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John Terzano
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Entries by John Terzano

Recording Interrogations is a Public Safety Imperative

(0) Comments | Posted May 19, 2010 | 2:19 PM

Last month, Frank Sterling was exonerated by DNA evidence after being incarcerated 18 years for a crime he did not commit. Sterling was wrongfully convicted of murdering an elderly woman in Rochester, New York in 1988. His conviction was based entirely on a false confession. In the meantime...

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Ohio Latest in Reform Trend to Prevent Wrongful Convictions

(0) Comments | Posted April 30, 2010 | 2:53 PM

On April 5th Ohio Governor Ted Strickland signed a reform bill that will help reduce wrongful convictions and improve the fairness and accuracy of our criminal justice system. Among the measures included are safeguards to improve the eyewitness identification process by requiring police to use a more accurate...

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Crime Labs Need Independence and Robust Oversight to Ensure Justice

(0) Comments | Posted April 12, 2010 | 2:52 PM

San Francisco's top public defender, Jeff Adachi, recently called for the city's crime lab to become independent of the police department. This announcement comes on the heels of a series of scandals in the San Francisco Police Department's forensic laboratory initiated by the discovery that a...

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Jailhouse Snitches Sabotage Justice with Unreliable Evidence

(1) Comments | Posted April 1, 2010 | 2:04 PM

Earlier this month, Orleans Parish District Judge Lynda Van Davis granted a new trial for Michael Anderson, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in a trial plagued with problematic evidence. Prosecutors have appealed the ruling and indicated that they will go forward with a retrial...

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Another Exoneration Demonstrates the Need for Criminal Justice Reform

(1) Comments | Posted March 4, 2010 | 2:22 PM

After seventeen years, Gregory Taylor was finally freed on February 17th when the three judge panel of the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission unanimously ruled to exonerate him. North Carolina created the commission to investigate and evaluate post-conviction claims of innocence in 2006 and is the...

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Meaningful Oversight is Necessary for Reliable Forensic Science

(0) Comments | Posted March 1, 2010 | 10:21 AM

Concerns about the validity of forensic evidence have come to the fore in recent years following a series of wrongful convictions and other scandals across the country. The National Academies of Science (NAS) identified a number of systemic flaws that demand attention in their 2009 report Strengthening Forensic...

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Failing to Punish Prosecutorial Misconduct Only Invites More

(1) Comments | Posted February 24, 2010 | 10:53 AM

On the last day of 2009, federal district court judge Ricardo Urbina dismissed homicide charges against five former Blackwater security guards involved in a shooting that killed fourteen Iraqi civilians in 2007. Judge Urbina's decision cites egregious prosecutorial misconduct by the federal prosecutors handling the case as the reason for...

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Forensic Lab Problems Cry Out for More Oversight and Quality Standards

(0) Comments | Posted February 22, 2010 | 4:09 PM

A spate of recent news reports has called into question the objectivity of some forensic evidence and highlighted the need for effective oversight mechanisms for the nation's crime labs. Fingerprint analysts told The Missouri Lawyer that when police officers have access to the labs, they often pressure...

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Prosecutors Must Seek Justice, Not Merely Convictions

(0) Comments | Posted February 16, 2010 | 2:15 PM

As advocates of justice, prosecutors play a unique and powerful role in our justice system. Yet too often, prosecutors fall prey to a pervasive "convict at all costs" culture, and neglect their ethical duty to protect the innocent and guard the rights of the accused. The recent actions...

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Mistakes Continue to Highlight the Need for Forensic Science Oversight

(0) Comments | Posted December 1, 2009 | 2:09 PM

Shoddy forensic science has led to a major setback in a murder investigation that could close the door on efforts to bring the killer to justice. The family of murder victim Suzanne Jovin was recently informed that the DNA evidence in her case was useless because it was contaminated...

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Changing the "Convict at All Costs" Culture of Prosecutor's Offices

(0) Comments | Posted November 23, 2009 | 12:34 PM

All too often, prosecutors' offices fall prey to a culture of conviction-seeking at all costs. Prosecutors who become singularly focused on conviction rates often neglect their ethical duty to protect the innocent and guard the rights of the accused. The Kern County District Attorney's Office in California provides a clear...

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Prosecutors Must be Held Accountable for Misconduct

(4) Comments | Posted November 4, 2009 | 8:12 AM

Charged with dual roles as advocates and ministers of justice, prosecutors are the most powerful actors in our criminal justice system. They have sole responsibility for decisions regarding what charges to bring against an individual, what sentence to seek, what plea bargain to offer, and what evidence to present to...

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Tim Cole Panel Begins Study Texas Wrongful Convictions

(7) Comments | Posted October 13, 2009 | 9:45 AM

Texas has had more than its share of tragic wrongful convictions. Of the more than 40 people exonerated by DNA in Texas, one of the most heartbreaking cases is that of Timothy Cole. Cole was wrongly convicted in 1986 for a Lubbock rape. DNA testing conclusively exonerated him last...

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Two More Exonerations Stress the Need for Credible Evidence

(4) Comments | Posted October 12, 2009 | 9:14 AM

Two more innocent men have been freed from death row. Just last week, Yancy Douglas and Paris Powell became the 137th and 138th people to be exonerated from death row. The two men were convicted of a drive-by shooting in 1993 based on the testimony of an in-custody informant...

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Texas Cannot Wait for Good Science in the Courtroom

(11) Comments | Posted October 9, 2009 | 9:08 AM

Last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry removed three members from the Texas Forensic Science Commission. The changes come at a critical juncture in the investigation of the flawed forensics behind the conviction of Cameron Willingham, who was executed in 2004 for allegedly setting the fire that killed his three...

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Study of Georgia's Wrongfully Convicted Highlights Powerful Need for Reform

(3) Comments | Posted September 22, 2009 | 10:05 AM

Twenty innocent men spent almost 170 years in prison in Georgia for crimes they did not commit. What does eight years mean to you? For these twenty innocent Georgians, eight years is the average length of time each spent behind bars for a crime they did not commit. Just...

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The Costs of Wrongful Convictions Continue to Rise

(0) Comments | Posted August 25, 2009 | 8:38 AM

Last week, the San Jose Mercury News reported that Jeffrey Rodriguez, a man from San Jose who spent five years in prison for a crime he did not commit, was awarded a $1 million settlement from Santa Clara County for his wrongful conviction. Jeffrey's wrongful conviction and his subsequent...

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Sonnier's Release Highlights Continuing Problem

(0) Comments | Posted August 11, 2009 | 3:32 PM

Another innocent man is free in Texas. Ernest Sonnier was released from custody on Friday after DNA testing implicated two different men in the 1986 rape for which Sonnier was convicted. Sonnier has spent twenty-three years in prison, always maintaining his innocence.

The release of Ernest Sonnier is just...

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When Will Prosecutors Begin to Be Held Accountable for Their Misconduct?

(2) Comments | Posted July 28, 2009 | 10:04 AM

One of the most troubling trends that foster prosecutorial misconduct is the failure of state bar and disciplinary agencies to take action against prosecutors who violate their ethical obligations.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice (DOJ) took swift and almost unprecedented action...

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False Confessions: What Would It Take to Make You Confess?

(4) Comments | Posted July 14, 2009 | 9:13 AM

Why would anyone confess to a crime they did not commit? What would it take to get you to confess to a crime? For Christopher Ochoa, it took twenty hours of questioning and badgering and threats to get him to falsely confess to the murder of a woman in...

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