter and vindictive, and the truth is That's rare. There are few, a handful that we know, but for the most part, their paws and what they want to do is give back and they want to help others and they want to push for criminal justice reform It's not only, I should add about other people wrongfully convicted, because our criminal justice system eats up people. Has insanely long sentences. Far beyond what other countries do, our prison conditions are horrific and there are a lot of you for who have made mistakes who did commit their crimes who have aged out. We have transformed and who want nothing more than to return to society and make a positive contribution- and I should mention that mentioned also- that I've recently started a nonprofit organization called the frederick douglass project for justice and the goal of the signature project of that organization is to bring in many tens of thousands of people from the outside to bring him inside it.
Prisons around the country so that they have an opportunity to me and interact with incarcerated people discover their humanity, because ultimate What All the work I'm doing is about whether its on more for convictions and push four exoneration, but also for prison reform in prison. Education. Is really about getting society, to open up its hearts and to connect with people. Who are incarcerated, to support them and so there's a theirs. deeper, broader humanizing project, that's very closely connected with his work but preposterously human innovation. I can't tell you How often we say that the that that icing on the cake connection for many of our students is when they go into the prisons or and get to visit. client and may recall my clients, even though we're not gonna go representing, then you are one of the students.
I gotta go to rhode, island and me with. you know one of the guys and for them defining moment, you know we, we know we always ass. You know before you to visit them. believe in their innocence. How much do we very thin- and there hasn't been a case yet where, when our students met with the individual imprison the big deal, walk away with this positive feeling, this, the human being and the work of the streets were doing was right. It was just and semi the students got the confront the individual vanessa, anything they wanted and the walked away with the feeling that they were innocent um, which I think for for mark- and I just shows us how important is to create that human connection or because we've said to every individual- don't lie to us? You know our students are really good investor,
matters and they will uncover anything and everything you can think about. Well, you the Mari litmus test, where, when guys used to come up to me, say you know, I'm anything. Can you help me twice circa you wanted the polygraph are you will dna tests- are you willing to do anything else, it's possible to prove your innocence and the guys who went? Yes? Yes, yes, I lay ok, let's talk and enormous, every one of the cases when they ve done the marty limits tat. We get yes, yes, yes added actually just happened recently We had a zoom call with the individual and the students, then the Marty litmus test and the guy in jail said I'll. Take a polygraph test I'll take a dna test, any test you I'm going to do. I will do
I think, as a powerful scheme into our students for them to really walk away. Feeling at this guy will do would ever it's possible to prove their innocence. That's a good amount of trust as well to say I am putting myself in your hands up for me. You know, I said: well, you know, polygraphs really aren't that reliable and you know they're not admissible in this state, and you know I used to be like, but that's not the point. The the point I was looking for is that gut reaction, where the individual is so innocent that he just spouse an innocent, in every aspect of ages. It just spewing out of his body, so I will do what ever I have to do to prove my innocence. There's nothing I won't do when you get this reaction, I mean you know, did you away from a polygraph now tino
Lawyers wishes wrote to the day some of them. I want to take a polygraph and if you give me a positive, the witness if they'd be willing to take one up and oddly enough volunteer, was the only one that took when we passed it and for the the prosecutors up. There was like the icing on the cake, if you have any final thoughts, I'd like to hear them our what lenore go first, just think. It's important fur listeners to understand that this is not an ice. A marginal issue that this goes to the core of the american chrome justice system. This goes too big a core of a man. Can society in culture and that we give uncovered deep and broad fundamental. problem that we desperately need to fix and I hope that people feel compelled to action to support organization that do take action and related spreading. The word about ingest
this that takes place every single day in america because until gets fixed we'll never live up to the ideals that are written out. in our founding documents in and other aspects of the american creed. So many innocent people or convicted basin, intentional acts, and that's where we need to change the system to educate people about those intentional acts, and they think once we understand those intentional acts, we can correct assistant or one of the things that I think should happen nationally is, every time we identify wrongful conviction
the operation has taken place. We undertake a sentinel review on kind of like when somebody dies in hospital and everybody gets together. We find out what went wrong. How did it happen? I think if we do that in these cases we will correct the entire criminal justice I recently spoke to somebody and they said they didn't want to focus on wrongful conviction, because it really doesn't affect the front end of the criminal justice system. I said you are so far gone and wrong in that they said, if you think about somebody was convicted at trial or their appeals lost him incarcerated for twenty years. If we understand what went wrong from day, one okay, it's something that we can look at
How do we fix that in the system as it exists today, and I think that is one of the biggest things and mark does that we help to identify the criminal justice system and various aspects that we can change and when we wouldn't when exoneration takes place, We need to expose each and every one of those problems that led to that innocent person being in prison for all those decade or because, if you think about what happens, if it's just a destructive process on so many levels, because where was the guilty party for twenty years? What if they were? You know committing crimes for twenty years, and all this, The prosecutor's office realised that that individual was responsible for a crime for males was imprisoned for at times we know that they become an agent of the state, because we didn't want to export
I mean I remember a few years ago there was a wrongful conviction in new york state. and the federal government was investigating a drug gang and during a debriefing in the federal case, the individual said: hey, there's an innocent guys in prison. We committed those crimes you think about. How did that not happen, then? Had the prosecutors not turn the information over yet how long would the innocent people still remain? In prison, so I think we need a better job of really investigating identifying shoes, retraining of steam, federal prosecutors and really, if you're, on a re education process nationally, nothing here is a pleasure to speak with a view, and I know so many out their due care. They'd like to get
bald in some way, even if it's just raising awareness so is good to hear that every little bit helps us greatly. with your own thanks ravenous, thank you and I just want to say that it really does help mean will we know we recently had an exonerate sweetwater class through a reporter, and he was just so thankful that, under graduate students were doing this work because you know when you're in and you just languishing in prison and you feel no one is out there listening you fighting for you. It's just becomes a downward spiral, when you have someone out there, whether the student, a family member of, friend a lawyer that fighting for you and helping to expose what happened to you
It gives you the will and desire to move forward or continue fighting every day, because so many innocent people in prison don't know how to fight and if you think about it, there's so many so many people in the us. I don't know how to fight. They don't even know who to turn to, and I think one of the biggest points that can make for your listeners is don't stop or be persistent. Keep writing people keep emailing people Texting people keep sending messages on social media in others it there's a guy. Who does this motivational speaking, when people come up and say you I'm trying to get this company interested
his answer is well, you know how many messages have you sent goes twenty and it goes how many wouldn't between like twenty each day and they go down TWAIN the last month because there's your problem, ok, I wrote over fifty thousand letters to people in prison, if you only outside you, wanna get people involved, be persistent, be hidden, but that continues to write to somebody and you know when you want to write to somebody. Also want to be so I won't be a key member. I think fruit for all of us when we were doing this work when we get a lawyer or family members, please help
I want to help you. I want to work with you. I have a case files. It just inspires us to say what else is there anything each one of your listeners to do that and so many different ways
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Transcript generated on 2022-07-09.