Texas forced, once again, to release an innocent man from death row


Manuel Velez – a free man

A building worker from Texas, who was sentenced to death for a murder he did not commit, was released on Wednesday after spending nine years in prison, four of them on death row.

Manuel Velez, 49, emerged from Huntsville prison a free man at 11.32pm CT. He was arrested in 2005, and sentenced to death three years later, for killing a one-year-old who was partially in his care.

But over the years the conviction unravelled. Tests on the victim’s brain showed that Velez could not have caused the child’s head injuries. Further evidence revealed that the defendant, who is intellectually disabled, had suffered from woeful legal representation at trial, and that the prosecutor had acted improperly to sway the jury against him.

Golly – there’s a surprise.

Brian Stull, a senior staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union who has represented Velez since 2009, said that “an innocent man went to death row because the entire system failed him. The defence counsel who are meant to defend him let him down, the prosecutor who is meant to secure justice committed misconduct, and even the judge made errors that were recognised on appeal…”

…When lawyers with the private firms Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, and Lewis, Roca, Rothgerber took up Velez’s case after he was put on death row, they were astonished by what they found. They discovered that expert opinion had been given in 2006 – fully two years before the trial – that destroyed the state’s case against him.

A neuropathologist had examined Angel’s body and recorded blood on the brain caused by a haematoma that was “well developed”. Crucially, the brain injury was at least two weeks old and was almost certainly inflicted between 18 and 36 days before Angel died.

The timing was critical, as Velez was not in contact with Angel until he moved into the Moreno home on 14 October, 17 days before the boy died. In fact, within the 18- and 36-day period specified by the neuropathologist, Angel was some 1,000 miles away in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was on a building job.

This key detail went unnoticed by Velez’s original defence lawyers who made nothing of it at trial, even though it had been prominently incorporated into the official autopsy report on Angel Moreno. The neuropathologist who made the finding was similarly never called as a witness…

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Man walks free of death row after 26 years in Louisiana pen


Glenn Ford – a long time ago

A man who spent nearly 26 years on death row in Louisiana walked free Tuesday, hours after a judge approved the state’s motion to vacate the man’s murder conviction in the 1983 killing of a jeweler.

Glenn Ford, 64, had been on death row since August 1988 in connection with the death of 56-year-old Isadore Rozeman, a Shreveport jeweler and watchmaker for whom Ford had done occasional yard work. Convicted of first-degree murder by an all-white jury, Ford, who is African-American, had always denied killing Rozeman.

Ford walked out the maximum security prison at Angola on Tuesday afternoon, said Pam Laborde, a spokeswoman for Louisiana’s Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Asked about his release, Ford told WAFB-TV, “It feels good; my mind is going in all kind of directions. It feels good.”

Ford told the outlet he harbors some resentment at being wrongly jailed: “Yeah, cause I’ve been locked up almost 30 years for something I didn’t do…I can’t go back and do anything I should have been doing when I was 35, 38, 40, stuff like that,” he added…

Gary Clements, one of Ford’s lawyers, told Al Jazeera that the new information was a confession from another suspect in Rozeman’s murder.

“We are very pleased to see Glenn Ford finally exonerated, and we are particularly grateful that the prosecution and the court moved ahead so decisively to set Mr. Ford free,” read a statement from Clements and Aaron Novod, another attorney for Ford from the Capital Post Conviction Project of Louisiana.

They said Ford’s trial had been “profoundly compromised by inexperienced counsel and by the unconstitutional suppression of evidence, including information from an informant.” They also cited what they said was a suppressed police report related to the time of the crime and evidence involving the murder weapon.

I hope Mr. Ford lives long enough to sue the crap out of the state of Louisiana. They’ve been caught in corrupt and crooked incarceration enough times that they actually passed a law limiting compensation to innocent prisoners after their release to $25K for each year wrongfully imprisoned.

Anyone think that the Sportsman’s Paradise will do anything about the sleazy coppers and prosecutors who railroaded Glenn Ford into prison?

I don’t think so, either.

Death Row appeal lost in the mail. Alabama says, “So what!”

The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear an appeal from a death row inmate who faces execution after a mailroom mix-up at one of the nation’s most prominent law firms.

Lawyers at the firm, Sullivan & Cromwell, had agreed to represent Cory R. Maples, a death row inmate in Alabama, without charge. When an Alabama court sent two copies of a ruling in Mr. Maples’s case to the firm in New York, its mailroom sent them back unopened and stamped “Return to Sender.”

Two associates handling Mr. Maples’s case had indeed left the firm, but it appears that no one told the court or the mailroom that new lawyers there had taken over. A court clerk in Alabama put the returned envelopes into the court file and did nothing more…

In urging the court not to hear the case, Troy King, Alabama’s attorney general, wrote that Mr. Maples had been represented by “a team of attorneys from a multimillion-dollar law firm” who should know that rules are rules.

“Filing deadlines apply to death row inmates,” Mr. King wrote. “Countless attorneys have missed filing deadlines over the years, and state and federal courts routinely dismissed their client’s tardy appeal as a consequence. This case is no different, and it presents nothing new or nationally compelling.”

Mr. Garre responded that the case, Maples v. Thomas, No. 10-63, was hardly routine. Among other things, he said, “the state contributed to the missed deadline” and “a man’s life is at stake.”

The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal. Which surprises me as much as the cold heart of the Alabama Attorney General doesn’t.

Adjusting to life after death row

John Thompson spent 14 years on death row for crimes he did not commit.

Convicted of killing New Orleans hotel executive Ray Liuzza, and for a carjacking weeks later, he was preparing to be sent to his death at the notorious Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana – the largest maximum security prison in the United States.

After six execution dates, John had exhausted all his appeals. His seventh date – 22 May 1999 – was to be his last.

In one final twist, a new investigator uncovered some previously lost evidence. After a retrial, John was freed in 2003.

It was the start of another struggle – surviving in the outside world. It was a struggle which has led John to found a new charity helping former death row inmates: Resurrection After Exoneration.

He told BBC World Service’s Outlook programme his story.

“I was glad to be coming home. I was overwhelmed with the thought of me having my freedom, but at the same time I was scared to death because I didn’t know what I was coming in to. I didn’t know where I was going.

“I only had a mother. My two sons had grown. I was coming into a world where I had no future – I didn’t know what to expect.”

Yet, unusually for a death row inmate, John was surrounded by people willing to help him get his life back on track.

The article is a nice read. It starts a decade ago and that can seem like short time for someone who’s been on Death Row.

I go on sometimes about good cops and bad cops, criminals and guys finally cleared by science, proven not to be criminals. The experience of doing hard time changes you – regardless.

It says something extra about a system of jurisprudence that you have the context for an organization dedicated to those who have been exonerated from wrongful conviction. And, oh yeah, there ain’t nothing makes up for time in Sugarland – the Louisiana state prison in Angola.