There is a point, where a life could crash…We can give some hope!


ACLU AMERICAN CIVIL LIBERTIES UNION

Because freedom can’t protect itself.

A Living Death: Sentenced to Die Behind Bars for What?
A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses

For 3,278 people, it was nonviolent offenses like stealing a $159 jacket or serving as a middleman in the sale of $10 of marijuana. An estimated 65% of them are Black. Many of them were struggling with mental illness, drug dependency or financial desperation when they committed their crimes. None of them will ever come home to their parents and children. And taxpayers are spending billions to keep them behind bars.

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Stealing tools from a shed Carrying drugs for an abusive boyfriend Taking a wallet from a hotel room Having someone hide drugs in your home Borrowing a co-worker's truck Watch the video: A Living Death

Patrick W. Matthews: Stealing Tools from a Tool ShedPatrick W. Matthews

Stealing Tools from a Tool Shed

Patrick Matthews was arrested while riding in the truck of a friend who pawned stolen tools and a welding machine, which he was convicted of stealing. Patrick is now 25. Since he was sentenced to die in prison three years ago, he has completed his GED, and participates in Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. “I never in the world would’ve thought that could happen,” he says. “Made one mistake and was treated like a murderer.” Patrick had no violent criminal history and had never served a single day in a Department of Corrections facility. He desperately misses his two young children, Blayton and Hayley, who are eight and six years old. One of the judges who reviewed Patrick’s appeal said he did not “believe that the ends of justice are met by a mandatory sentence for this 22-year-old,” but that legislation mandated sending Patrick away for the rest of his life because of unarmed burglary convictions when he was 17. …

Teresa Griffin: Carrying Drugs for an Abusive BoyfriendTeresa Griffin

Carrying Drugs for an Abusive Boyfriend

Teresa Griffin was sentenced to die behind bars for her first offense. She was 26 and seven months pregnant when police apprehended her with $38,500 of her boyfriend’s cash and half a pound of his cocaine. Several years before, she told her boyfriend that she was leaving him. According to Griffin, he hit her and threatened to kill her and take two of her children away if she left him. He was extremely jealous and controlling, and forbade her to go to school or work. Teresa says her boyfriend used her as a mule to transport drugs between Texas and Oklahoma, and forced her to pick up the cash proceeds of his drug sales. Griffin, now 47, has served 22 years in prison and says she feels immense remorse for her actions. “I would give anything…to be able to make different decisions,” she says. “I know I did something wrong, but not enough to take away my life.”

Video: A Living Death

Can you imagine a mother without her oldest son? A father who will never make it home for his kids’ birthdays?
It’s not too late to give these families hope.
Watch this video and help us fight extreme sentences for nonviolent crimes – sentences that have reached absurd, tragic and costly heights.

 

 
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Anthony Jerome Jackson: Taking a Wallet from a Hotel RoomAnthony Jerome Jackson

Taking a Wallet from a Hotel Room

Andrew Jackson has a sixth-grade education and worked as a cook. He was convicted of burglary for stealing a wallet from a Myrtle Beach hotel room when he was 44 years old. According to prosecutors, he woke two vacationing golfers as he entered the room and stole a wallet, then pretended to be a security guard and ran away. Police arrested him when he tried to use the stolen credit card at a pancake house. According to Jackson, because his court-appointed attorney failed to properly prepare for trial and did not even know the charges against him, Jackson chose to represent himself but did not understand anything during his trial. Because of two prior convictions for burglary, Jackson was sentenced to mandatory life without parole under South Carolina’s three-strikes law. “I felt hurt and afraid [of] the ending of life,” Jackson said. He speaks weekly with his mother, a pastor.
 
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Stephanie Yvette George: Having Someone Hide Drugs in Your HomeStephanie Yvette George

Having Someone Hide Drugs in Your Home

Stephanie Yvette George was a 23-year-old single mother of three when police found drugs hidden in a lockbox in her attic. The father of one of George’s children confessed the drugs were his, and George says she had no idea the drugs were hidden in her home. She was convicted of playing a minor role in a crack cocaine conspiracy. At her sentencing hearing, the judge said George’s role in drug dealing had “basically been as a girlfriend and bag holder and money holder.” He did not want to sentence her to die in prison, but his “hands [were] tied” because of her prior convictions for minor drug offenses three years earlier. George’s children desperately miss their mother. Her daughter, Kendra, says, “I wish she was around to talk with me, see me off to the prom, or come see me graduate from high school…I miss her so much.”

Aaron Jones: Borrowing a Co-Worker's TruckAaron Jones

Borrowing a Co-Worker’s Truck

After serving two years in prison during his mid-twenties for inadvertently killing someone during a bar fight, Aaron Jones turned his life around. He earned an electrical technician degree, married, became an ordained reverend, and founded the Perfect Love Outreach Ministry. Years later, Aaron was hired to renovate a motel in Florida, and was living in an employee-sponsored apartment with two other workers, one of whom had a truck that was used as a company vehicle by all the co-workers. Jones decided to drive this truck home to Louisiana to visit his wife and four children. When Aaron’s co-worker woke up to find his truck missing, he reported it stolen. Aaron was pulled over by police while driving the truck. He has already served 14 years and will be in prison in Louisiana until he dies. He says of his sentence, “You are just waiting for your number to be called, to heaven or hell.”

Map: A Living Death

Of the 3,278 prisoners doing life for nonviolent crimes, 63% were sentenced by federal courts; the rest are in nine state prison systems. Click here to meet some of the individual prisoners waiting to die behind bars and see where they’re serving time. These accounts include interviews with prisoners’ parents, children, and spouses who have been punished emotionally and economically by their loved ones’ permanent absence.

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bill would restrict informant testimony in death cases


 

English: From jack47 on reddit.

English: From jack47 on reddit. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Texas Tribune

<:time datetime=”2012-11-29T01:39:20.947272″>Thursday, November 29, 2012

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Bill Would Restrict Informant Testimony in Death Cases

  • by Brandi Grissom
  • <:time datetime=”2012-11-28T06:00:00″>November 28, 2012
 

Enlargephoto by: Neil Conway

Anthony Graves was wrongly convicted and sent to death row in 1994 based largely on the testimony of an alleged accomplice in the fiery murders of six people. The accomplice, while on the execution gurney, admitted he was the lone killer. Ten years later, in 2010, Graves was exonerated. 

Like Graves, Muneer Deeb, Michael Toney and Robert Springsteen were sentenced to death after trials that involved the testimony of their cellmates or alleged accomplices. Their convictions were all overturned. 

State Rep. Harold Dutton, D-Houston, has filed a bill, HB 189, that aims to prevent wrongful death sentences in cases that involve unreliable testimony from alleged accomplices or jailhouse snitches who receive a reward for implicating someone else. 

“What we have found is that there have been people who, for their own self-interest, have basically fabricated testimony about other folks, and as a consequence that person has been found guilty,” Dutton said. 

Criminal justice reform advocates said the measure is a critical next step in Texas’ efforts to prevent wrongful convictions. Critics of the measure, though, argue that current rules already protect defendants against unreliable testimony and that eliminating such accomplice or informant testimony could tie prosecutors’ hands.

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Under HB 189, prosecutors in death penalty cases would be unable to use testimony from informants or from alleged accomplices of the defendant if the evidence were obtained in exchange for immunity, leniency or any other special treatment. The measure would also make testimony from cellmates of the defendant inadmissible unless the conversation was recorded. 

“Odd as it may sound, Texas is at the vanguard of snitch testimony,” said Alexandra Natapoff, a law professor at Loyola Law School Los Angeles, and author of the Snitching Blog. Texas was one of first states to require the corroboration of jailhouse informant testimony and drug snitches, she said. And Dutton’s bill would make Texas among the first states to prohibit prosecutors from offering criminals benefits for their testimony. 

A 2004 Northwestern University study of wrongful convictions found that informants played a major role in more than 45 percent of overturned death sentences nationwide. 

“The use of criminal informants is a massive source of error in our most serious cases,” said Natapoff, who also wrote the book Snitching: Criminal Informants and the Erosion of American Justice.

She said the Texas bill recognizes that “rewarded testimony by paid informants is one of the riskiest, most unreliable forms of testimony that the criminal justice system tolerates.” And disallowing that testimony in death penalty cases, she said, would acknowledge that cases in which an individual’s life is at stake require a higher ethical standard.

“Criminal informants have strong incentives to lie and very few disincentives to lie, because criminal informants are almost never punished,” Natapoff said.

Jeff Blackburn, chief counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas, said his organization has long pushed lawmakers to restrict the use of informants and snitches.

“That’s what the government does when they really need to convict somebody and they really don’t have the evidence,” Blackburn said. “It sounds dramatic, and it’s very tempting for prosecutors to use.”

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State Rep.-elect Joe Moody, an assistant El Paso County district attorney, said accomplices or informants are often the only witnesses who know the circumstances of the crime. Existing rules allow defense lawyers to question informants about deals they may have made with prosecutors in exchange for their testimony. If a defense attorney effectively cross-examines the witness, Moody said, the jury should be able to make an informed decision about the person’s credibility.

Requiring electronic recordings of jailhouse conversations, as Dutton’s bill suggests, Moody said, would force jails to install recording equipment in all of their facilities.

“I think the rule itself would do a disservice to trying the case in the full and open light,” said Moody, D-El Paso. 

In the wake of dozens of wrongful convictions in recent years, Texas has passed a number of measures to prevent such injustices and to compensate the victims of the criminal justice system’s mistakes. Most recently, in 2011, legislators passed a bill that improved police procedures for eyewitness identifications after studies showed misidentifications played a major role in many wrongful convictions.

Dutton has filed similar proposals to curb the use of informants in past sessions, and they have failed. As Texas continues to make national headlines with its exonerations, Dutton said, he is hopeful that lawmakers will be more amenable in the 2013 session. 

“Members now recognize that Texas needs to do a lot better job of protecting the integrity of our legal system,” he said. “The truth of the matter is all the systems we have in place to protect innocent people from being convicted simply haven’t worked.”