Fresh doubts over Cameron Todd Willingham's execution (Previously) For more than 20 years, the prosecutor who convicted Cameron Todd Willingham of murdering his three young daughters has insisted that the authorities made no deals to secure the testimony of the jailhouse informer who told jurors that Willingham confessed the crime to him. Since Willingham was executed in 2004, officials have continued to defend the account of the informer, Johnny E. Webb, even as a series of scientific experts have discredited the forensic evidence that Willingham might have deliberately set the house fire in which his toddlers were killed. But now new evidence has revived questions about Willingham’s guilt: In taped interviews, Webb, who has previously both recanted and affirmed his testimony, gives his first detailed account of how he lied on the witness stand in return for efforts by the former prosecutor, John H. Jackson, to reduce Webb’s prison sentence for robbery and to arrange thousands of dollars in support from a wealthy Corsicana rancher. Newly uncovered letters and court files show that Jackson worked diligently to intercede for Webb after his testimony and to coordinate with the rancher, Charles S. Pearce Jr., to keep the mercurial informer in line.
I had never been so confident of a convicted defendant’s innocence. And I never imagined nearly 12 years would pass before Cook County prosecutors would admit the truth and dismiss his conviction. But it finally happened. On June 28, 2013, Daniel, who was arrested at age 17, was released at age 38, having spent more than 20 years behind bars. [more inside]
When Nada Al-Ahdal discovered that her parents had sold her she ran away. She is 11 years old, and this is her message. [more inside]
“This court cannot think of a more intentionally harmful act than a prosecutor’s conscious choice to hide mitigating evidence so as to create an uneven playing field for a defendant facing a murder charge and a life sentence." A Texas court finds probable cause that ex-District Attorney Ken Anderson intentionally hid evidence to secure a 1987 murder conviction against the now-exonerated Michael Morton. (Previously.) [more inside]
'On April 12, 1987, Michael Morton sat down to write a letter. “Your Honor,” he began, “I’m sure you remember me. I was convicted of murder, in your court, in February of this year.” He wrote each word carefully, sitting cross-legged on the top bunk in his cell at the Wynne prison unit, in Huntsville. “I have been told that you are to decide if I am ever to see my son, Eric, again. I haven’t seen him since the morning that I was convicted. I miss him terribly and I know that he has been asking about me.” Referring to the declarations of innocence he had made during his trial, he continued, “I must reiterate my innocence. I did NOT kill my wife.' [more inside]
From the mid 40s to the mid 50s Coronet Instructional Films were always ready to provide social guidance for teenagers on subjects as diverse as dating, popularity, preparing for being drafted, and shyness, as well as to children on following the law, the value of quietness in school, and appreciating our parents. They also provided education on topics such as the connection between attitudes and health, what kind of people live in America, how to keep a job, supervising women workers, the nature of capitalism, and the plantation System in Southern life. Inside is an annotated collection of all 86 of the complete Coronet films in the Prelinger Archives as well as a few more. Its not like you had work to do or anything right? [more inside]
In 2002, Brian Banks was a sought-after high school football phenom until he was accused of kidnapping and raping a female student. On the advice of his lawyers, he pleaded no contest and served 6 years in prison. Then his accuser recanted. That's when the Innocence Project stepped in to help exonerate Brian Banks. CA Innocence Project filing here; informative if you skip right to the "Statement of Facts" part.
First recorded 50 years ago, Peter Paul and Mary's Puff the Magic Dragon has a rather sad ending: Puff 'sadly slips into his cave' while little Jackie Paper grows up and puts his childhood behind him. But in 2007, Peter Yarrow published a book, Puff, the Magic Dragon, in which the classic song remains the same, but whose illustrations give us a new glimpse into Puff's future. Here is Mr. Yarrow, performing the song with his daughter Bethany at Woodstock's Bearsville Theatre, in '07. [more inside]
After 18 years in prison on false charges, Anthony Graves walked out a free man yesterday. This recent Texas Monthly article by Pamela Colloff played a major role in bringing awareness to his case. [more inside]
Expert tells Texas state-sanctioned review that they killed an innocent man. If the commission reaches the same conclusion, it could lead to the first-ever declaration by an official state body that an inmate was wrongly executed. Cameron Todd Willingham was accused of killing his three children in a house fire. There have been doubts about the case for years, thoroughly outlined in this 2004 Chicago Tribune article and this 2005 NPR interview (summarized in this Daily Kos diary). [more inside]
Zhang Peng’s elaborate photographs have been called both "beautiful" and "disgusting". You can see some of them here and here.
As of yesterday, Dr. Mohammed Haneef was released from jail, amidst speculation that his incarceration had been unjust, and is on his way back home. It is believed that once he is ready, there will be a lucrative deal waiting for him if he wishes to tell his story (pdf of his transcript of detention), but for now, his wife, Firdaus Ashriya, is happy to have her husband back home.
Innocence is constructed by disavowing things that are right in front of your face. Richard Halpern, professor of English at Johns Hopkins University, published a different take on Norman Rockwell's art in Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence. He looks below the idyllic surface of nostalgic Americana and sees unwitting voyeurism and blurred boundaries "between asexual friendship and Eros". Naturally, many Rockwell fans don't want to hear this about their beloved painter of innocence: an article about this book in the Boston Globe drew quite a few scathing comments. (BugMeNot logins for the Boston Globe website)
Eric Volz, an American, is serving 30 years for a murder he did not commit. His DNA didn't match any of the evidence found at the crime scene, and there's plenty of very serious evidence showing that he didn't commit it (such as the fact that he was in a town two hours away while the murder was being done.) This needs as much media attention as possible. (First link is a Youtube video)
A Day in the Life (nsfw, youtube, two minutes of your life you can't have back)
Uncle Shelby's ABZ Book - along with The Gashlycrumb Tinies, Max und Moritz, and Der Struwwelpeter (previously discussed here and here) - are classics in the genre of children's books that are likely to disturb sensitive adults. Of course, Barbar isn't much better, and neither is Mickey Mouse, but at least they're not trying to conquer the human race [via Boing Boing]. What is it about corrupted innocence that's so darn funny?
Chika Honda, falsely imprisoned for ten years by Australian authorities for heroin smuggling, and never pardoned, tells her story in her own words [Real Audio] in this Walkley Award-nominated documentary. This is a wrenching story of incompetence by the federal police, legal aid services, media-influenced juries and the problem of translation in legal investigations. Listen to her story and decide on her innocence for yourself.
"Taryn Simon: The Innocents" Is an exhibition at MOMA's P.S.1 Contemporary Arts Center, of large color photographs of innocent men jailed for crimes they did not commit, exonerated by DNA evidence. For most of the photographs Ms. Simon posed each man at the scene of the arrest, the scene of the crime, the scene of misidentification or the scene of the alibi.
Grinding Nemo. The JWC company, maker of sewage equipment, wishes to issue a press release informing small children everywhere that contrary to scenes in the hit Disney movie, flushing fish down a toilet drain will not set them free in the ocean, but rather melt them with chlorine disinfectant before shredding them into particles with processing machinery. Have a great weekend.
"Mr. Banks, a man with no prior criminal record, is most likely innocent of the charge that put him on death row. Fearing a tragic miscarriage of justice, three former federal judges (including William Sessions, a former director of the F.B.I.) have urged the U.S. Supreme Court to block Wednesday's execution.
"So far, no one seems to be listening." [via atrios]
"So far, no one seems to be listening." [via atrios]
The innocence of the accused should not necessarily prevent an execution (NYT link) "The word 'innocent' has been tortured beyond recognition", say U.S. prosecutors. Question is, by who?
The Morality Police. "Our hysterical attempts to shield kids from images of sex and violence are stunting young lives -- and trapping us all in a Big Lie." A well-argued piece, more of an op-ed than a straight-up book review. As a scientist I only quibble with the author's musing that "if there really were a cause-and-effect link between real violence and media violence, then it would have been proven by now."