Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Innocence roundup

Here are several innocence-related stories I don't have time to discuss this a.m., but which merit Grits readers attention:

No compensation for Anthony Graves
The Comptroller refused compensation to Anthony Graves, who was exonerated 16 years after a capital murder conviction, because his case was overturned on direct appeal instead of through a habeas corpus writ based on actual innocence claims. The Comptroller's decision stems in part from the unique circumstances of the case: Most exonerations occur post-conviction,  but because this was a death penalty case the feds reviewed it on direct appeal. The 5th Circuit overturned Graves' conviction and special prosecutor Kelly Siegler declined to re-indict, declaring there was no evidence pointing to his guilt aside from testimony tainted by prosecutorial misconduct. As a result, there's no court ruling or pardon affirming "innocence," or at least that's the excuse the Comptroller gave for refusing to pay. (UPDATE: See a Houston Chronicle editorial decrying the Comptroller's decision and more detail from the Chron's Harvey Rice on the basis for denying Graves' claim.)

Texas DNA testing case at SCOTUS
The US Supreme Court will soon decide a Texas case (Hank Skinner) which may determine when federal law requires DNA testing in the fact of post-conviction innocence claims. The Washington Post this week published an in-depth preview. Texas has one of the stronger DNA testing statutes in the country, but access to testing still varies based on prosecutorial discretion. The evidence wasn't tested because the DA in Gray County fought it tooth and nail, even though the defense offered to pay for it. If Skinner's case had come out of Dallas, notes the Post, the evidence would likely have been tested long ago and the controversy put behind us. The lesson from Texas' decade-old DNA testing statute: When biological evidence exists in old cases and could be probative, there's really no downside to just testing it to find out the truth one way or the other.

Waiting game
Prosecutors and a district judge in Dallas already agreed Richard Miles was innocent of the 1994 murder for which he was convicted, a ruling which allowed him to be released on bail while the Court of Criminal Appeals considers his habeas corpus writ. That was in October 2009, though, and the Dallas News reports Miles is still waiting on final word in his case from the state's highest criminal court.


Unknown said...

The Skinner case is going to be interesting!

If I had to bet on it, I’d say they will probably fall on the side of DNA testing. The Court SEEMS to be going for letting more information into trials. This normally is not a score for defendants’ rights, as in the cases of ill-gotten confessions and physical evidence, for example.

But in the case of DNA evidence, if the test is reliable to a reasonable certainty, then the risks and costs of doing it VASTLY outweigh any interests in NOT doing it.

Cool stuff.

Anonymous said...

How can the courts NOT allow DNA testing when the specimen exists?? My Gawd! Someone run down to Gray County and kick that DA in the cods!

The Anthony Graves item, freaking christ, Texas is still attempting to screw this man. We'll see a legal fight on this one, if he isn't guilty then he is innocent right? There isn't a "You're not guilty, BUT your not innocent either" ruling, unless the Legislature slipped a bill in already that I missed. (which they just might!)

Finally Richard Miles, Give this man the true freedom he deserves. His life has been utterly destroyed and not until al this is behind him will he be able to start rebuilding.

Yay Texas, more examples of corruption justice!

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Skinner the case where there was actually some DNA testing done which inculpated the defendant and the DEFENSE attorneys elected not to proceed with additional testing? And now his post-conviction attorney's want the additional testing done?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 8:51, unless I'm mistaken, the DA in Gray County is a woman, and does not have the proper anatomy to be kicked where you suggest to kick her. And geography will not allow many Texans to "run down" to Gray County. Having said that, I hope SCOTUS allows testing.

Rev. Charles in Tulia

Anonymous said...

This is a good time to bring up the issue of prosecutorial immunity again.

Anonymous said...

Re: the Grave case.

This situation would be simple to remedy. All the Governor has to do is issue a pardon declaring he's innocent and he can get his compensation. Of course, that would require depending on Rick Perry to do the right thing. What do you think the chances of that are? I'm thinking about same as a sperical shaped object comprised of frozen precipitation occurring in a warm place that religious people believe is the dominion of the evil one.

Anonymous said...

Re: Texas DNA Testing at SCOTUS

We have a good statute but using it depends on prosecutorial discretion?
Prosecutorial discretion....there's the problem. Our state is really so backward...it's sometimes embarrassing.

Anonymous said...

RE: What 3:42 said.

I wonder if an argument could be made that the "prosecutorial discretion" to refuse or allow DNA testing is an administrative function and, therefore, not covered by absolute prosecutorial immunity. If so, then if someone asked for DNA testing and the prosecutor said no and that person spent many more years in prison, or was executed, the prosecutor could be held liable. Maybe? I don't know. Just thinking out loud.

Anonymous said...

It's the difference between a technicality versus absolutely no involvement in the offense whatsoever. Al Capone and O.J. Simpson come to mind, but they were all or mostly innocent, right? But crime FINALLY pays.

Anonymous said...

How is DNA testing "prosecutorial discretion" when the decision to grant or deny DNA testing under Chapter 64 is made by the trial judge?

Anonymous said...

Grits says re: prosectorial discretion and DNA testing...

"Texas has one of the stronger DNA testing statutes in the country, but access to testing still varies based on prosecutorial discretion. The evidence wasn't tested because the DA in Gray County fought it tooth and nail, even though the defense offered to pay for it."
I'm not sure what this means but I do know the Prosecutor has way too much discretion....and they answer to virtually no one.

Anonymous said...

Re: Prosecutorial Misconduct, Immunity & sneaky Comptroller.

I'm pitching a movie to the Texas' Hollywood that is about like one of the "Saw" slaughter fests.

The Gov., the Comptroller, Judges and the DAs with their top lap dogs in tow are invited to attend an award banquet. After the first course, the walls fall outward and they find themselves in a make-shift prison.

Here's where it's not sure if they should have to make shanks out of Bic razors and fight for the one food item or have them hold court and sentence themselves to death one by one for crimes they didn't commit?

Here is where other Anons. get to add their scenes: - No Pardons allowed. The best addition will be picked.