Prosecutor Apologizes for Sending Innocent Man to Louisiana’s Death Row

March 27, 2015
From: Equal Justice Initiative

A.M. “Marty” Stroud III, the lead prosecutor responsible for sending Glenn Ford to death row for a murder he didn’t commit, apologized and called for abolition of the death penalty in an open letter published in the Shreveport Times.

Mr. Stroud wrote in response to the paper’s coverage of Mr. Ford’s struggle to obtain compensation for the nearly 30 years he wrongfully spent on death row. Mr. Ford was released on March 11, 2014, after the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s office filed a motion to vacate his conviction and death sentence based on new evidence that someone else committed the crime. Louisiana law allows compensation of $25,000 a year capped at $250,000 for the wrongfully convicted, but prosecutors are opposing Mr. Ford’s request.

“Glenn Ford should be compensated to every extent possible,” Mr. Stroud wrote. “The audacity of the state’s effort to deny Mr. Ford any compensation for the horrors he suffered in the name of Louisiana justice is appalling.”

Read the rest and see the interview here.

Here is the open letter A.M. Stroud III wrote to the Shreveport Times.

Nevada Has An Innovative Idea For How To Right Wrongful Convictions

This comes from ThinkProgress, with thanks to Tonja Brown:

on April 2, 2015

Nolan Klein spent the last 21 years of his life in prison on a life sentence that he never stopped fighting.

Klein claimed a witness misidentified him in a photo lineup and he had nothing to do with the 1988 robbery and sexual assault that occurred in a Payless shoe store in Sparks, Nevada. His sister has continued advocating for his innocence, even after his death.

Courts have denied him a posthumous exoneration, but lawmakers in Nevada introduced legislation with bipartisan support last week which would have helped Klein fight his wrongful conviction and could grant an exoneration after his death, his sister, Tonja Brown, told ThinkProgress. The bill, AB 401, would make Nevada the second state in the nation to allow the creation of separate courts that would re-examine possible wrongful convictions.

“If this bill existed, Nolan Klein and others like him could have their cases heard,” said Brown, who also wrote about her story in an exhibit attached to AB 401. “It would allow all evidence that was not presented at trial that may have been hidden from the defense, newly discovered evidence that was overlooked, DNA evidence to be tested and witnesses that were never investigated.”

To date, there have been 329 people exonerated by DNA testing in the United States, with the average exoneree serving 14 years in prison. Since 2003, prisoners in Nevada can petition the court for DNA testing, but creating a separate court would allow judges to examine all of the available evidence and other information that may have been withheld in the original trial that convicted an innocent person.

The jury in Klein’s case was only shown around 20 exhibits — a small portion of the evidence that was available to the defense counsel, Brown said.

Read the rest here…

Jeffrey Havard fights wrongful conviction and death sentence from Mississippi’s death row

Dec. 16, 2014
The future is uncertain for Jeffery Havard, who currently sits wrongfully convicted in solitary confinement on Mississippi’s death row, where he has remained for almost 13 years. Time is running out for prisoner L3955.
Havard, 36, has been incarcerated at Parchman Penitentiary since December of 2002, when he was charged for sexually abusing and murdering his former girlfriend’s six-month-old daughter, Chloe Britt, who died from preexisting medical conditions and an accidental shortfall.
In fact, the baby slipped from Jeff’s hands while he was lifting her from the bathtub, which tragically resulted in her hitting her head on the toilet. Following the accident, Havard evaluated the infant, who appeared to be uninjured.
New findings by experts support Havard’s claims that he is innocent of all charges filed against him by the state of Mississippi.

Ohio prisoners freed 39 years after wrongful murder convictions

This is from: Deutsche Welle, Nov 21, 2014:

After decades behind bars for a 1975 murder they did not commit, Ricky Jackson and Wiley Bridgeman have walked free in Ohio. The key witness, a 12-year-old boy at the time, said police coerced him into false testimony.

Ricky Jackson, 57, and Wiley Bridgeman, 60, walked free on Friday after spending two-thirds of their lives in Ohio prisons for a murder they did not commit. The two men, and Bridgeman’s brother Ronnie, who now goes by the name Kwame Ajamu, were sentenced to death in 1975.

A child, Eddie Vernon, testified that he saw the trio kill businessman Harry Franks on May 19 that year. Vernon recently admitted that he never saw the murder, saying that police detectives had coerced him into giving false testimony in the trial.

“The English language doesn’t even fit what I’m feeling, I’m on an emotional high,” Jackson said on Friday after his release, also saying that he harbored no ill will towards witness Vernon.
“I guess a lot of people will want me to hate that person and carry animosity towards them, but I don’t,” Jackson said. “People see him as a grown man today, but in 1975 he was a 12-year-old kid and he was manipulated and coerced by the police and they used him to get us in prison. As far as that young man is concerned, I wish him the best. I don’t hate him, I just wish he has a good life.”
Once set for death penalty, now pardoned

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, a University of Michigan project tracking wrongful convictions, Jackson’s 39 years in prison make him the longest-serving exoneree in US history.

The three-year process leading to the exonerations started with a story published in Scene Magazine in 2011, detailing flaws in the case and questionable elements of star witness Vernon’s testimony. Vernon, now 52, recanted in 2013 when a religious official visited him.

During a court hearing for Jackson on Tuesday, Vernon broke down as he described detectives’ threats before the trial, and the burden of guilt he had shouldered since. By Thursday, prosecutors had filed a motion to dismiss all charges against the three men.

After Scene’s 2011 article, the Ohio branch of Innocence Project, a national organization fighting to exonerate people convicted wrongfully, took up Jackson and Bridgeman’s cause.

ll three men were initially handed the death sentence, but their sentences were later commuted to life in prison. According to Mark Godsey from the Ohio Innocence Project, “one of them came within 20 days of execution before Ohio ruled the death penalty unconstitutional.”

Ronnie Bridgeman, now Kwame Ajamu, was released in 2003; he attended both men’s exoneration hearings on Friday.

Free Leon Benson: Truth never dies, it is only rediscovered!

Leon Benson: sentenced to life in prison in 1999, for a crime he did not commit. We need some more attention to his case, and you can help by reaching out, spreading the word, listening to Leon’s story. Thank you for caring about the truth.

Please visit the website to learn more: Freeleonbenson.org

Reggie Clemons judge finds police suppressed evidence in death row case

This comes from The Guardian, Aug. 7th, 2013:

Finding gives Clemons, who has been on death row since 1993 for Missouri double murder, hope of avoiding lethal injection.

Read the whole article here.

Greg Curry on Lucasville Uprising and 20th anniversary hunger strike demanding media access

From: SF Bay View, April 21, 2013

by Annabelle Parker

Greg recently on a visit behind glass

Greg Curry, 48, is a prisoner in the Ohio State Penitentiary, the supermax facility in that state, serving a life sentence following a major disturbance in the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility (SOCF), in Lucasville, Ohio. This disturbance, known as the Lucasville Uprising, started 20 years ago, on April 11, 1993, after the warden, Arthur Tate, had instituted a very strict regime with no allowance for any discussion or negotiation of the rules, nor any respect for those in prison.

One of the important issues for Muslim prisoners was that the mandatory TB tests used alcohol (phenol) under the skin, which they refused. There was no discussion allowed with the warden to use alternative means of testing. This attitude of not listening to the serious concerns of a group of religious prisoners culminated in the uprising. For more information, see http://www.lucasvilleamnesty.org/p/background.html and https://justiceforlucasvilleprisoners.wordpress.com/.

This disturbance, known as the Lucasville Uprising, started 20 years ago, on April 11, 1993, after the warden, Arthur Tate, had instituted a very strict regime with no allowance for any discussion or negotiation of the rules, nor any respect for those in prison.

I’ve been in contact with the people who were convicted after the disturbance ended, and one big reason the story of Lucasville has to be told again and again is that not only did this tragic, desperate uprising lead to 10 deaths, but five men are still on death row and many more have been given lengthy sentences who declare their innocence.

After the uprising, informants were used to testify against other prisoners. In some cases, one prisoner would admit to having committed a murder, yet someone else would be found guilty of the same murder. Attorney and writer Staughton Lynd details this in seven essays he has written over the past year reflecting on the 20th anniversary of the Lucasville Uprising.

Siddique Abdullah Hasan, designated the “ringleader” during his trial following the Lucasville Uprising and condemned to death, wrote: “One of the prosecutors, who is now a state judge, recently stated to a documentary filmmaker, ‘I don’t think that we will ever know who hands-on killed the Corrections Officer Vallandingham.’ This is not what he and other prosecutors told our juries. So yes, we are innocent men who are political prisoners.”

One big reason the story of Lucasville has to be told again and again is that not only did this tragic, desperate uprising lead to 10 deaths, but five men are still on death row and many more have been given lengthy sentences who declare their innocence.

Building a supermax appears to be the one thing politicians and prisoncrats wanted in the 1990s, and the Lucasville Uprising, which they call a riot, was all that was needed to get their way.

These innocent men have been treated more cruelly for the 20 years since the uprising than any other Ohio prisoners, and that injustice must be set right. More public and political outcry is badly needed. A general amnesty for all involved would be a graceful and just, albeit late, remedy for those who were wrongly convicted. Here is the story in short of Greg Curry, one of the prisoners who received a life sentence even though he had nothing to do with the uprising or the murders.

Greg Curry

Annabelle Parker: Greg, on the website Gregcurry.org and in a flyer you and your supporters have published, you wrote: “I was 29 years old. My interest was going home, sports, hustling and exercising, nothing more or less: no gangs, groups or religious affiliation, nothing to prove to my peers. Therefore, I had no serious disciplinary issues. My job was a recreation aide.”

So you were not with the Muslims or affiliated  with a prison gang?

Greg Curry: No, I was not part of any prison group or religion pre 1993. Most of the guys charged I had not even seen before.

A.P.: Greg, why did the prosecution or those investigating the riot turn to you? Do you have any clue? Did anyone mention your name?

G.C.: Most people knew me and Keith LaMar [now known as Bomani Shakur] was close friends, brothers even, so the assumption would be natural that we’re together or have each other’s back.

Some guys in LaMar’s block where these murders took place (apparently) blamed him and his friends, all in face mask by the way. So that started a process of founding “LaMar’s friends,” and once I was interviewed by the investigators, I was told “you or LaMar going to death row.”

I told them I didn’t know anything and have no reason to blame LaMar for anything either. Some guys – Lou Jones, Ant Walker, Donald Cassell – had previous problems with LaMar and evidence suggested that they would be charged for murders, so they needed to “perform” to get paroles and no charges on themselves.
Once LaMar’s “friends’” names were discovered, the investigators started giving these to their inmate conspirators (“snitches”) and those inmates repeated the lies. When you put most anyone up against anyone else, most people will save self; lying is only a minor detail.

I was given an opportunity to “save myself,” but I didn’t do anything or know anything worthy of needing saving from. How ironic that not knowing, not being involved, would put me at greater risk than had I committed a crime.

A.P.: This snitching by other inmates, this was encouraged by the prosecutors? Did the prisoners get anything out of snitching, which I gather means lying in court? Were they themselves involved maybe?

G.C.: Yes, the investigators that were state police and the prosecutors encouraged, created a narrative for the inmate conspirators (“snitches”) that wrapped up all loose ends and allowed different juries in different courts to convict different people for the exact same crime, so that four to five people individually are convicted for each murder.

Those snitches were then given parole or no charges. In Lou Jones’ case, he admitted being on this so-called “death squad,” yet he was not charged with anything and got a parole.

To clarify the commonly used term “snitching,” I prefer the inmate conspirators’ term. Yes, they helped get us divided, which in America is an easy task, and then the heavy burden of being poor, Black, male, convicted felon in a totally opposite rural community on trial makes you truly vulnerable to conviction.
Then, yes, these guys came to court to testify as well. As I said earlier, yes, these guys were the first to be accused, which is why the investigators paid them a visit. Once shown the evidence against them, they were given a “way out.”

I was given an opportunity to “save myself,” but I didn’t do anything or know anything worthy of needing saving from. How ironic that not knowing, not being involved, would put me at greater risk than had I committed a crime.


A.P.: You say on the website that deals are part of the law in Ohio but that the jurors have to know about the deals. In your case, the jurors clearly did not know, but the prosecution and the lying inmates did know about the fabrication of the case against you. In other words, they knew about a deal, but it was not disclosed in court? And the judge? Did he or she know?
What about Beckett v Haviland US App 6th cir?

G.C.: I believe the judge at trial, Stapleton, a retired judge, was in the blend to the deal between the prosecution and inmates. However, he became (at least) an unwilling accomplice when he stated, “By law if there were deals, they would have to be disclosed,” in response to my jurors’ inquiry, so that convinced my jury it was no deals when in fact it was, and the inmates and prosecutors covered it up. While my defense was based on my innocence and these inmates’ deals.

Beckett v. Haviland is just the latest in a long list of case law that clearly states this practice to be so out of bounds that the only remedy, and I quote: “The only remedy is a new trial.” (See http://gregcurry.weebly.com/gregs-case.html with attached document, Beckett v. Haviland).

Thus far the judicial system has hid behind “procedural” walls to deny me a court hearing. The courts claim it’s too late to seek justice! Can you believe that crap from a world leader in telling other countries what justice is?!

“The only remedy is a new trial.”

A.P.: What were you charged with and did you know those testifying against you? What happened to them?

G.C.: I was indicted for two aggravated murders, found guilty of one and guilty on the other of attempted aggravated murder. All those who testified against me received deals ranging from paroles to lower security to choice cellmates.

A.P.: Greg, it is 20 years now since that ordeal. What is the situation now of your case, and how can we support you?

G.C.: The courts are merely a reflection of a society that “don’t wanna know,” so until people become aware and demand mainstream media look into it and the media asks questions of lawyers and pastors and civil rights leaders, then it will be 20 years more.

Our fight at present is to make people aware, skeptic or not. Just look into it. Our supporters hold rallies and events that cost money so even if you can’t physically come out, help with money. Donations help. Email blast the websites. Get to know us. Just don’t ignore this anymore. It’s been 20 years.

A.P.: Is there anything else you need us to know right now?

G.C.: As of April 11, 2013, many of us are on a hunger strike to demand access to media to tell our stories. So pray for us. But prayer without deeds can’t please our God.

Freedom first,
Greg

Annabelle Parker, who lives in the Netherlands and dedicates her life to supporting prisoners in their struggles for freedom and justice, can be reached at freegregcurry@yahoo.com.

Send our brother some love and light: Greg Curry, 213-159, OSP, 878 Coitsville-Hubbard Road, Youngstown, OH 44505. His website, created and maintained by his supporters, is Gregcurry.org.

Support the hunger strikers

The situation is urgent. As of April 21, Bomani Shakur (Keith LaMar) had already lost 28 pounds!

To support the hunger strikers, call JoEllen Smith, head of the Office of Communications at the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction (ODRC) central office, and demand that she and ODRC Director Gary Mohr grant media access for on-camera interviews with the Lucasville hunger striking prisoners. Her number is (614) 752-1159.

Tell the operator you do not want to talk to the warden, because you know that Director Mohr and Communications Director Smith are the actual decision-makers. Tell JoEllen Smith that you believe they are denying this access because they do not want the truth to come out about April of 1993.

Sign the online petition at http://www.change.org/petitions/ohio-department-of-rehabilitation-and-corrections-allow-on-camera-interviews-with-lucasville-uprising-prisoners#.

Learn more at http://www.lucasvilleamnesty.org/2013/04/20th-anniversary-hunger-strike-press.html.