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When You Walk a Mile in Their Shoes

You may never serve on a jury, but suppose you did. How would you feel—how would any of us feel—if we voted to convict someone innocent? This person knows. In 2009, she voted to convict a 17-year-old boy for murder based on the testimony of one eyewitness. The witness and victim were friends, and they were Read More

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Back to Basics, Again

Speaking of the U.S. Supreme Court, we shouldn’t have to rely on the country’s highest court to decide some questions correctly. But we do. This week, the Court issued a friendly reminder about the presumption of innocence. If you’re convicted of a crime, but your conviction is overturned on appeal, and there won’t be a retrial, the government has to return Read More

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New California Criminal Laws: Part Deux

To conclude our series on new criminal laws, here are two more notable ones. You have more protection against abusive asset forfeiture. This is Senate Bill 443. It amended the Health and Safety Code to curb law enforcement’s ability to take and keep your property without convicting you of a crime. For more background see here. Under Read More

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New California Criminal Laws in 2017

Let’s get right to it. We already covered three of them in prior posts. One was Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana. Another was Proposition 57, which expanded parole eligibility for nonviolent felons and cut back on prosecuting kids as adults. A third was Assembly Bill 1909, which made it a felony for prosecutors to commit Brady violations in bad Read More

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Sex Crimes

If you thought the case from last week was bad, here’s another one that’s worse. This time, the supposed victim hasn’t stepped forward to admit she lied, so the man she accused of child molestation sits in prison, as he has for seventeen years, and the system seems powerless to stop it. What happened? The jury never saw medical records Read More

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California Prosecutor to Pursue Perjury Cases More Aggressively

Speaking of district attorneys’ doing creative things, here’s another one. The district attorney from Lake County, California has created a perjury-investigations unit to prosecute what he views as rampant, unchecked perjury in the courtroom. And he’s not wrong about that. Just ask a divorce lawyer about the vicious lies that people will tell in court when it suits them. It’s Read More

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Prosecutors Form Conviction-Review Units

More and more, district attorneys are creating specialized, dedicated teams of prosecutors to review viable claims of wrongful conviction in their counties. They’re called conviction-review units or conviction-integrity units, and it’s a good thing. They’ve only been around for ten or fifteen years, but the concept is catching on. According to this April 2016 study by the Read More

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Something Wicked This Way Comes

I recently watched the documentary, Making A Murderer, and if you haven’t yet, you should. No, it’s not an indictment of all law enforcement. It’s an object lesson in why we should be deeply skeptical of power and the people who lord it over our lives. And how easy it can be for them to get you, too, especially once they’ve Read More

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The Age of Innocents

Ten times a month. That’s how often an innocent person is freed from prison in our country, according to this 60 Minutes segment that aired Sunday night. And those are just the ones we know about. I suspect the number comes from the National Registry of Exonerations, which recorded 125 exonerations in the year 2014. That year set a new record for Read More

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One Way to the Gallows

To appreciate due process, consider the story of a simple man named George Spencer who was accused, of all things, of impregnating a pig in puritan New England. His story takes place in 1642, and it’s excerpted from the book, The Case of the Piglet’s Paternity: Trials from New Haven Colony, 1639-1663, by Jon C. Blue, a Superior Read More

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