Thursday, October 04, 2007

Wrongful Conviction Overturned in Houston

Reports Charles Kuffner: "Ronald Taylor ... is on his way to being freed from prison after being unjustly convicted of rape 14 years ago due to an error committed by the HPD Crime Lab."

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

After stealing only 14 years of Ron Taylor's life perhaps the City of Houston should be made top pay a tidy sum to Mr. Taylor, not the state of Texas. How will they return 14 years of brutality he has suffered at the hands of TDCJ? What about the innocent in prison who had no DNA because the cop who worked the scene was too stupid to get any? I guess they just rot in a cesspit unit in Texas. And we call this justice.

Daniel, USMC said...

After stealing only 14 years of Ron Taylor's life perhaps the City of Houston should be made top pay a tidy sum to Mr. Taylor, not the state of Texas.

Oh puh-lease. Like it or not, 12 reasonable jurors believed beyond a reasonable doubt that this guy was guilty. Last time I served on a Jury, I can't remember the Judge or Prosecutor putting a gun to my head for the conviction.

What about the innocent in prison who had no DNA because the cop who worked the scene was too stupid to get any?

DNA is not a pre-requisite for a conviction. People like you, who obviously watch to much CSI, are the reason the Justice system bogs down when jurors expect DNA evidence for every offense in the penal code.

Daniel

Anonymous said...

Daniel, I suppose you believe in the tooth fairy too!

Mistakes are made by juries all the time. The judicial system should be more about actual innocense and less about what Police, Prosecutors, Jury's think.

An individual has no chance against a system that is designed to get convictions and where Appeals are rubber stamped by a Court of Criminal Appeals biased against the convicted.

The fact that this person's innocense has been confirmed is nothing short of a miracle.

Anonymous said...

You guys need branch office in Houston.
It kills me that all these big topics make the news around the state, but they are happening every day in Houston.

Daniel, USMC said...

Mistakes are made by juries all the time.

Please show me where anyone is guaranteed an error free trial. This is a fallacy.

Daniel, I suppose you believe in the tooth fairy too!

I fail to see any fantasy in my post.

Is it fantasy that Jurors convicted him? Nope.

Is it fantasy that DNA is not a pre-requisite for a conviction? Nope.

Please point it out.

The judicial system should be more about actual innocense and less about what Police, Prosecutors, Jury's think.

No. The judicial system should be exactly about what the Jury thinks. And the Prosecutors... and the Defense Lawyer... and the Police (if they are indeed witness to the facts). The jurist, per Texas law, is not only the trier of fact... but also of law.

Obviously the Jury thought the law just and the man guilty.

What perfect system do you propose as an alternative?

sunray's wench said...

Daniel ~ if the jury, defence, prosecution and judge were all party to ALL the evidence in any given case, then yes I would be more inclined to agree with you that when a jury finds a person guilty, chances are that person IS guilty. But we know that in Texas, evidence is witheld by all sides, judges refuse to hear evidence, and juries are not privvy to all the facts of the case. Add to that, lawyers who go IN to court before the trial making statements such as "we will be asking for the death penalty", and the system that allows plea bargaining where NO trial occurs and all rights to appeal are surrendered upon signing, and police that can bring someone to trial on the basis of an untaped confession or an unreliable eyewitness statement AND NOTHING MORE, and you have a system that has more potential for mistakes and flaws than any other I know of.

DNA may not be a pre-requisit for a conviction, but if it exists for a case then it should be included as evidence.

Anonymous said...

Daniel, you wrote:

Obviously the Jury thought the law just and the man guilty.

I have to question this statement, as far as I know, the jury is required to follow the judge's instructions. I don't believe there is any requirement that they think the law is just.

At the end of the day, this man was innocent. The system did not work correctly. You seem to want to defend a system regardless of the fact that it is flawed.

Sunray and I want to explore ways to make the system better!

Are you opposed to that?

Anonymous said...

This is a sad example of a defendant that truly looked like the guilty guy, being convicted at a time when DNA was not quite the norm.

I can't stand HPD's lab and Rosenthal's tendency to want to close a case more than get the right guy, but I can see how this one fell through the cracks.

There are far more cases, however, where the HPD lab intentionally manufactured or faked evidence. This is not one of them though.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"I can see how this one fell through the cracks. "

That and $2 will get the guy a coffee at the Starbucks, if he doesn't order one of those fancy ones. But it won't get him 14 years of his life back.

Perhaps the standard of proof for sentences greater than ten years should be changed from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "beyond a shadow of a doubt." I'm tired of hearing about innocent people railroaded into prison because they "looked" guilty.

David said...

I'm tired of hearing about innocent people railroaded into prison because they "looked" guilty.

I am too. Keep up the great work, I know it is hard. But you do it very well.

RoAN

Anonymous said...

Our jury selection needs to be improved. Some people selected for jury duty are selected by the prosecutor for their lack of knowledge and intelligence. I am not saying this to be indigniant, but it is the truth.

There are a lot of innocent people in prison because the DA and Judge who do work together to decide the outcome of a case sometimes along with the defense lawyer, and this is not justice. I don't believe our court system was set up to allow Judges and DAs make decisions before the trial begins. Some of the information a Judge refuses to read and some with held that would clear a person, are with held so someone can declare a win. Our judicial system is out of control!!

Daniel, USMC said...

Howdy Nameless Ones,

I don't believe there is any requirement that they think the law is just.

Read the Texas Constitution. It explicitly states that a Texas Juror is not only the trier of fact, but also of law. Chickenshit DA's (and judges) just don't like to include that second part. Least I never had it given during jury instructions... but I believe in due diligence and found it in the Constitution.

Our jury selection needs to be improved. Some people selected for jury duty are selected by the prosecutor for their lack of knowledge and intelligence. I am not saying this to be indigniant, but it is the truth.

For my money... select a jury randomly and allow no removals by either side.

Grits:
Perhaps the standard of proof for sentences greater than ten years should be changed from "beyond a reasonable doubt" to "beyond a shadow of a doubt."

Can you give me the legal definition to quantify your proposed change? How would you legally articulate that?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No doubt. None. You're 100% sure, without equivocation

Anonymous said...

"That and $2 will get the guy a coffee at the Starbucks, if he doesn't order one of those fancy ones. But it won't get him 14 years of his life back."


Although your response is pretty much BS, if this had been a case where evidence had been manufactured (like many HPD cases of late), you'd have a valid point.

I feel for the guy and I believe that our system of appointed attorneys when combined with our "hang 'em high" judges does great damage to our justice system.

This was one of the cases where the guy really did happen to be the wrong guy in the wrong place.

If anything, this shows how unreliable eyewitness identification can be. But there's nothing a jury can do except take the word of one person over another in a case like this, and that's exactly what they did. It was wrong, but at the time they were sure they were doing the right thing. The alternative is to get better forensics (which we now have, absent issues like HPD), or do away with jury trials.

Unless you have a magic third alternative that has a snippy little saying to go with it?

Anonymous said...

"No doubt. None. You're 100% sure, without equivocation"

That's what beyond a reasonable doubt is. An unreasonable doubt is one that a reasonable juror would not have. Besides, your standard (which is no different) would still not weed out the kooks that do things not based on the evidence, or based on their personal bias or prejudice, etc.

If you have humans involved, you will have human emotion, bias, fallibility. Period.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"there's nothing a jury can do except take the word of one person over another in a case like this, and that's exactly what they did."

Here's an alternative: Don't allow eyewitness testimony without corroborating evidence.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

I meant in that last comment for people who didn't previously know the person they ID. When ID'ing strangers, there should have to be corroboration, even (perhaps especially) for victims.

Anonymous said...

"Here's an alternative: Don't allow eyewitness testimony without corroborating evidence."

I don't think you can do that. I would be OK saying no death penalty on eyewitness ID alone, but not 'no eyewitness testimony ever.'

It is evidence. How credible it is is the issue. You can't just wholesale exclude that sort of thing.

Anonymous said...

And for clarification, when I say "ever" I understand that you are calling for corroboration. But even uncorroborated it is still evidence.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Yes, it's evidence, but when certain types of evidence has proven unreliable - e.g., in TX, snitch testimony in undercover drug stings - there's nothing wrong with requiring corroboration before the evidence can be used to convict. The law could do the same thing for eyewitnesses (where the witness didn't previously know the person) just as easily.

Daniel, USMC said...

Yes, it's evidence, but when certain types of evidence has proven unreliable.

This is why the jury is the trier of fact.

Damn Grits... you make it sound like this stuff happens 99% of the time instead of 1% of the time.

sunray's wench said...

Daniel ~ using standards in place in other countries, certainly more than 1% of convictions in Texas would be classed as 'unsafe'. Would you like to be part of the 1% you accept?

There seem to be very few checks and balances built in to the Texas system: in the UK we have the Crown Prossecution Service, an independent body who review all evidence before a trial to determine whether a conviction is likely or would be safe given the evidence. You dont seem to have anything like that in Texas.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Daniel, Getting it wrong 1% of the time is WAY too high an error rate. About 3/4 million Texans are under state supervision (prison, probation and parole), so 1% adds up to a lot of folks really quickly.

Also, the jury is trier of admissible facts, but with certain testimony - e.g., from experts, accomplices, snitches in undercover drug stings - the jury can't rely on the information unless it meets a higher reliability standard. The law requires corroboration in the case of snitches and accomplices, court certification in the case of experts. The scientific analysis of eyewitness testimony flaws in the last two decades merits revisiting its stand-alone reliability as well, IMO. As Sunray's Wench said, I'll bet you wouldn't be so happy with it if you were in that 1%. best,

RustyWhite said...

Interesting discussion, " BUT "? There are SEVERAL Factors that I believe nobody has addressed.

Due to people “ avoiding “ jury duty, There is little chance of a “ jury of your peers “! The DA gets to load the jury in his favor. Simply because most of the time it is those with self serving agendas and the elderly so full of taught fear and mind conditioning that do their duty!

The fact our system is so overloaded a DA can threaten an American with the maximum time if they demand their right to their day in court while refusing his plea deal! This in it’s self is an INSULT and DISGRACE TO JUSTICE!

The fact due to this disgrace called the war on drugs, justice and a fair trial have been replaced with a system so overloaded “ NEITHER ARE AVAILABE NOR AFFORDABLE TO ANY COMMON AMERICAN “!

Sadly in this state and country you now can have the justice and freedoms “ YOU CAN AFFORD “ !:(

End this disgraceful policy called the war on drugs. Thereby clearing our courts, jails and prison. Then maybe an American can have an “ HONEST SHOT AT JUSTICE, WE WERE ALL GURANTEED “ !

The supposed legal system of today is at best a farce and most surely a disgrace to those before us! Who sacrificed so these self serving biased bigots can disgrace their own supposed “ NOBEL PROFFESSION “ for their own self serving agendas! At the very cost of our Individual freedoms and Constitutional Guarantees! Equal and fair justice MY ASS! Blind justice YOU BET, blinded by biased and bigoted self serving agendas of a MINORITY OVER THE MAJORITY! How sick and pathetic is that crap!

How is it we can claim to be the freest country on earth, when we are the NUMBER 1 country IN THE WORLD for stripping it’s people of their freedoms? Countries with dictators and NO FREEDOMS don’t do to their people what we do to our own, WHY????

There Has To Be A Better Way!

Rusty White
Speaker www.leap.cc

Anonymous said...

reasonable doubt is 98%, so there would be a difference between reasonable doubt and 100% certainty.

Anonymous said...

IT'S TIME FOR A JUDICIAL OVERHAUL! www.americaswrongfullyconvicted.com