Thursday, December 31, 2009

7 inmates in west Fla. jail have swine flu


The Associated Press

Published: Friday, July 31, 2009 at 12:59 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 31, 2009 at 1:04 p.m.

CLEARWATER, Fla. — Seven inmates have tested positive for the swine flu at a west Florida jail.

Pinellas County jail officials say they got the positive test results Thursday.

The seven who tested positive were among 32 inmates who had flu-like symptoms and were isolated from the general population at one time or another.

Nonessential activities and movement among pods at the jail in Clearwater were canceled as of Wednesday.

Staff members in housing areas are wearing masks and gloves as a precaution.

Earlier this week, 3 Collier County jail inmates were tested positive for swine flu. Four others were treated with flu-like symptoms.

Florida Jail Fires Officer for Being KKK Member

Thursday, December 31, 2009

GAINESVILLE, Florida — A county jailer in Florida has been fired after telling investigators he was an officer of the Ku Klux Klan.

An internal affairs report by the Alachua County Sheriff's Office says Detention Officer Wayne Kerschner defended the KKK as a faith-based organization.

Kerschner told investigators that he blogged on a KKK Web site, attended a rally in Tennesseeand paid dues to the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. He said his wife was also a member.

Kerschner was fired Wednesday for violating a department ban on subversive or terrorist organizations. The KKK promotes the interests of white Americans, often with violence and intimidation.

He had worked four years at the jail in Gainesville. A phone number for Kerschner could not be found Thursday.

The investigation started after a tip from a sheriff's deputy working on an FBI investigation.

William Dillon TV special airs today

FLORIDA TODAY

“Lifetime Lost: William Dillon’s 27-Year Fight for Freedom” airs at 7 p.m. today on WBCC-TV, BrightHouse Channel 5, or DirecTV channel 68.

FLORIDA TODAY spent the past year with the Brevard County man and others to produce the 45-minute documentary detailing his wrongful incarceration and release.

Dillon talks about how he came to spend almost three decades in prison, and his life there and since.

The program will air at additional times in January.

A special report appeared Dec. 27-28 in the newspaper and is available online, with the documentary, at www.floridatoday.com/dillon.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A lifetime lost: William Dillon's 27-year fight for freedom


BY JOHN A. TORRES
FLORIDA TODAY


Eight months away from his 50th birthday, William Dillon took a deep breath, a free man for the first time since he was 21.

Outside the Brevard County Detention Center, he saw his mother and adopted father, brothers and sister. They hugged and pushed forward nieces and nephews he had never met. He shook hands with other strangers.

Then he saw Wilton Dedge, who also spent more than two decades in prison before DNA testing overturned his conviction.

They embraced, kindred spirits brought together by the nightmare of wrongful incarceration and the elation of freedom because of advances in technology.

"Now I know this is magical," Dillon said on Nov. 14, 2008, the day of his release and less than a month before prosecutors dropped all charges against him in the 1981 beating death of James Dvorak at Canova Beach.

Dillon rehearsed that moment of freedom many times in his head, he said later, after agreeing to work with FLORIDA TODAY on this special report and a video documentary about his experience during and after his time in prison.

He said the lightning-quick reality of release was almost too much.

"I don't think anyone can imagine coming out of prison after 27 years and seeing freedom," he said. "It's like having a death sentence of cancer and God just healing you right in that moment.

"It's got to be the same thing. In reality, I was dead, and he brought me right back to life."

That day, Dillon held on to family for support as he walked toward freedom. A barricade of television cameras and microphones, photographers and reporters stopped him.

They asked about bitterness and animosity over the life sentence he received after his conviction in Dvorak's death -- a conviction set aside by DNA evidence that showed he had no connection to a shirt prosecutors said was worn by the killer.

"I settled that anger in my heart about 12 years ago. God settled it in me," he said slowly. "If I didn't make that choice, I don't think I would be here right now.

"And this is something that I thought about and dreamed about for years and years and years."

Horrors begin

On March 18, 1982, Dillon stepped from a van and looked out on "The Rock," Florida's oldest state prison. He said his heart was full of hate as he began his sentence for Dvorak's death.

He ignored a lieutenant who encouraged him to first go into protective custody.

"They are not right in there," the officer warned Dillon about inmates in the "general population." "They are animals, and they will eat you alive."

The other seven prisoners transported with Dillon accepted the offer, but he was led to his permanent cell.

He described "madness" all around -- yells and taunts, foul odors. No one seemed to be in charge, and he was afraid.

Moments later, five men barged into Dillon's cell. Three held him down, while two beat and raped him.

"I tried to battle as best as I could, but really, it was a no-win situation for me," Dillon said.

A prison guard found him bleeding from the face and buttocks. Other guards were called in.

"What happened? Who did this to you?" they asked him.

"I don't know who. I don't know why," he answered, believing his silence would make him safer.

In that moment, Dillon said, he lost who he was and became someone else.

"I'm falling deeper into a mental state, so now my life value, I feel, is worthless," he said of how he felt that day. "I want to go to sleep, and I don't want to wake up."

The lieutenant came into the cell and shook his head, Dillon recounted. "I told you so," the man said.

Reality sets in

The rapes and torments continued. On Christmas Day 1982, Dillon said, he started to feel the full weight of his despair.

"That Christmas right there was . . . the one that told me that I would never be able to share anything again with my family," he recalled. "No emotion, no family hugs, no Christmas, no celebrations, no cheer."

Visits from family eventually slowed down. When they did visit or talk on the phone, Dillon could see the questions in their eyes and hear it in their voices.

"Maybe you did it, but you didn't know it," they said. "Maybe you were drunk or on drugs."

Dillon first drew attention from investigators when police found him smoking marijuana in his brother's car near the murder scene at Canova Beach. It was only a few days after Dvorak's body was found.

"I never did anything in my life that I didn't know I did," he told his family, trying to understand how his wild lifestyle had left the door open for their hesitation. "I was going to bars and partying. I was having a good time."

Dillon had graduated from high school in North Dakota before moving to Florida. He served in the Army, then worked on and off in construction.

"It wasn't the kind of lifestyle my parents wanted for me," he said.

When Dillon was transferred to other prisons, he carried the reputation of a rape victim who would not report attacks.

He was filled with rage but said he held on to "secret hope" that sustained him through the years: "When you go to sleep at night, you hope that something will happen in your case and that tomorrow will bring some paperwork that says we made a mistake or that the judge is going to retry you or the lawyer is working on newly discovered evidence.

"Or the fact that whoever actually did the crime will confess to it. That seems almost laughable in a sense, but you'd be surprised how strong that is within you."

The life sentence

Over the years, Dillon worked a variety of prison jobs. The tiny paychecks -- he made 15 cents an hour -- or a letter from home gave him rare moments of happiness.

Slowly, he realized that his adopted father, Joe Dillon -- his dad since the age of 1 -- was the only person writing to encourage him. Joe also was depositing small sums of money in his prison account for him to buy snacks, sodas and cigarettes.

"He began to show me more and more the compassion of a man who was trying to love his son," said Dillon, adding that he started to feel shame for never loving Joe the way he could have. For causing trouble and making life harder for the man who would not give up on him.

Joe said his mission was to keep his son's spirits from falling too low. In addition to money and letters, there were periodic phone calls from Joe and Dillon's mother, Amy.

"We'd try to have a little bit of happiness in the conversations on the telephone, something good instead of just something bad whenever we spoke to him," Joe said. "I knew he should have been a free man."

Time stands still

During Dillon's second decade in Florida prisons, he started picking fights, thinking fury was key to his survival.

"I was on a one-way ticket to straight anger and frustration and trying to make them kill me," Dillon said. "I never said it out loud, but I wanted them to kill me."

The rage subsided whenever his younger brother, also named Joe, visited.

"Joe used to come and see me, and I just enjoyed the love and the talks and the camaraderie," Dillon said. "I enjoyed it. But I saw the blossom in my brother that made me want to look and see what it was."

After a visit by the "praise and worship band" from Joe's church, Dillon said he started to believe there might be another path besides anger. He started asking Joe to explain certain Scriptures. He started to feel a sense of peace.

"One day, I was sitting in my cell, and the shadows had come down on the room," he recalled. "I started to hear something start saying it was time. I was sitting there and was amazed.

"I couldn't understand it. Was it in my head? From that moment on, I started going to church, and I started to listen to what was being said. I began to comprehend the act of faith. I let faith seep into me. I let belief seep into me.

"And with belief and faith there together, God freed me."

Last chance

It was summer 2006 when details of the Dedge case started to reach Dillon, then serving his 25th year. It was more than two years after Dedge, also from Brevard, was cleared of rape through DNA testing and released after 22 years in prison.

Dillon said he grew excited as he learned of similarities to his case: testimony from the same expert witness who later was discredited, the use of a jailhouse informant and unreliable witnesses.

Dillon wrote letters to law school professors seeking help, as well as to the Innocence Project in New York. He wasn't certain there was evidence left from his case that could be tested for DNA.

"Professor, please excuse me for my rude interruption into your life," one letter began. "My name is William Dillon, and I have been imprisoned since 1981 for a crime I had nothing at all to do with. . . . I need someone to take an interest in this case. I'm not wasting your time."

He got no response.

Facing a statutory time limit to file a motion for DNA testing, Dillon wrote his own motion, with the help of other inmates and the prison library.

"I prayed that God would show me how to file the motion," he said. It took him seven days to compose.

On June 6, 2006, Dillon mailed it to the Brevard County Clerk of the Court.

Unbelievable news

Dillon was shocked in October 2006 when a Brevard circuit judge ordered the state to respond to his petition for DNA testing of evidence.

The same prosecutor's office that sent him to prison called the motion "frivolous" and vowed to fight.

Dillon was taken to Brevard for a hearing.

"I don't even know that there is any evidence," Dillon said. "I'm just filing this motion, hoping that there is."

Assistant Public Defender Mike Pirolo was assigned to the case. Pirolo soon learned that the Innocence Project -- a national litigation and public policy organization that, according to its Web site, is "dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system" -- wanted to help.

The Innocence Project had been instrumental in the exoneration of Dedge.

Pirolo said he knows many of his clients are guilty. But he felt different after meeting Dillon.

"It didn't feel like (Dillon) was trying to make things up," said Pirolo, who was only 2-years-old when Dillon was first arrested. "It was just one of those rare occasions when I just looked at a guy and instantly said, 'I believe him,' right from Day 1."

Penning a song

Months of waiting and hearings followed.

Music had become Dillon's escape. He taught himself to play the guitar, getting pointers from other inmates.

In June 2008, he wrote a song to capture what he'd been through. It is an angry yet soulful country ballad; he strums and sings in a smooth, sorrowful voice:

Black robes and lawyers, justice served it will be done.

Black robes and lawyers, Lady Justice lost her one.

I was taken by the lords of justice, cast away as a stone.

Left to rot in their dungeons for the murder of a man I don't know.

You committed a crime, you'll pay for that, don't you know that it's a fact.

A fact you know well, your freedom's shamed.

In the prison yard, a stone bares your name, bares your name.

One month later, he learned that the DNA test might open the prison gates for him -- nearly two years after a judge granted his motion for the testing. His lawyers told him the results showed he couldn't have worn the T-shirt linked to the crime.

"I feel completely exhilarated to the point where I have to hold myself in check," he said in a prison interview with FLORIDA TODAY before the state ordered his release in November 2008. "But I see it, I really see it happening. I hold myself in tight, and I'm at peace with whatever happens.

"I've waited a long, long time for this."

Contact Torres at 242-3649 or jtorres@floridatoday.com

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Bradshaw gets life for killing police informant

A judge has sentenced a former car wash worker to spend the rest of his life in prison for his role in the murder of confidential police informant Rachel Hoffman.

Tallahassee, Florida — A judge has sentenced a former car wash worker to spend the rest of his life in prison for his role in the murder of a confidential police informant.

A jury convicted 24-year-old Deneilo Bradshaw of first degree murder and robbery on Thursday. Bradshaw is one of two men charged in the death of 23-year-old Rachel Hoffman, a recent Florida State University graduate from Clearwater.

She was shot five times in a secluded area of Tallahassee in May 2008 after police lost track of her.

Earlier on Friday, the mothers of both Bradshaw and Hoffman testified before the jury.

Circuit Judge Mark Walker sentenced Bradshaw shortly after a jury recommended against sentencing him to death by lethal injection.

Life without parole is the only other option for first-degree murder.

A second defendant, 27-year-old Andrea Green, is scheduled for trial in October. He also faces a possible death sentence if convicted.

10 Connects News. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Court upholds death sentence for Joseph Smith

Justices reject arguments that trial for Carlie Brucia's killer was not fair


By Todd Ruger

Published: Friday, December 18, 2009 at 1:00 a.m.
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Joseph Smith's conviction and death sentence for the 2004 abduction, rape and murder of 11-year-old Carlie Brucia.

In the first review of the case since Smith's trial, the justices rejected a wide trial.

The case gripped the community and grabbed international attention after a car wash surveillance video recorded a man grabbing Carlie by the hand and leading her away.

The search for her abductor led police to Smith, an auto mechanic who eventually admitted after the trial that he was high on cocaine when he grabbed Carlie from behind Evie's Car Wash on Bee Ridge Road.

The state Supreme Court said there was a "plethora of evidence" regarding the sexual assault and murder, including DNA found on the girl's shirt that matched Smith's and Smith's admission to his brother he had "rough sex" with her.

None of the issues Smith raised in the appeal requires a new trial, the Supreme Court said.

Smith's attorneys argued that two of the jurors should have been removed from the jury pool but ended up serving. One of the jurors said Smith "probably did it" and another juror's daughter was a murder victim.

The attorneys also said prosecutors did not follow rules that require the actual technicians who made the DNA match to testify. Instead, the technicians' supervisor testified at the trial.

Smith's attorneys also contended that statements from Smith as reported by his brother, John Smith, should not have been allowed because John Smith was acting as an agent of the Sheriff's Office.


This story appeared in print on page BN1

Killer Justin Heyne gets death penalty

BY KEYONNA SUMMERS
FLORIDA TODAY

VIERA — Based on anticipated appeals, legal wrangling and barring any commutations from future governors, Brevard County prosecutors estimate a man sentenced Thursday to die by lethal injection for the 2006 deaths of a Titusville family won’t see his earliest date with death until at least 2025.

http://www.floridatoday.com/graphics/bits/orange_arrow.gif"> http://www.floridatoday.com/section/VideoNetwork?bctid=57882949001" TARGET="_new">VIDEO: Justin Heyne receives death sentence

Dave Buckoski, the father of one of Justin Heyne’s triple-murder victims, said he would prefer the triple-murderer meet a swifter justice. But Buckoski, who described the three-year ordeal since his daughter’s death as “the road to hell” said the sentence brought much-needed closure, nonetheless.

“What I wanted was for the state of Florida to tell him they were going to kill him. That’s what happened,” Buckoski said of the sentence he’d been hoping for since his daughter, Sarah Buckoski, was killed along with her boyfriend, Benjamin Hamilton, and 5-year-old daughter, Ivory, on March 30, 2006.

“I would love to be the one to push the plunger,” he said. "I hope God can have pity on his soul. I can't. I hope he can.”

During a sentencing hearing that lasted less than a minute, Heyne, 28, made no reaction as Circuit Judge O.H. Eaton informed him he would join eight other Brevard County inmates – and 390 across Florida – already sitting on death row.

Heyne’s lawyers argued during trial this summer he fatally shot 26-year-old Hamilton, his best friend, and 24-year-old Buckoski in self-defense, but accidentally killed Ivory when she ran into the midst of “an argument that just went horribly wrong.”

Prosecutors said Heyne, who was living with the family at the time of the killings, shot Hamilton during a dispute over a $300 debt.

Hamilton was unarmed and in bed when Heyne shot him in the head. He shot Buckoski as she cowered in a corner on the floor, and walked over to Ivory where he slapped her before also firing a bullet into her skull, prosecutors said.

The jury recommended life in prison for Hamilton’s murder, then voted 8-4 for the death penalty in Buckoski’s death and 10-2 in favor of execution for the child’s killing.

Eaton followed the jury’s recommendation in Hamilton and Ivory’s killings, but went against the panel’s recommendation in sentencing Heyne to life in prison without possibility of parole for Buckoski’s murder.

In his sentencing memorandum, Eaton explained that he had difficulty weighing prosecutor’s evidence about the circumstances surrounding Buckoski’s death and “significant” mitigating testimony about Heyne’s history of mental illness.

“Only one aggravating circumstance applies to the murder of Sarah Buckoski and that involves the murder of the other two victims, although it is unlikely that before her own death Sarah Buckoski knew that Ivory Hamilton had been killed,” Eaton wrote. “The court concludes that the mitigation does outweigh the aggravation and a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole is the appropriate sentence.”

In general, Eaton wrote, testimony presented during the trial’s penalty phase about the cruel, heinous nature of the crimes; Ivory’s age; Heyne’s previous convictions, history of substance abuse and suicide attempts; and Heyne’s impaired capacity to understand his conduct all received “great” or “moderate weight.” Testimony that Heyne was under extreme mental or emotional disturbance at the time of the killings; was caring toward to his handicapped son, the elderly and the homeless; and the impact on Heyne’s family received “little” or “no weight,” Eaton wrote.

He said through an 18th Judicial Circuit spokeswoman that the purpose of the sentencing hearing is to impose the sentence and the purpose of the order is to justify it for appeal, so he declined to read the order into the record because it’s unnecessary.

Assistant State Attorney Tom Brown said prosecutors were pleased with the sentence.

Heyne’s family declined to comment as they exited the courtroom.

“When you shoot and execute a 5-year-old, you deserve death more than anyone else. We’re just happy justice was served,” Brown said. “I was hoping for and expecting a death sentence on count three. From my standpoint, it doesn’t matter how many death sentences because you can only be put to death once.”

An appeal is automatically sent to the state Supreme Court, and Brown said Heyne has the option to file several post-conviction appeals.

“On average, they take 15 years. It could be less, it could be more,” Brown said.

As of now, charges are still pending against Heyne for his alleged role in a 2008 sexual battery on a fellow Brevard County Detention Center inmate; a June assault on his cellmate and an August attempt to smuggle a gun into the jail as part of an escape plot.

“There were victims in those other cases and they deserve to have their cases properly resolved,” state attorney’s office spokeswoman Lynne Bumpus-Hooper said.

Over the past three years, Hamilton’s mother, Juanita Perez, lobbied the State Attorney’s Office to accept Heyne’s offer to plead guilty to all three murders in exchange for three life sentences. She didn’t want her family to suffer through years of appeals, and said the money spent on trial and incarceration would be better spent helping other crime victims.

But prosecutors — citing wishes of other relatives, Heyne’s prior felony record and the heinous nature of the murders, especially against Ivory — said death is an appropriate punishment.

Perez said she did not attend Thursday’s sentencing because she received too short notice.

“How can you have closure when every day you miss them, every day something reminds you of them?” she asked Tuesday. “And to know they say ‘we’re going to take revenge for you and kill this man for you,’ it’s like asking to give someone the same pain you’re experiencing. I don’t want that on my shoulders. I want (Heyne) to be punished but I don’t think his family should have to pay for it.”

Dave Buckoski also said he doesn’t “see a reason for taxpayers to pay to keep him alive for 15 to 20 years. My kids are dead.”

But for now, he said he will focus on remembering his daughter, a great mother who was pursuing her dream of becoming a nurse; Hamilton, whom he loved like a son; and Ivory, an intelligent child who loved butterflies.

“Everytime I see a butterfly, it reminds me of her,” Buckoski said.

Contact Summers at 242-3642 or ksummers@floridatoday.com

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Editorial: Make DNA testing routine



Wherever you stand on the death penalty you have to believe that the state should be as sure as possible that people on death row are guilty.That means DNA testing should be routine whenever it might establish guilt or innocence.

James Bain, convicted and sentenced to death for the 1974 rape of a 9-year-old Polk County boy, was turned down four times for DNA testing to see if semen found on the boy’s shorts could have been Bain’s.

Finally, an appeals court overturned the denial of his fifth appeal. Thursday, Bain was released after serving 35 years for a crime he did not commit. The victim had identified him as the attacker, but DNA testing showed he could not have been the rapist.


It’s hard to imagine how DNA testing could be withheld at this point. Some 248 people have been exonerated now by DNA testing, including 10 others in Florida and 17 on death rows around the country, according to The Innocence Project, which helped Bain.


Public support for the death penalty, as well as its actual use, have been declining, in part because of doubts raised by DNA.


We still believe the ultimate penalty is appropriate in the worst cases.

But if Florida and other states fail to fund and expedite DNA testing in death cases, no matter how old, support for capital punishment will continue to erode—and deservedly so.

Source: www.news-press.com

Wrong Convictions Merit Study



As much as our Constitution, our body of laws, and our court system work to prevent it, occasionally an innocent person is sent to prison.

Not innocent in the sense that he didn’t do precisely what he was charged with; innocent in the sense that the wrong person was convicted.

Our judicial system is weighted heavily in favor of the accused, and our sense of justice deems it better that a guilty person go free than that an innocent person go to prison.

But on the rarest occasions, the innocence of a convicted felon is proven, usually by DNA technology that was not available at the time of the original trial.

Such a case emerged last week in Polk County, when Innocence Project of Florida, an advocacy group for the wrongfully convicted, was able to have DNA evidence tested in a 35-year-old case of a Lake Wales man convicted of sexually assaulting a nine-year-old boy.

The imprisonment for three-and-a-half decades reportedly is the longest wrongful imprisonment of any of the 245 people who have been exonerated throughout the country by analysis of DNA evidence.

Until a few years ago, compensation of those wrongfully imprisoned in Florida took a special act of the Legislature.

After a $2 million claims bill was passed in 2005 for a man imprisoned 22 years for a crime he did not commit, the Legislature passed a bill that automatically awards $50,000 per year to people wrongfully sent to prison, provided they have no other felony convictions.

It was a sound decision.

Presumably, James Bain will be awarded $1.75 million for the years he spent in prison. We do not begrudge him a dime.

In the wake of the discovery of Bain’s wrongful conviction, 66 lawyers petitioned the Florida Supreme Court last Friday to create a panel to study the 11 Florida cases that have been overturned in recent years.

Eleven egregious errors out of the thousands and thousands of people convicted is not statistically significant, perhaps . . . except to those 11 defendants.

We hope the court will grant the petition.

One thing may be assumed in Bain’s case: it wasn’t for lack of competent representation.

Bain was defended by the late Jack Edmund, one of the finest criminal defense lawyers in Polk County’s history. He was a master practitioner.

One factor undoubtedly was the absence of DNA technology 35 years ago. Its development has proved to be a valuable tool — usually for the prosecution, occasionally for the defense.

Proper use of that technology now presumably results in fewer wrongful convictions, and in more correct ones.

In addition to looking at the 11 cases that demonstrably went wrong, the committee also should examine why, in Bain’s case, four previous attempts since May 2001 to have DNA tested were rejected.

It was not until Innocence Project got involved, and offered to pay for the testing, that the test was conducted.

If, as we hope, post-trial DNA testing proves that 99.9 percent of convictions are supported by DNA results, society will have the satisfaction of knowing that justice was achieved.

And if one case in a thousand shows a wrongful imprisonment, society will have the satisfaction of seeing an injustice corrected.
Source: http://www.polkcountydemocrat.com/

DNA Evidence Frees Florida Inmate After 35 Years




Klick on the link to watch the video.


JEFFREY BROWN: James Bain is a free man tonight. Yesterday, he was released from a Florida prison, where he had spent 35 years for a crime he didn't commit. A court-mandated DNA test proved Bain was wrongly convicted of sexual assault in 1974.


JAMES BAIN: I am going to see my mom, the one I just got off the phone to. That's the most important thing in my life at this moment, besides God. The one thing I have to say about this DNA, ladies and gentleman, it's going to do one of the two. And I tell these gentlemen in prison that have this type of case, it's going to do one of the two, free you or lock you.


JEFFREY BROWN: Bain's release was in fact the third of its kind just this week, all the result of work by the Innocence Project based at the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University.


According to the Project, since 1989, there have been 248 post-conviction exonerations based on DNA evidence. Seventeen of those exonerated served time on death row. Twenty-seven states, the federal government and the District of Columbia, compensate individuals who were wrongfully incarcerated.


Joining me for an update is Barry Scheck, co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project.


Well, Mr. Scheck, James Bain was held longer than anyone now exonerated by DNA testing. But is his case unusual in any other way?


BARRY SCHECK, co-director, Innocence Project: No. As a matter of fact, what's remarkable about his case is that it's a single-perpetrator sexual assault case with a mistaken identification. And the single greatest cause of the conviction of the innocent has been eyewitness misidentification.


JEFFREY BROWN: Eyewitness, in most of the cases, you still find that that's what lead to the wrongful conviction?


BARRY SCHECK: Yes.


I mean, we know what the causes of wrongful convictions are, eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, invalid or improper forensic science, prosecutorial police misconduct, or inadequate lawyering, jailhouse snitches. Those are the causes, but the one that has caused more miscarriages of justice is eyewitness identification.


And we now know, after 30 years of really solid social science research, how to minimize that with best practices that can reduce the number of misidentifications, without reducing the number of correct ones.


JEFFREY BROWN: Tell us a little bit more about the DNA evidence. What is it, and how often is it available so many years later?


BARRY SCHECK: Well, the trick, frankly, is finding the evidence.


And, here, this case was 1974. And the problem -- Mr. Bain was asking for testing for quite a long time, but the problem always is finding the evidence. In Dallas, Texas, where there have been more DNA exonerations than any city in the country, the main reason for it is that they can find the evidence.


It's also lead to the creation of a wonderful conviction integrity unit in the Dallas District Attorney's Office that really assists the Innocence Projects in trying to get people out. But it's finding the evidence that's the biggest problem.


JEFFREY BROWN: Now, you said Mr. Bain was trying to get people to look at it, and that leads to an obvious question. How easy or difficult is it to get a court to take a new look at DNA evidence?


BARRY SCHECK: Well, when Mr. Bain started doing this, it was very difficult. We had a lot of trouble in Florida getting courts to allow DNA testing. We had one case that went up and down through the system, Wilton Dedge.


Finally, Florida has created a post-conviction DNA statute. And now 48 states have such statutes on the books. And the federal government has one as well. But, when we started this work, there were no states that had post-conviction DNA statutes. And, in fact, trying to get into court was very difficult, because there were statutes of limitations, where courts wouldn't even look at newly discovered evidence, even evidence as powerful as DNA testing.


JEFFREY BROWN: Now, I wonder, how often is the true perpetrator found through DNA testing? How often does that occur?


BARRY SCHECK: A lot.


Right now, there are 105 individuals who have been identified as the real assailants in these cases, out of the 248 post-conviction DNA exonerations. And what's really important to emphasize here is that DNA is only present in about 10 percent of cases, in other words, biology that can be tested, that can be determinative of who really committed the crime.


So, what about the other 90 percent of the cases where there is eyewitness misidentification and false confessions and bad lawyering and misconduct and invalid or improper forensic science? That is the challenge.


We really need to learn from this incredible set of cases lessons which can help enhance the capability of law enforcement to catch the real perpetrator, at the same time that we protect the innocent. And that's the real meaning of these cases.


JEFFREY BROWN: Well, there was a congressional hearing this week where -- about the backlog of cases where there is evidence still awaiting testing. This was specifically, I think, mostly about rape cases.


How big a problem is that, just not only to find the evidence, but then that it's sitting around waiting for somebody to get to it?


BARRY SCHECK: Well, that's a very serious problem. And it's confounding, because -- you know, take sexual assault cases. And here in New York City, we had to work with the prosecutors off the police department to get them to look at all these unsolved rape cases that were just piling up.


So, it's absolutely essential. As you wait to do DNA testing on an unsolved case, the real assailant can go out there and commit a lot of rapes and murders, because, very often, these are serial offenders. And when the cases are in backlog, you know, you can find that the same person committed more than one crime if you begin to test them.


So, so much could be done to improve the criminal justice system if, within seven to 10 days after the commission of a serious crime, you had DNA testing. They have had that in the United Kingdom for a long time. And it has significantly improved the clearance rate in cases.


JEFFREY BROWN: And just in our last minute, finally, I want to ask you about the compensation system. I understand that Florida just last year passed a law that someone in this situation would be paid I think it's $50,000 a year per year served. That will help in the case of Mr. Bain. But I gather it's a rather haphazard system around the country?


BARRY SCHECK: Yes. And there are laws in some jurisdictions, not in others. There are restrictions that shouldn't be there.


And, frankly, it's not enough money. You know, just think about it. When these cases get to trial and federal civil rights actions, when the very small needle can be threaded by a claimant, jurors routinely give them a million dollars a year, as well they should, given what, really, somebody is entitled to who has been incarcerated in a maximum security prison as an innocent person for even a year.


JEFFREY BROWN: All right, Barry Scheck of the Innocence Project, thank you very much.


BARRY SCHECK: Thank you.


Source: www.pbs.org


Peoria native helped free innocent Florida man


James Bain, center, walks down the Polk County Courthouse steps Thursday with Melissa Montle, left, and Seth Miller of the Innocence Project in Bartow, Fla. With the help of Peoria native Montle, Bain was released Thursday after spending 35 years in prison for a 1974 rape conviction when new DNA evidence exonerated him.

Peoria native says James Bain is a testament to human spirit.

Watching James Bain walk out of the Polk County courthouse in Bartow, Fla., a free man Thursday really got to Peoria native Melissa Montle.

"I normally can hold back my tears, but I couldn't yesterday with him," the attorney with the Innocence Project said Friday. "He is such a sweet, kind, loving human being."

Montle, 31, was part of the team of lawyers that helped exonerate Bain, who was behind bars for 35 years for a crime he did not commit.

"I think (Bain's case) teaches us all something about the power of the human spirit and forgiveness, and I think we could all be a little more like him," Montle said.

Montle graduated from Notre Dame High School in 1996 and Bradley University in 2000. After receiving her law degree from Tulane University and working five years as an attorney, she moved to Tallahassee, Fla., in July 2008 with her husband, John McCarroll, to accept a position with the Innocence Project.

"I feel so lucky and so blessed to be here, and to get to know these men," Montle said, adding she has not yet had a case with a female client. "All of my clients are amazing human beings with strength that I can't imagine having."

When Innocence Project heard about Bain's case, Montle said IP thought, "Holy mackerel! This guy needs a lawyer."

Bain was convicted of kidnapping and raping a 9-year-old boy in Lake Wales, Fla., in 1974, before DNA testing was developed. Since 2001, Bain had handwritten five pro se motions for DNA testing, and they had all been turned down until 2006, when the ruling on the fifth petition was reversed by a higher court. That's when the Innocence Project got involved.

When Bain finally was granted DNA testing on Oct. 16, 2009, the Innocence Project's lab ran the tests and "unequivocally excluded" Bain's DNA from the semen found on the victim's underwear, Montle said.

According to the Innocence Project, Bain was behind bars longer than any of the other 246 inmates exonerated by DNA nationwide.

"She is so compassionate," Bonnie White of Peoria said about her granddaughter.

Melissa's parents, Lynn and Tony Montle, live in the Lake Camelot subdivision in Mapleton.

Melissa Montle said besides the Bain case, she has about a dozen other cases that are in different stages of progress.

"I have a lot more Jamie Bains, I hope," she said.

Source: www.pjstar.com

California's death row grows as death sentences decline nationwide

Although the state's lethal injection table has been idle for the last four years because of legal challenges, California continues to hand down death sentences.

In Los Angeles County alone, 13 convicted murderers were condemned, contributing to the state's 2009 total of 29, according to a national report.

Los Angeles County sent more people to death row this year than Texas, Florida or any other state in the nation, condemning 13 convicted murderers -- the highest number in a decade, according to a Times review of justice statistics.

The increase comes as a national report projects that the number of death sentences issued across the country this year will reach its lowest level since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976.

Los Angeles County helped California buck that trend, boosting the state's death sentences from 20 last year to 29 so far this year, more than a quarter of the nationwide total of 106, according to a report released Friday by the nonprofit Death Penalty Information Center. The center attributed the national decline to deepening concerns about the costs of capital punishment and the possibility of wrongful convictions.

California's increase occurred despite legal challenges that have left the state's lethal injection chamber idle for the last four years. Any resumption of executions is still at least a year off, experts said. The 2009 capital sentences have helped push the state's condemned population to 697, the nation's largest by far.

"It really goes against all of the trends we've seen across the country, where death sentences are becoming less and less common and are imposed more selectively," said Natasha Minsker, death penalty policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California, which opposes capital punishment.

California's capital punishment system has drawn widespread criticism as the most cost-inefficient in the country, having executed only 13 people in more than 30 years.

Los Angeles County sent as many defendants to death row in 2009 as in the previous three years combined. Until this year, the county had experienced a marked drop in death sentences since reaching a high during the late-1990s, when double-digit figures were the norm.

The trend has caused concern among defense attorneys who handle death cases. Lawyers suggested that some judges have played a role by placing strict limits on the time attorneys get to question prospective jurors about their attitudes toward the death penalty. Others said they believe jurors have become more cynical about evidence of a defendant's abusive childhood.

"There is less tolerance, less understanding from more and more jurors," said Robert Schwartz, a veteran defense lawyer.

L.A. County Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley cautioned against reading too much into this year's figures, saying the rise could be a fluke of courtroom scheduling. Capital cases typically take years to wind through the courts before reaching a jury.

Timothy McGhee, for example, a shot-caller for a notorious gang in northeast Los Angeles, was charged with several slayings in 2003. It took four years before McGhee went to trial. A jury found him guilty of three murders and the attempted murder of two police officers, but deadlocked on whether McGhee should be executed. Last year, a second jury voted for death. McGhee was sentenced in January.

L.A. County prosecutors have been seeking death in fewer cases than they did a decade ago, but the percentage resulting in death verdicts has grown, records show.

"We started being more selective and more rigorous in our review," Cooley said. "It's certainly not being more aggressive."

The high cost of prosecuting capital cases, he said, is only one factor that the office weighs in deciding when to seek death.

"Oftentimes, a crime is so horrific that . . . you're not going to need very much more than proof beyond a reasonable doubt" to get a capital conviction, Cooley said. "I think that society in general wants to keep that option for some people. Maybe less people, but some people."

Among the new arrivals at San Quentin's death row this year were Reyon Ingram and Calvin Dennis, convicted of killing a father and son as part of a robbery in Compton in 2006. The men had robbed Derrick Kellum Sr. of his wallet, then lured him to the scene of his death by offering to return it. Kellum was shot nine times. His 10-year-old son was also shot.

Ruben Becerrada of Arleta was sentenced to death for the 2000 stabbing and strangulation of his 22-year-old girlfriend, Maria Arevalo, after she reported to authorities that he had previously raped her. Prosecutors said he punched and kicked her on a street near his home before abducting her. Her body was discovered in the trunk of her abandoned car.

Richard Dieter, head of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit database maintained by capital punishment opponents, attributed California's continued pursuit of death sentences to a lack of public debate about the economics of the policy, which he said costs the state $137 million a year more than if the defendants were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.

"It seems particularly strange in California because that is a state where expenses are very high and the return in terms of executions is low," Dieter said.

While sentences declined throughout the country this year, executions rose with 52 men put to death, up from 37 last year. Death penalty states observed a de facto moratorium in early 2008 while the U.S. Supreme Court reviewed the constitutionality of lethal injection procedures in Kentucky.

Texas, which has the nation's most active death chamber, executed 24 men this year. The state issued only nine new death sentences, though, down dramatically from the average of 34 annually in the 1990s, according to the year-end report.

Neither the Texas attorney general's office nor the Texas District and County Attorneys Assn. monitors capital cases statewide, said association spokeswoman Sarah Wolf.

If the figures cited in Dieter's 2009 report are accurate, she said, they might reflect growing concerns about the costs of prosecuting capital cases, but not a decline in Texans' support for keeping the ultimate sentence an option.

"There is still overwhelming support for the death penalty in Texas," Wolf said. "If we get someone who commits a horrific crime, people are just not going to put up with that here."

Currently, Texas has 342 people on death row.

"We don't really let them stack up here, like in California," Wolf said.

Executions have been on hold in California while corrections and justice officials revamp the three-drug procedure used to execute condemned inmates, a review fraught with bureaucracy and legal challenges expected to delay executions for at least another year and probably longer.

San Quentin State Prison's death row now houses more than a fifth of the 3,279 awaiting execution across the country.

Source: www.latimes.com

"Innocence Commission" Launched For Wisconsin


Dr. Dan’s American Family Institute web rehab to host results

From headlines like, "Innocent man released in Florida after 35 years of wrongful incarceration" to "UW Credit Union and UW Whitewater errors of $200 costs successful former volunteer SHAG Founder and University Alum 4 days in two holding cells without visitation and $500 plus in ‘ordinance’ violation fees," one has to wonder - what the hell??

James Bain holds no regrets as he was released from prison with over $1 million in required compensation for Polk County ruining the best part of his life. No apologies were made as he was released. Bain was 19 when Polk County Authorities pulled him out of his bed and dragged him to a field where a 9-year-old boy was violently raped. Five months later he was convicted to life in prison. 35 years later – oops - DNA confirmed his innocence.

His Jailers and appellate authorities ignored his numerous protests of innocence as well as his petitions for a review of the DNA evidence. I already covered the Walworth County actions on the SHAG Founder and UWW Alum in previous articles. Since 1989, 245 people have been set free. 35 years served by Bains holds the record for unnecessary and wrongful conviction.

A growing list of lawyers, community and family advocates in Wisconsin are saying, "Not on my watch" to the ridiculous and bold prosecution misconduct of trying to make criminals out of Innocents. The Innocence Committee wants to help stop innocents from entering the already obese, mind blowing expensive and painfully inefficient Judicial and criminal justice system. Because of this economy a few States are throwing out mandated prison terms for addicts. In my book, "Analyzing Monsters – Family Cures" I advocate all States abandon putting addicts, mentally ill, and innocents in prison. Once there some will never earn release due to the acting out nature of their illness. I also encourage the passage of Billy’s Law. Billy Smolinski, is a 31-year-old missing person who in 2004 disappeared in Connecticut. It is amazing but the two Justice Department databases for missing persons and unidentified remains are separate and the public can’t access information because some information is gross and they believe may give up too much information to make convictions later. Family Cures advocates combining the databases of the National Crime Information (NCI) and National Unidentified and Missing Person System (NamUs). Family Cures encourages clearing citizen helpers who can view the sites to assist in recovery efforts. Another Cure involves requiring police to report missing adults. Police need only report missing children not adults.

Organizers recognize former Candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court Attorney Joseph Sommers as an innocent who recently was told by the Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) he is guilty. Sommers, a cash drained father of 12 will lose his Law License in Wisconsin for 30 days and more likely much longer until he pays OLR $92,000. Sommers's offense - brazenly exposing the misconduct of Humphrey and defending a teen eventually found Innocent of his criminal charges in a horrendous car accident. Despite the support of many friends and four Wisconsin State Journal articles supporting the allegations of misconduct by ADA Paul Humphrey in that case and dozens of others Sommers is protesting OLR’s decision.

It is becoming very difficult to report on all the Sham police, prosecution and judicial set up of innocents. I am taking the written set up and wrongdoing information that you send soon on my rehab website. Email me if you have trouble posting on the site. When innocents face false charges and are forced to plead out or face months of expensive defense, loss of integrity, and collapsing careers/businesses something needs to be done.

The Wisconsin Innocence Commission (WIC) plans to learn from the findings of the Seven States already sponsoring Innocence Panels or Commissions. I have analyzed that focusing on the long term incarcerated only is very frustrating to committee members. No one in the Judicial or corrections system wants to risk being made a fool by supporting the innocence of any convicted inmate. The long incarceration could have produced a real criminal by now or even a former innocent can be set up and convicted again. Anyone in the law enforcement or corrections field knows even a hint of previous wrongdoing makes for an easier set up conviction later on. Some law enforcers and Corrections personnel pile on charges like Banks today pile on mistakes and false penalty fees.

Therefore WIC will also focus on preventing innocents from entering the system in the first place. Pre trial and Pre incarcerated will receive quick action interventions to hopefully interface with prosecutors and law enforcement in determining innocence prior to conviction or incarceration. Darden Restaurant type ‘complete and tally’ evaluations of each step of the Justice experience will easily computerize major areas of low quality and impairment throughout the system. It is hoped that top District Attorneys will provide input and guidance as well. This system will not work without the approval of honest prosecutors.

Please Support And Share

Don't forget to support the annual "INTERNATIONAL WEEK OF SOBRIETY AND SERENITY starting January 5th through the 12th 2010.

Remember to take the D.C. Everest High School of Wisconsin Pledge (Lacey's Law) to, "Never drive inebriated to keep our roads safe." This freshman class lost their friend Lacey to a drunk driver. They tried to get the Wisconsin lawmakers including the Governor to take the pledge. So far it seems they have failed. One lawmaker has five DUI's! The ninth graders are moving on to try to get teachers to take their pledge. – Good luck! I took their pledge even though I do not drink/drug.



Daniel T. Budenz Ph.D. has been licensed as a Psychotherapist, Supervisory Addictions Counselor III, Forensic Therapist and International Addictions Specialist over a 30-year career. He is advocating worldwide licensing for Internet practice. He is a Consumer Advocate Reporter (with a ‘comedic reporter flair') fighting for "Family Cures" tm and is President of American Family Institute and it's growing online products and Online Rehab tm Services. He resides in Madison Wisconsin and Orlando Florida. Dr. Dan has been partner/owner of Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Centers including a Specialty Hospital for Impaired Physicians and Professionals in Madison with De Paul Hospital. He is Executive Producer of the Teen Comedy "MAY DAY" 2010 movie release featuring acting greats Geoffrey Lewis and Todd Bridges. He is finishing the first volume of what may be the first never ending book "Analyzing Monsters" - "Family Cures". The book includes his role in the Drew Peterson Case and others. For information on Volume One and other products email him or visit http://www.drdancelebrityshrink.com/.

Source www.officialwire.com

Friday, December 18, 2009

DNA Evidence Clears Man in 1974 Rape Case


James Bain center smiles outside the Polk County Courthouse in Bartow after being released from prison after 35 years Thursday. DNA evidence cleared Bain and proved his innocence on the charge of kidnapping and raping a nine-year-old boy.


BARTOW James Bain walked quietly across the carpeted floor of courtroom 9a Thursday morning, beaming at family and friends who erupted into applause.

His sister, Jacqueline Bain, shook her head. Older sister Patsy Amos rocked back and forth in her seat. "Yessir," exclaimed her husband, Harry Amos.

James Bain, quiet and smiling, raised a fist.

Bain, 54, was just 19 years old in 1974, and without a criminal record, when he was convicted of kidnapping and raping a 9-year-old Lake Wales boy, largely on the jury's faith in the boy's identification.

But a recent DNA test called Bain's conviction into question. On Thursday, after much anticipation, Bain was expected to walk out of the Bartow courthouse, on a conditional release, until prosecutors could finish their investigation.

Instead, Bain got something even better.

Mere minutes before the 9 a.m. hearing, prosecutors received a call from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that verified the Innocence Project of Florida's DNA test results: The semen on the victim's underwear did not belong to Bain.

Instead of asking for a conditional release for Bain, State Attorney Jerry Hill moved Thursday to vacate Bain's sentence and to drop the charges against him.

About 9:45 a.m., Bain and his family finally heard the words they'd waited 35 years to hear:

"You are a free man," Circuit Judge James Yancey said. "Congratulations."

Bain had served more time behind bars than any of the 245 other prisoners exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing in the United States, including 10 others in Florda.

Since May 2001, he had asked the courts four times to test the DNA. With help from the Innocence Project, he filed his fifth and final request in July. Yancey granted the motion in October, without objection from the State Attorney's Office, and allowed the test.

The results were released last week, when prosecutors began working to verify the results and to rule out other possibilities.

The FDLE also concluded that the sperm found on the underwear did not belong to the victim, said spokesman Chip Thullbery. They'll run the DNA code in a statewide database and look for a match.

After the hearing, IPF lawyer Melissa Montle held Bain's hand as he walked down the courthouse steps and embraced his sisters inside a swarm of news reporters and cameras.

At the microphone stand, Bain remained calm and smiling.

He plans to spend time with family, to go back to school for reading and writing, and to watch "Titanic," a film he says helped him survive prison life. He wants to travel. Out of his seven siblings, he is the only child who has yet to visit Nassau, his father's home city in the Bahamas. He used a cell phone for the first time to call his mother, who waited at home for him in Tampa.

Once inside the public defender's office, Bain ate his first snack outside of prison: a glazed donut and a bottle of Mountain Dew. His belongings - notebooks, newspaper clippings and other saved artifacts - fit into a netted laundry sack. He remained calm and patient, as his family waited eagerly to take him home.

"I can't be angry," he said. "People had a job to do back then. It's just sad the way the outcome was."

According to Florida law, Bain is entitled to $50,000 for every year he was wrongfully incarcerated. That would amount to $1.75 million, but Thursday afternoon, Bain said money is not his priority.

Until the Innocence Project became involved, he said he felt "neglected" in the slow and complicated judicial process. He's seen a lot of innocent people during his time in prison, and says DNA testing should be made more accessible.

Had Bain's case been investigated today, the State Attorney's office says the trial might have gone differently. Many investigators are now trained to interview children, and DNA testing has replaced serology as the choice science.

Public Defender J. Marion Moorman said Thursday the DNA in Bain's case should have been tested earlier, but added that the larger problem is the number of cases, including Bain's, built on witness testimony.

"We hear all the time from our clients that they are innocent," Moorman said. "We get jaded and cynical, particularly those of us who've done this for a long time. This just, once again, teaches us the value of listening to our clients, of going the extra mile and giving them our 100 percent."

Source: www.theledger.com

Florida Supreme Court justices unshackle juvenile defendants


The Florida Supreme Court has approved a dramatic change in the use of shackles, handcuffs and other restraints on juveniles in the state’s courtrooms.

The justices Thursday approved a new court rule that prohibits restraints unless a judge determines they are necessary for one of three reasons: preventing physical harm to the child or other people, a defendant’s history of disruptive courtroom behavior or a strong belief there’s a substantial risk of flight.

Since the early 1980s the shackling of juveniles has evolved as a security measure in Florida courtrooms, said Rob Mason of the Public Defender’s Office in Jacksonville. Mason said juveniles brought from detention centers to appear before a judge are shackled and remain so in the courtroom.

“It’s really a pathetic sight when they bring them in,” said Mason, former chairman of The Florida Bar’s Juvenile Court Rules Committee that recommended the change.

Mason said the restraints make it difficult for the young prisoners to raise their hands when they swear to tell the truth. He also said the state’s juvenile justice system is supposed to be set up differently than adult court. He advocated for the change before the justices in June.

“It’s a monumental victory for Florida’s children,” Mason said. “A juvenile is supposed to be different.”

The aim of juvenile courts is to provide a safe environment and focus on rehabilitation, he said.
He said experts on juvenile development suggest shackling can cause emotional harm, may cause the juvenile to feel as if they are somehow dangerous and increase resentment of authority.

For the past couple of years, courts in Miami-Dade County have taken the shackles off juveniles with little negative effect, Mason said.

The new rule takes effect statewide in January.

Judges will have to say when a juvenile should be restrained and will have the discretion to do so. Mason said defense attorneys, prosecutors, judges and bailiffs will have to work out the logistics of removing the restraints that now include leg shackles and handcuffs attached to belt chains.

Prosecutor Rich Mantei in the State Attorney’s Office in Jacksonville said the restraints are a security issue and that wearing them is not expected to affect the decisions in juvenile cases, which are handled by a judge.

The rule will not affect the state Department of Juvenile Justice’s use of restraints when transporting juveniles from detention facilities to the courtroom.

“What it will do is slow down the processing of cases while they are in court,” said Mantei, referring to the judges having to make additional decisions.

He said juvenile courts in Jacksonville are normally crowded.

“I don’t know that it will make them less safe,” he said. “I certainly don’t think it makes them more safe.”

The rule was adopted on a 6-1 vote. Justice Charles Canady dissented, arguing the rule unduly restricts the ability of judges to ensure courtroom security.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: www.jacksonville.com


Sink closer to McCollum in governor campaign




Democrat Alex Sink appears to have trimmed Republican Bill McCollum's lead in the polls as the two campaign to be Florida's next governor.


Rasmussen reports published numbers Thursday showing 44 percent of voters were likely to vote for McCollum, compared with the 39 percent leaning toward Sink. In October, McCollum led 46 percent to 35 percent. Rasmussen is an electronic media company specializing in polling that often leans conservative.


Five percent reported they supported other candidates; 12 percent were undecided.


The telephone survey of 1,000 likely voters was taken Monday. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.


Sink is the state's chief financial officer. McCollum is the attorney general.


The campaign for governor opened up when Gov. Charlie Crist announced he'd be running for U.S. Senate.


Democrat Alex Sink appears to have trimmed Republican Bill McCollum's lead in the polls as the two campaign to be Florida's next governor.


Rasmussen reports published numbers Thursday showing 44 percent of voters were likely to vote for McCollum, compared with the 39 percent leaning toward Sink. In October, McCollum led 46 percent to 35 percent. Rasmussen is an electronic media company specializing in polling that often leans conservative.


Five percent reported they supported other candidates; 12 percent were undecided.


The telephone survey of 1,000 likely voters was taken Monday. The margin of error is 3 percentage points.


Sink is the state's chief financial officer. McCollum is the attorney general.


The campaign for governor opened up when Gov. Charlie Crist announced he'd be running for U.S. Senate.


Source: www.jacksonville.com

US man freed by DNA evidence after 35 years in prison


A US man has become the longest-serving prisoner to be freed after DNA evidence proved he was innocent of the crime he was convicted of three decades ago.

James Bain spent 35 years in jail after being found guilty of kidnapping and raping a nine-year-old boy in 1974.

On his release from prison in Florida on Thursday, he told the BBC he was not angry and his faith had helped him.

He has always maintained his innocence, but was only allowed a review of his case following an appeal.

During his final court hearing signalling his release, Mr Bain wore a T-shirt with the words "Not Guilty" on it.

The 54-year-old, who was jailed at the age of 19, told the BBC's World Today programme that he felt very emotional and "extremely great".

'In God's hands'

He said his first duty upon his release was to see his mother.

"I felt so good but because of her [my mother's] health I had to go to the house. She never gave up, the same as [me]."

He said the support of his family and his religious faith had helped him get through his ordeal.

"[It] just was the right time for God to release me from this. I just had to be very patient for that... I cannot feel angry. I put all that in God's hands," he said.

After leaving Polk County courthouse, Mr Bain said he hoped to return to school and he was looking forward to eating fried turkey and drinking Dr Pepper.

The Innocence Project of Florida helped co-ordinate Mr Bain's release. It says that he was imprisoned for far longer than any of the other 246 inmates exonerated by DNA evidence across the US.

Mr Bain was freed after filing several petitions asking for his case to be reviewed and DNA tests to be carried out.

Most of these were thrown out but following an order by a judge, test results which came in last week showed Mr Bain was innocent.

He had been convicted mainly on the strength of the victim identifying him out of a line-up, although tests available at the time did not definitely link him to the crime, the Associated Press reported.

Mr Bain said he had been watching television with his twin sister when the crime occurred.

Innocence Project of Project lawyer Seth Miller told the World Today: "He walked out of the courthouse, a free man, a free man in America.

"And the family's excited to have Jamie back with them and this is the first day of the rest of his life and we're excited to be able to share it with him."

Last year Florida passed a law that means Mr Bain is entitled to $1.75m (£1.08m) for the time he spent in jail while innocent.

Source: www.news.bbc.co.uk

James Bain Exonerated After 35 Years of Wrongful Incarceration


IPF Staff Attorney Melissa Montle and Executive Director Seth Miller Escort James Bain from Polk County Courthouse.

This morning Christmas came early for James (Jamie) Bain when a judge in Polk County vacated his conviction and dropped all charges against him. Jamie had been in prison for 35 years for a crime that DNA testing proved he didn’t commit. He was only 19 years old when he went into prison and today he walks out a 54-year-old man.

Jamie submitted handwritten motions four times seeking DNA testing, but he was denied each time. He was denied the fifth time, too, but an appeals court overturned that denial. The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) stepped in to assist Mr. Bain, and he was finally able to get the DNA testing he’d wanted for so many years, and which ultimately proved his innocence.

Jamie Bain is looking forward to seeing his mother in Tampa, and spending the holidays as a free man with his family. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Watch CNN video of James Bain’s release and subsequent interview.

Source: www.floridainnocence.org


US executions down by half over past decade: report


WASHINGTON — The United States executed one convict a week in 2009, but the rate is down by half compared to a decade ago, according to an annual report from the Death Penalty Information Center.

The 2009 total is up from 37 executions in 2008, but in that year application of the death penalty was suspended for four months while the Supreme Court considered and ultimately upheld the constitutionality of lethal injections.

The number of executions in 2009 fell 47 percent from a decade ago, and the death penalty was used in just 11 of the 35 states that still allow the practice, the report said.

Texas, where an average of 34 people have been executed each year over the past decade, continued to top the list of states with the most executions, putting 24 people to death in 2009.

It was followed by Alabama, with six executions, Ohio with five and Virginia with three.

The number of death sentences handed down also declined in 2009, the DPIC said, falling to 106, the lowest level since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

In 1994, a record 328 people were sentenced to death across the United States, but that figure has been dropping steadily, with 119 condemned to death in 2007 and 111 in 2008.

"This entire decade has been marked by a declining use of the death penalty," said Richard Dieter, author of the report and DPIC's executive director.

"In the last two years, three states have abolished capital punishment and a growing number of states are asking whether it's worth keeping," Dieter said.

That question has gained increasing significance during the economic downturn in the United States, with many states weighing growing budget deficits against the cost of executing convicts.

This year New Mexico became the 15th state to abolish the death penalty and legislatures in Connecticut, Maryland, Colorado and Montana have all considered doing the same.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson cited the cost of execution, but also the chance of error in supporting the death penalty ban in his state.

"I do not have confidence in the criminal justice system as it currently operates to be the final arbiter when it comes to who lives and who dies for their crime," he said in a March statement.

"If the state is going to undertake this awesome responsibility, the system to impose this ultimate penalty must be perfect and can never be wrong.

"But the reality is the system is not perfect -- far from it. The system is inherently defective. DNA testing has proven that. Innocent people have been put on death row all across the country."

In 2009, nine men who had been sentenced to death were exonerated and freed, the DPIC said. That was the second highest number since 1976.

But perhaps more than the chance of error, the simple cost of executing a convict may be the most immediate reason for US states to ban the death penalty, DPIC said.

California spends an estimated 137 million dollars a year on its death penalty system, while the death penalty costs Florida approximately 51 million dollars a year, around 24 million dollars per execution.

There are currently 3,279 people on death row in the United States, including 690 in California and 403 in Florida.

Worldwide, some 2,390 people were executed in 2008, with nearly three-quarters of the executions in China.

Source: www.google.com


Thursday, December 17, 2009

Suspect guilty in death of informant


TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Dec. 17 (UPI) -- A 24-year-old man is guilty of first-degree murder in the death of a Florida woman who acted as a police informant, a 12-member jury said Thursday.

The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times said Deneilo Bradshaw was found guilty of first-degree murder and simple robbery in the death of 23-year-old Rachel Hoffman of Clearwater, Fla., and the sentencing phase of his trial is scheduled to begin Friday.

The conviction of Bradshaw, who could receive the death penalty, came on what would have been Hoffman's 25th birthday.

According to testimony in Bradshaw's trial, Hoffman was working as a confidential informant for narcotics officers when she was fatally shot on May 7, 2008.

Authorities said Hoffman, who was working with the police to avoid drug possession charges, was shot five times, three in head, during an arranged drug purchase.

While police were monitoring the drug purchase, they lost track of Hoffman when the sellers changed the meeting location.

The Times said Bradshaw and his co-defendant, Andrea Green, 27, were later arrested and charged with Hoffman's death. The trial of Green, who is suspected of being the shooter, is scheduled to begin next year.

Justice Denied -"Justice delayed is justice denied."


From the blog of Jeff Gamso :


That's generally attributed to William Gladstone, though nobody seems to be able to find just where he might have said it. Regardless, it's an old idea, at least as old as Magna Carta. Back in 1215 King John was made to sign off on it.



To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.
The perhaps-Gladstonian phrase crossed the Atlantic at least by 1924 when the Ohio Supreme Court used it in Gohman v. City of St. Bernard (no free copy available, sorry) to describe a Nebraska case that kicked around the courts of that state for some ten years.

Whatever the idea's pedigree, nobody seems to have sent the memo to Florida.

His name is James Bain. He's a free man today, and it's about time.

Back in 1974, a 9-year-old boy was kidnapped and raped by a man he described as having bushy sideburns and a mustache. He picked Bain out of a lineup. Convicted. 35 years in prison. 35 years.

In 2001, Florida enacted a law permitting cases to be reopened for DNA testing.



  • Bain wrote a motion asking for the testing. Longhand. Denied.

  • Bain wrote another motion asking for the testing. Longhand. Denied.

  • Bain wrote another motion asking for the testing. Longhand. Denied.

  • Bain wrote another motion asking for the testing. Longhand. Denied.
Pepe Le Pew said, "You know, most men would get discouraged by now, fortunately for you, I am not most men." Fortunately for Bain, neither is he.

Bain wrote another motion asking for the testing. Longhand. Denied.

This time, he appealed. And he got the Florida Innocence Project involved. The court of appeals said he was entitled to a hearing. It turns out that there was something to test. And, oh, yeah. Bain is innocent. Wholly.

According to AP, Bain said.

"No, I'm not angry," he said. "Because I've got God."

That's OK. I've got enough anger for both of us. Not because he was convicted. That just makes me sad. Those 27 years Bain was in prison, doing life, because eyewitness identification is altogether unreliable but almost always believed, that's how it goes. It's awful and inexcusable, but in some sense understandable.

The last 8 years is something else. Bain spent those in prison because the courts and the prosecutors didn't give a damn. Why would they want actually to apply the law that was designed to check for miscarriages of justice. They know better. There are no miscarriages of justice. Kids don't lie or make mistakes and juries are never wrong (except when they acquit). Why double check? Why bother?

Because it matters. Because one request should be all it takes. Because, frankly, they ought to be checking on their own. Because even the lives of people in prison matter. Because the fantasy land of courts and prosecutors is a fantasy land. Because of James Bain.

Source: www.gamso-forthedefense.blogspot.com

Man exonerated, freed from prison after 35 years


Bartow, Florida (CNN) -- After more than three decades in prison, a Florida man was set free Thursday after a DNA test showed he did not kidnap and rape a 9-year-old boy in 1974.

"I'm not angry," James Bain, 54, told reporters after a brief hearing in Bartow, Florida.

Bain was 19 when he was convicted on charges of kidnapping, burglary and strong-arm rape. He received a life sentence. He's going home for the first time in 35 years.

"I got God in my head," said Bain, surrounded by supporters and wearing a T-shirt with "Not Guilty" across the front. "I knew one day he will reveal me."

Of the 245 people in the United States whom DNA testing has exonerated, none has spent more time behind bars than Bain, according to the Innocence Project, a national organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through such testing.

In 2001, Florida passed a statute allowing cases to be reopened for DNA testing. Bain submitted handwritten motions four times seeking such testing but was denied each time. His fifth attempt was successful after an appeals court ruled he was entitled to a hearing.

Bain initially was expected to be freed with some conditions as the state wanted a further review of DNA test results. But the review was completed ahead of Thursday's hearing.

Polk County State Attorney Jerry Hill told the judge that DNA testing had excluded Bain from the crime.

"He's just not connected with this particular incident," Hill said.

"Mr. Bain, I'm now signing the order, sir," the judge said, referring to an order vacating the judgment and sentence.

"You are a free man. Congratulations," he said, and the courtroom erupted into applause.

In 1974, the 9-year-old Lake Wales, Florida, victim had told police that his attacker had bushy sideburns and a mustache. After being shown five photos of potential suspects, the victim picked out one of Bain, the police report said.

The victim, now 44, lives in Florida and was made aware of Bain's situation, according to multiple sources.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Bain said he was going home with family. "I'm going to see my mom," he said.

His mother, Sarah Reed, has been in and out of hospitals in recent years. She said she is putting her house and her car in her son's name. "I want him to have something by himself. He's suffered enough," she said.

Asked about prison, Bain said, "So many things can happen to you at any time." But now, "I guess I kind of feel like when they first landed on the moon. We have touchdown," he said, laughing.

Source: www.edition.cnn.com

DNA Exonerates Inmate After Serving 35 Years for Kidnapping, Rape


BARTOW, Fla. — James Bain used a cell phone for the first time Thursday, calling his elderly mother to tell her he had been freed after 35 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.


Mobile devices didn't exist in 1974, the year he was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping a 9-year-old boy and raping him in a nearby field.


Neither did the sophisticated DNA testing that officials more recently used to determine he could not have been the rapist.


"Nothing can replace the years Jamie has lost," said Seth Miller, a lawyer for the Florida Innocence Project, which helped Bain win freedom. "Today is a day of renewal."


Bain spent more time in prison than any of the 246 inmates previously exonerated by DNA evidence nationwide, according to the project. The longest-serving before him was James Lee Woodward of Dallas, who was released last year after spending more than 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.


As Bain walked out of the Polk County courthouse Thursday, wearing a black T-shirt that said "not guilty," he spoke of his deep faith and said he does not harbor any anger.


"No, I'm not angry," he said. "Because I've got God."


The 54-year-old said he looks forward to eating fried turkey and drinking Dr Pepper. He said he also hopes to go back to school.


Friends and family surrounded him as he left the courthouse after Judge James Yancey ordered him freed. His 77-year-old mother, who is in poor health, preferred to wait for him at home. With a broad smile, he said he looks forward to spending time with her and the rest of his family.


"That's the most important thing in my life right now, besides God," he said.


Earlier, the courtroom erupted in applause after Yancey ruled.


"Mr. Bain, I'm now signing the order," Yancey said. "You're a free man. Congratulations."


Thursday's hearing was delayed 40 minutes because prosecutors were on the phone with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. DNA tests were expedited at the department's lab and ultimately proved Bain innocent. Prosecutors filed a motion to vacate the conviction and the sentence.


"He's just not connected to this particular incident," State Attorney Jerry Hill told the judge.


Attorneys from the Innocence Project of Florida got involved in Bain's case earlier this year after he had filed several previous petitions asking for DNA testing, all of which were thrown out.


A judge finally ordered the tests and the results from a respected private lab in Cincinnati came in last week, setting the wheels in motion for Thursday's hearing. The Innocence Project had called for Bain's release by Christmas.


He was convicted largely on the strength of the victim's eyewitness identification, though testing available at the time did not definitively link him to the crime. The boy said his attacker had bushy sideburns and a mustache. The boy's uncle, a former assistant principal at a high school, said it sounded like Bain, a former student.


The boy picked Bain out of a photo lineup, although there are lingering questions about whether detectives steered him.


The jury rejected Bain's story that he was home watching TV with his twin sister when the crime was committed, an alibi she repeated at a news conference last week. He was 19 when he was sentenced.


Source: www.google.com

Fla. man exonerated after 35 years behind bars

BARTOW, Fla. — James Bain used a cell phone for the first time Thursday, calling his elderly mother to tell her he had been freed after 35 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

Mobile devices didn't exist in 1974, the year he was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping a 9-year-old boy and raping him in a nearby field.

Neither did the sophisticated DNA testing that officials more recently used to determine he could not have been the rapist.

"Nothing can replace the years Jamie has lost," said Seth Miller, a lawyer for the Florida Innocence Project, which helped Bain win freedom. "Today is a day of renewal."

Bain spent more time in prison than any of the 246 inmates previously exonerated by DNA evidence nationwide, according to the project. The longest-serving before him was James Lee Woodward of Dallas, who was released last year after spending more than 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

As Bain walked out of the Polk County courthouse Thursday, wearing a black T-shirt that said "not guilty," he spoke of his deep faith and said he does not harbor any anger.

"No, I'm not angry," he said. "Because I've got God."

The 54-year-old said he looks forward to eating fried turkey and drinking Dr Pepper. He said he also hopes to go back to school.

Friends and family surrounded him as he left the courthouse after Judge James Yancey ordered him freed. His 77-year-old mother, who is in poor health, preferred to wait for him at home. With a broad smile, he said he looks forward to spending time with her and the rest of his family.

"That's the most important thing in my life right now, besides God," he said.

Earlier, the courtroom erupted in applause after Yancey ruled.

"Mr. Bain, I'm now signing the order," Yancey said. "You're a free man. Congratulations."

Thursday's hearing was delayed 40 minutes because prosecutors were on the phone with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. DNA tests were expedited at the department's lab and ultimately proved Bain innocent. Prosecutors filed a motion to vacate the conviction and the sentence.

"He's just not connected to this particular incident," State Attorney Jerry Hill told the judge.

Attorneys from the Innocence Project of Florida got involved in Bain's case earlier this year after he had filed several previous petitions asking for DNA testing, all of which were thrown out.

A judge finally ordered the tests and the results from a respected private lab in Cincinnati came in last week, setting the wheels in motion for Thursday's hearing. The Innocence Project had called for Bain's release by Christmas.

He was convicted largely on the strength of the victim's eyewitness identification, though testing available at the time did not definitively link him to the crime. The boy said his attacker had bushy sideburns and a mustache. The boy's uncle, a former assistant principal at a high school, said it sounded like Bain, a former student.

The boy picked Bain out of a photo lineup, although there are lingering questions about whether detectives steered him.

The jury rejected Bain's story that he was home watching TV with his twin sister when the crime was committed, an alibi she repeated at a news conference last week. He was 19 when he was sentenced.

Source: www.google.com


Man freed from prison after 35 years


BARTOW, Fla. - A man who spent 35 years in prison has been freed after DNA evidence exonerated him of raping a child.

James Bain spent more time in prison than any of the 246 inmates previously exonerated by DNA evidence nationwide, according to the Innocence Project of Florida. The longest-serving before him was James Lee Woodward of Dallas, who was released last year after spending more than 27 years in prison for a murder he did not commit.

"Nothing can replace the years Jamie has lost," said Seth Miller, a lawyer for the project, which helped Bain win freedom. "Today is a day of renewal."

Bain made his first-ever cell phone call Thursday, dialing his elderly mother to tell her he had been freed.

Mobile devices didn't exist in 1974, the year he was sentenced to life in prison for kidnapping a 9-year-old boy and raping him in a nearby field. Neither did the sophisticated DNA testing that officials more recently used to determine he could not have been the rapist.

As Bain walked out of the Polk County courthouse Thursday, wearing a black T-shirt that said "not guilty," he spoke of his deep faith and said he does not harbor any anger.

"No, I'm not angry," he said. "Because I've got God."

The 54-year-old said he looks forward to eating fried turkey and drinking Dr Pepper. He said he also hopes to go back to school.

Friends and family surrounded him as he left the courthouse after Judge James Yancey ordered him freed. His 77-year-old mother, who is in poor health, preferred to wait for him at home. With a broad smile, he said he looks forward to spending time with her and the rest of his family.

"That's the most important thing in my life right now, besides God," he said.

Earlier, the courtroom erupted in applause after Yancey ruled.

"Mr. Bain, I'm now signing the order," Yancey said. "You're a free man. Congratulations."

Attorneys from the Innocence Project of Florida got involved in Bain's case earlier this year after he filed several previous petitions asking for DNA testing, all of which were thrown out.

A judge finally ordered the tests and the results from a respected private lab in Cincinnati came in last week, setting the wheels in motion for Thursday's hearing. The Innocence Project had called for Bain's release by Christmas.

He was convicted largely on the strength of the victim's eyewitness identification, even though testing available at the time did not definitively link him to the crime. The boy said his attacker had bushy sideburns and a mustache. The boy's uncle, a former assistant principal at a high school, said it sounded like Bain, a former student.

The boy picked Bain out of a photo lineup, although there are lingering questions about whether detectives steered him.

The jury rejected Bain's story that he was home watching TV with his twin sister when the crime was committed, an alibi she repeated at a news conference last week. He was 19 when he was sentenced.

Florida last year passed a law that automatically grants former inmates found innocent $50,000 for each year they spent in prison. That means Bain is entitled to $1.75 million.

Source: www.xml.orlandosentinel.com