A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Innocence Project

The Guilty Prosecutor

By Halina Schiffman-Shilo

It was the 1960s in America. The nation was undergoing a deep, almost existential crisis, and change was in the air. LBJ took the helm after President Kennedy was assassinated and declared a “War on Poverty,” overhauling oppressive and racist civil rights, voting rights, and education laws. The Freedom Rides commanded national attention and challenged the Southern status quo, the Black Panthers were gaining traction (as was COINTELPRO, courtesy of the FBI), and race riots after Dr. King’s assassination almost burned Washington DC to the ground. Anti-Vietnam War protesters filled the nation’s college campuses, and John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” became their call to arms.

Onward we marched.

By the 1970s, Americans started demanding government accountability. We were shocked and angered by the Kent State shooting, in which four peaceful, Vietnam-protesting college students were murdered by the Ohio National Guard, and betrayed by President Nixon during the Watergate scandal. In New York City, the Knapp Commission was established to investigate charges of deep-seated corruption in the NYPD.  And corruption, it did find. Bribes, shake-downs, and cover-ups, corruption was endemic to the fabric of the New York City police force.

Yet, as the New York Times’ obituary of Detective David Durk, who, along with fellow Officer Frank Serpico, blew the whistle on the systemic corruption in the NYPD in the1960s, noted, while “dozens of officers were prosecuted…no senior police or city officials were charged”, even though the Commission found that higher-level officials did not act when they should have. (Read here for a scathing review of what the Knapp Commission failed to do).

Wait, senior city officials slow to respond to, or even refusing to investigate, allegations of corruption or abuse?

This sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

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The Death of Troy Davis

troy davis

By Ryan Morrison

At 11:08 p.m. September 21, Troy Davis was given three lethal injections that ended his life.  He was put to death for the murder of police officer Mark Allen MacPhail. Before his eyes shut for the last time, Mr. Davis begged Mr. MacPhail’s family to continue looking into this case. He proclaimed his innocence, as he had countless times over the past 22 years, and asked god to forgive the men about to put him to death.

As of January 1, 2011 there were 3,251 inmates on death row nationwide. It would be a safe bet to assume that when asked, most of these inmates would proclaim their innocence, just the same as Mr. Davis did. Why then, did so many feel so strongly about Troy Davis and his fate?

The media reported that the prosecution had, at best, a flimsy case and that many key witnesses had recanted their testimonies, as well as how former President Jimmy Carter, along with 51 senators, requested the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles to pardon Mr. Davis. We were also told about the case making its way in and out of our Supreme Court.  But this is where things got murky. There was little explanation of how the end result was reached from a legal standpoint. Allow LASIS to explain.   (more…)

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