innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The war on terror

Brandon Mayfield Posted by Hello

The case of Brandon Mayfield demonstrates how bad science and overzealous investigators can devastate a person's life. Mayfield, a Portland attorney, was jailed for weeks after his fingerprint was supposedly found on evidence in the Madrid train bombings of March 11. An article in the national criminal defense lawyers' magazine details the flawed investigation.

An FBI supercomputer initially made the match on his print, which was confirmed by bureau experts. As a result, the FBI conducted "sneak and peak" searches of Mayfield's home, business and car. Finding Spanish documents and information he was a Muslim, he was imprisoned.

But it turned out the print match was completely wrong. And the supposed documents were the Spanish homework of Mayfield's kid. After 19 days behind bars, Mayfield was released and the FBI issued a rare apology.

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Supremes on sentencing

U.S. Supreme Court Posted by Hello

The Supreme Court could decide as early as today whether to toss federal sentencing guidelines, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports. Some experts expect the court to reject the guidelines because they let judges boost sentences based on facts not proved to a jury. One Pittsburgh judge has already ruled the guidelines violate the Constitution.

The court's June decision in Blakely v. Washington set the stage for the current debate. In the Blakely case, the court threw out a Washington state law under which a judge tacked time to a kidnapping sentence because he decided the man acted with "deliberate cruelty."

Monday, November 29, 2004

On the record

Cases in North Carolina and Wisconsin are reviving the debate over whether police should be required to tape interrogations. The Winston-Salem Journal reports coercive and threatening interrogations causing juveniles to confess are leading some to suggest police interviews should be videotaped. The story references the Northwestern University study last year finding strong support for videotaping by 238 agencies in 38 states that do it in felony investigations.

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports the Wisconsin Supreme Court is considering requiring police to record interrogations of juveniles. A state task force might recommend the same for other interrogations as well.

In other innocence news, Connecticut public defender is launching a statewide innocence project next year.