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Post Conviction Archives

'Alford pleas' on the rise for potentially innocent defendants

When a defendant is exonerated, what happens next? Suppose the defense proves that DNA evidence from the crime scene does not match the defendant. Or, perhaps a key witness recants their story. In some cases, misconduct by the police, prosecutors or the jury is discovered. Once it's clear that the prosecution's case is insufficient to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, does the defendant walk free?

Supreme Court: Racist juror statement deserves consideration

Keith Tharpe, an African-American, was convicted of a terrible crime. In 1990, a Georgia jury said he had ambushed his wife and sister-in-law while they were driving to work. He murdered the sister-in-law and then kidnapped and raped his wife. The sister-in-law's body was later discovered in a ditch by her own husband.

Supreme Court to say whether plea bargain sentences can be reduced

If you plead guilty in exchange for a plea bargain, what happens if the customary sentence changes? When guideline sentences are reduced, defendants are sometimes allowed to ask for the new, lower sentence. Is there a reason why people sentenced after plea bargains should be denied that right?

Judge rules case against convicted rapist was 'weak at best'

When Wilbert Jones was convicted of a 1971 abduction and rape, he was 19. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Now 65, he is tasting freedom once more after a Louisiana judge ruled the case against him was weak and found that prosecutors may have withheld key defense evidence.

SCOTUS sentencing ban brings release for former juvenile lifers

Bobby H. was locked up for 28 years. He had been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole for a crime he committed when he was 15 years old. Now 43, he is working to navigate a world he left when he was in eighth grade.

Supreme Court to decide on standards for resolving plain errors

A conviction can be appealed on a number of grounds. One way of looking at it is that convictions (and civil cases) can be appealed based on an error of the law or an error in the facts. In some cases, factual errors are hard to gauge, as a reasonable jury might have decided the facts either way. In others, however, a factual error is a straightforward mistake, such as a mistake in math or a wrong date. This is called "plain error."

Civil rights suit shows police, witness failures in murder case

Halfway into a 20-year sentence for murder, Jennifer Del Prete was released on bond in 2014 after a judge found she had demonstrated her "actual innocence" of the crime she was convicted of. She had been convicted of violently shaking a child in her care at a day care center. That alleged shaking caused so-called "shaken baby syndrome," neurological evidence of abuse. Unfortunately, it appears that the science behind "shaken baby syndrome" is, as the judge put it, "highly suspect."

Man caught having sex as teen now banned from living in own home

Just after he turned 17, LaShun G. was charged with second-degree sexual assault having sex with another teenager. He was tried and convicted as an adult, which means he was added to the sex offender registry in the state where he lives. He never committed another offense. He is now married and has three children.

SCOTUS rules in favor of poorly-advised immigrant who pled guilty

A South Korean immigrant will not be deported after pleading guilty to a drug crime after being badly advised by his criminal defense attorney. This is an interesting development, because it involves a guilty plea. If he had tried to get the plea itself reversed, he likely would not have succeeded. However, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the negative immigration consequences can be averted in such a circumstance.

Court: Washington man's child sex charges entirely based on lies

A Washington, Sheriff's detective was so sure Clyde Spencer was sexually abusing children that she made up dozens of false quotations and attributed them to his children, according to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Those lies coerced him into entering a no-contest plea and spend nearly 20 years in prison. He deserves the $9 million in compensation a jury has already awarded him.

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Patrick T. McNally, Attorney at Law
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