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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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The Unlawful Prosecution of U.S. Senator Ted Stevens

That’s the subtitle of a new book, Not Guilty, by Rob Cary, one of the lead defense lawyers in the case. You may remember the garbage prosecution of Ted Stevens from 2008. The case received no shortage of press as it wound its way from indictment to trial to dismissal and, then, to criminal proceedings against the prosecutors who brought it. You Read More

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FBI Acknowledges Rampant Errors in Microscopic Hair Analysis

On Monday, the FBI and the Justice Department announced the first results of a large-scale project called the Microscopic Hair Comparison Analysis Review, and they weren’t good. Here’s how the Washington Post broke the story: “The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in Read More

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Why Innocent People Plead Guilty

Every now and then, people come along who not only say something meaningful about our world but propose something specific to improve it, and who possess the pedigree and gravitas to actually move the needle. We do well to listen to them. So registers this essay by Jed Rakoff, a federal judge from the Southern District of New Read More

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Mother of Five Gets New Trial on Capital Murder Conviction

Have you heard of Hannah Overton? She’s spent the last seven years serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole for the murder of her four-year-old, then-soon-to-be-adopted son. But this September, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which is that state’s supreme court for criminal cases, reversed her conviction and sent it back Read More

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Trombetta-Youngblood and the Problem of Bad Faith

As we noted last week, a court may dismiss your criminal case if the government destroyed or failed to preserve evidence that was potentially favorable to your defense. If you make that argument, however, the court will engage in a two-step analysis, the first step of which will ask how favorable or exculpatory the lost evidence was (or could have been). If the evidence had exculpatory Read More

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The Courage of Our Convictions

Speaking of self-defense cases, here’s a story you don’t hear very often. A retired judge in New York has prompted the courts there to overturn a murder conviction that he believes was a mistake, and here’s the thing: the judge says he’s the one who made the mistake. In 1999, Frank Barbaro presided over the trial of a white man who was accused of shooting a black man outside a movie Read More

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Why We Need Good Lawyers and Investigators on Both Sides

The National Registry of Exonerations is the most comprehensive collection of known exonerations in the country. It was launched in May 2012 as a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. Its first report, which was issued as part of its launch, chronicled 873 known Read More

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How Important are Practices and Procedures in an Imperfect World? This Much.

Stuff happens, right? You can say that again. Last week, two women in New York were released from prison more than eight years after being wrongly convicted of a home-invasion robbery. For an object lesson on all that can go wrong in a criminal case, consider their story. It begins in 2005, when a guy gets shot in a robbery at his home, and Read More

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Police Chiefs Lead Effort to Reduce Wrongful Convictions Through Better Investigative Practices

Last year, the International Association of Chiefs of Police convened a National Summit on Wrongful Convictions, and last week, it issued a report of recommendations that called on police departments nationwide to adopt best practices in their criminal investigations. The report is a joint effort by the IACP, the U.S. Justice Department, and the Innocence Project, and its 30 Read More

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