Wrongful Convictions Lawsuit Defense

Wrongful Convictions Lawsuit Defense

Don't Blame the Cops

Alleged Wrongful Conviction of Jesse Friedman Not Wrongful at All, Independent Report Finds

Posted in Articles

With much fanfare and support from innocence advocates, Jesse Friedman expected that a Nassau County District Attorney’s report would rubber stamp a 2010 Second Circuit Court of Appeals opinion that called on the DA’s office to reinvestigate his case based on what it said was a “reasonable likelihood that Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted.” But after an exhaustive reinvestigation, the DA and an independent panel of experts found in a 155-page report published Monday, that Friedman’s conviction and adjudication as a child sex offender should stand.

In November of 1987, Jesse Friedman and his father, Arnold Friedman, were charged in connection with the criminal sexual molestation of over one hundred young boys that were attending computer classes at their home in the affluent New York community of Great Neck. Jesse Friedman pleaded guilty on December 20, 1988. Then in 2003, Capturing the Friedmans premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and presented interviews with victims, police officers, and prosecutors involved with the case that suggested the Friedmans were innocent and the victims recanted.

Jesse Friedman seized on the statements depicted in this film, and together with his post-conviction attorney, Ronald Kuby, attempted to overturn his conviction. After his state court efforts were rebuffed, Friedman filed a habeas petition in federal district court asserting that his guilty plea was the product of state coercion and that the manipulative circumstances in which the victims gave their statements—including providing statements after undergoing hypnosis—were withheld from him in violation of Brady v. Maryland’s pretrial disclosure requirements. The federal district court rejected these claims, but issued a rare Certificate of Appealability. The appeal was analyzed by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals under the assumption that the facts as characterized by Friedman were true. Even under this highly favorable analytical framework, Friedman lost the appeal; however, the court stated, “Only a reinvestigation of the underlying case or the development of a complete record in a collateral proceeding can provide the basis for determining whether [Friedman’s] conviction should be set aside.” On Monday, June 24, 2013, DA’s reinvestigation report found that the conviction was supported by the evidence and that Friedman should remain a convicted sex offender.

The DA’s Review Team analyzed the statements described in Capturing the Friedmans and independently interviewed the witnesses. This reinvestigation found that the film took many statements out of context and that the victims in fact did not recant. The claim that one victim’s first account to police was achieved through hypnosis was also unfounded. According to the DA’s report, “[B]y any impartial analysis, the re-investigation process prompted by Jesse Friedman, his advocates, and the Second Circuit, has only increased confidence in the integrity of Jesse Friedman’s guilty plea and adjudication as a sex offender.”

Notably, the Friedman reinvestigation was aided by a panel of independent experts that Friedman’s own team itself once heralded as impartial. One prominent member of the expert panel was Barry Scheck, a founder of the Innocence Project at Cardozo Law School and partner at the civil rights law firm of Neufeld Scheck Bruston, LLP. Given that Mr. Scheck’s firm routinely sues police officers and has obtained Millions of dollars in such verdicts, the pro law enforcement community could be expected to reasonably call foul. But this expert panel lauded the DA’s Review Team for how they “…approached their work with no preconceived notions about Jesse Friedman’s guilt, and no agenda to preserve his conviction…the Review Team was prepared to recommend without reservation that Friedman’s conviction be overturned. But that was not how the facts played out…”. Ironically, it turned out that it was Friedman’s side that manipulated the witnesses and evidence to paint a false picture of innocence.

There are of course times when wrongful convictions happen and society must do everything possible to eliminate them. But overly aggressive and totally biased post-conviction investigations by some criminal defense attorneys and innocence projects like the one done in the Jesse Friedman case does not advance this cause. The Friedman case should serve as a reminder to prosecutors, judges, and anyone else conducting a post-conviction review, that witness recantations and claims of innocence should be taken with a healthy dose of skepticism and mindfulness of the powerful liberty and financial motives behind those asserting a growingly clichéd cry of wrongful conviction.

Wrongful Acquittals Are Far More Common Than Wrongful Convictions

Posted in News

This is the title of a great editorial written by Frank Sedita, the Erie County, New York District Attorney. Mr. Sedita defends the work of prosecutors and police officers who work up felony cases.  He explains that the rate of wrongful convictions are exaggerated and that a bigger problem lies in people getting off on crimes they really did commit.  Sedita puts it like this: "I agree that the system is flawed, but in a manner that benefits the accused."  Here are some highlights from Sedita’s editorial: 

Our policy of critically and repeatedly reviewing cases at the pre-indictment stage has resulted in some cases being dismissed because the defendant is innocent. Since January 2011, my office has reviewed 4,764 potential felony cases for presentation to the grand jury or other disposition. Thirty-three of the defendants (0.7 percent) charged by the police were probably innocent. One such defendant was exonerated after indictment but well before trial. The remaining 32 defendants were exonerated before they were indicted by a grand jury.

While no one can deny that wrongful convictions have taken place, their rate of occurrence has been obscenely exaggerated. In reality, wrongful acquittals are much more common than wrongful convictions. I can point to at least four trials this year alone in Erie County that resulted in an acquittal despite overwhelming evidence of the defendant’s guilt. Post-indictment dismissals, usually because of technical procedural issues or because the court suppresses key prosecution evidence at the request of the defense, are more common still. Citizens are amazed to learn that under our legal system, the prosecution can rarely appeal a dismissal and can never appeal an acquittal.

Sedita raises a very important issue with our system and a flaw we see nationwide.   Murders, rapists and other criminals walk free from crimes they committed.  That’s wrong.  What comes next is not only wrong, but appalling.  These same people who beat the system, then try to make money by suing the police who investigated those crimes. The wrongful acquittal leads to a wrongful lawsuit.  That’s wrong. 

September 15, 2012 Is National Tell A Police Officer “Thank You” Day!

Posted in News

 

The Whole Truth Project has declared that September 15, 2012 is National Tell A Police Officer "Thank You" Day. We believe we often take our police officers for granted. A simple way to show appreciation and gratitude to all law enforcement officers is by a simple "thank you." We encourage each and everyone to go out of their way to say "thank you" to a police officer on September 15th. Let’s show our support for police officers and the difficult job they do protecting us and our communities. To find out more information on how you can support National Tell A Police Officer "Thank You" Day visit the Facebook page of the Whole Truth Project where you can learn how to sign up to be a Team Captain in your hometown. Together, we can make September 15, 2012 a very special day!

Robber’s Family Sues Kroger – Really???

Posted in News

 Six months ago Jeremy Atkinson was shot and killed by a Kroger store manager during an attempted robbery. The prosecutor’s office ruled that the store manager’s actions were justified to prevent the commission of a forcible felony. Atkinson, no surprise, was a convicted felon. Now, Atkinson’s mother has sued Kroger in a wrongful death lawsuit? Really? It’s Kroger’s fault your son was shot when he tried to rob their store? Read the story HERE.

Latest Excuse – Arrested NATO Protester Didn’t Mean What He Said – He May Have Been Drunk – Really?

Posted in News

 It keeps getting more ridiculous – now Melinda Power,  an attorney for one of the arrested NATO protesters (the guy who threatened to blow up a train overpass), is claiming that perhaps her client was simply drunk and didn’t mean what he said. Really? Her client, Sebastian Senakiewicz is a member of the Black Bloc anarchist group. Read the story HERE.

Just Beer Making Equipment, Really? Apparently Not

Posted in News

 Three NATO Summit protesters apparently had a lot more than beer-making equipment, contrary to what their attorneys had been claiming to the media. Surprise surprise. Chicago police officers infiltrated the group in recent  weeks, watching as the members made molotov cocktails. Cook County State’s Attorney called them "domestic terrorists" and three were charged with felonies today. Among the items recovered from the subject apartment were a mortar gun, swords, a crossbow, throwing star, ninja knives, and written plans for the assembly of pipe bombs. Just beer-making equipment? Really??Read the full story HERE.

Colorado Man – Robert Dewey – Exonerated By DNA, But That Does Not Mean Mesa County Sheriffs Did Anything Wrong

Posted in DNA Exonerations

The Daily Sentinel has reported that Robert Dewey is being released from prison after serving 16 years for the rape and murder of a Palisade, Colorado woman. Jackie Taylor, age nineteen, was slain in June 1994. Her body was found in her Palisade apartment, naked from the waist down in a half-filled bathtub. She’d been beaten, sexually assaulted and strangled with a nylon dog leash.

Dewey, who was staying nearby with the family of Taylor’s roommate, immediately became a suspect in the crime due in part to blood found on one of his work shirts. DNA testing on the garment convinced some investigators that the blood was a combination of Dewey’s and Taylor’s, while other experts believed the fluid could have come from literally thousands of others. In the end, Dewey, whose was convicted and given life in prison.

Dewey may be innocent and, if so, should be released from prison.  However, that does not automatically mean that the police officers who investigated his case did anything wrong. Nevertheless, the news reports suggest that Dewey plans on filing a civil suit against Mesa County Sheriffs.  

When Dewey files his lawsuit, Mesa County must demonstrate that the sheriffs did their jobs and that there was probable cause to arrest and charge Dewey with the murder.  Simply because Dewey was exonerated, does not prevent the officers from winning this case.  

Our firm successfully defended several retired detectives who were accused of fabricating a case against a person who was exonerated based on DNA.  Jerry Miller was convicted in 1982 of a brutal rape in Chicago. He was convicted based on the testimony of two eyewitnesses who identified Miller as the man who attempted to drive his rape victim’s car out a parking garage where they worked at the time. The parking lot attendants foiled the rapist’s escape by preventing him from driving the car out of the parking garage. Miller spent 26 years in prison before being released in 2006 based on new DNA testing which showed that Miller was not the rapist. That DNA testing lead to the real culprit, Robert Weeks.  Despite that, we were able to show that the detectives did nothing wrong and a Federal Court in Chicago granted summary judgment for the retired detectives.  

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