Governor Schwarzenegger: Make California a Leader in Improving the Criminal Justice System

This is a guest post by John Terzano, The Justice Project

Health care reform may have stalled in California, but Governor Schwarzenegger still has a chance to make the state a leader in fixing a national problem: wrongful convictions. Three major criminal justice reform bills are now on the Governor’s desk.  The measures are designed to safeguard against wrongful convictions by making practical changes to eyewitness identification procedures, reforming the process by which confessions are attained, and regulating the use of jailhouse snitch testimony. 

With more than 200 exonerations to date in California it is critical that measures are enacted before more mistakes are made.  The governor has the ability to not only protect the innocent but enhance public safety and the integrity of California’s law enforcement by signing these important bills into law, and setting a standard for the nation.

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California Needs Higher Standards for the Use of “Snitch” Testimony

This is a guest post by John F. Terzano of The Justice Project
Harold Hall was only 18 years old when he was sent to prison. He spent nearly two decades of his life in a California prison for crimes he did not commit.
Hall was wrongfully convicted of double murder in 1985 based in part on evidence provided by a jailhouse informant who fabricated a confession Hall allegedly made to him.
Jailhouse informant testimony is widely regarded as the least reliable form of testimony in the criminal justice system, but unfortunately in Mr. Hall’s case and numerous others, uncorroborated testimony from unscrupulous jailhouse informants, or “snitches,” is still used by prosecutors to obtain convictions.

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California Needs Interrogation Reform to Prevent False Confessions

This is a guest post by John F. Terzano of The Justice Project
David Allen Jones spent 12 agonizing years in a California prison for a crime he did not commit. Then DNA exonerated him.
Mr. Jones was convicted of three murders he falsely confessed to after being interrogated by a team of detectives and taken to each of the crime scenes. During the intense interrogation, Jones was prodded by detectives and corrected when he gave statements that contradicted the evidence.

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California Needs Eyewitness Identification Reform

This is a guest post by John F. Terzano of The Justice Project
Herman Atkins suffered for 12 years in a California prison – for crimes he did not commit. Then DNA exonerated him. Mr. Atkins was a victim of faulty eyewitness identification.
Mr. Atkins’ wrongful conviction for rape and robbery began when the victim and a witness identified him as the perpetrator after seeing his picture on a wanted poster for an unrelated crime. Then, the photo array used later by police also contained the wanted poster photo, which had already been viewed by the witnesses.
Watch three minutes of Herman’s story on YouTube:

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Proven Innocent After Spending 8 years, 11 Months, and 19 Days

This is a guest post by Kirk Bloodsworth of The Justice Project
My name is Kirk Bloodsworth, and my case was the first capital conviction case in the United States to be overturned through DNA testing. I was exonerated in 1993 after spending almost nine years in prison, including two on death row, for a crime I did not commit.
Eyewitness misidentification played a pivotal role in my conviction and is now a major issue in the case of Georgia death row inmate, Troy Davis . In Davis’ case, seven of the nine eyewitnesses have recanted or contradicted their original testimony. The Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles will review his case on August 9 but he faces execution.

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