Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Texas Reform Creates Office for Capital Appeals

A new law in Texas will create a state office to handle the appeals of death row inmates. The office was created in response to a series of well publicized scandals which brought international attention to the subpar representation of capital offense appeals. Texas, unlike other states with capital punishment, had not used the public defender's office to handle the habeus corpus writs for their capital offenders, but instead had hired outside attorneys who often missed deadlines or wrote "skeletal writs". The new office will have a budget of a million dollars and a staff of nine, but its services will not be available to those capital inmates who have already used up their appeals. The Office of Capital Writs is expected to handle approximately ten appeals a year.

The Houston Chronicle: State to handle capital appeals

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Estate of Kenneth Waters Settles For 3.4 Million

The estate of the late Kenneth Waters, who was exonerated in 2001 after spending 18 years in prison, has settled their case against the town of Ayer for a total of 3.4 million dollars. The estate, headed by Waters' sister, Betty Ann Waters, is still in negotiations with one final insurer. Kenneth Waters was convicted in 1983 of first degree murder and armed robbery. He remained wrongfully incarcerated until his sister Betty Ann Waters became a lawyer and fought to free her brother by means of DNA testing. The civil rights suit against the town of Ayer included the charges that police officers coerced false testimony to convict Waters and withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense. Waters died just nine months after his exoneration, and Betty Ann Waters has worked on his behalf for compensation for his time in prison. Waters was represented by the New York Innocence Project and by New England Innocence Project attorneys when his conviction was overturned.

The Boston Globe: Ayer to pay $3.4m for unjust conviction

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

NEIP Files Supporting Brief in RI Murder Appeal Case

Stacey Barros was convicted in 2008 of murder, and is currently serving two life terms plus ten years. Barros was convicted of killing Deivy Felipe in 2005, in what appears to have been a drug deal gone wrong. Now the New England Innocence Project has filed a supporting friend-of-the-court brief in Barros' appeals case. Among the issues raised in the brief is the question of why the police recorded only twelve minutes of a four hour interrogation of Barros. Barros confessed to the crime in that recording, but later claimed he was coerced into that confession. In his confession, Barros got facts of the case wrong, including the number of shell casings and the angle at which Felipe was shot. There is no physical evidence linking Barros to the murder. NEIP filed their brief in part to pressure the Rhode Island legislature to pass a law mandating recording of all police interrogations. Similar laws have been proposed in recent years but have failed to pass.

The Providence Journal: Innocence Project filing brief in Providence murder case

Monday, July 6, 2009

Troy Davis' Petition Will Be Heard Next Session

Troy Davis' habeus corpus petition was not heard by the Supreme Court last week when they ended their session, and will be heard when the Court resumes in the fall. Davis is on death row for murder, even though evidence has surfaced since his conviction which raises considerable doubt as to his guilt. The Court's decision to delay hearing his petition means Davis receives a stay on his execution through the summer, a small victory for his supporters.