Friday, October 29, 2010

Short & Moving from Gilles

October 20 – Texas Journey in Dallas!

An activist uses any opportunity to raise awareness. As I was waiting for my flight, I met an Iranian-American man and we talked about capital punishment.

Continue reading → here

Any Texas articles on Journey of Hope? If so, help us out while Gilles and the Journey Family are occupied and send them our way as Comment. We will need your name...first is ok.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

JUST IN: Freed death row inmate - Anthony Graves - speaks out----Texas inmate on death row for 18 years freed

Untitled Internet Cache from an Anthony Graves site

OCTOBER 28, 2010 The following is courtesy of Dr. Rick Halperin's Death Pen. News and updates - This is such big news that I trust you won't find a longer post than usual. For more from his site keep watching here

Prosecutors blast former DA who handled Graves case

Prosecutors today blasted Charles Sebesta, the former district attorney for Washington and Burleson counties, accusing him of hiding evidence and tampering, then threatening witnesses to convict Anthony Graves of capital murder in 1994.

Graves was released from jail Wednesday after spending 18 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

Answering questions about the release today, Kelly Siegler, a special prosecutor working for District Attorney Bill Parham, said the case was "horrible."

"Charles Sebasta handled this case in a way that could best be described as a criminal justice system’s nightmare," Siegler said. "It’s a travesty, what happened in Anthony Graves' trial."

Sebesta responded to the allegations today and maintained that Graves is guilty.

"I would not have tried him if I didn't believe he was guilty," Sebesta said.

Siegler said Sebesta indicted a woman without any evidence, fabricated evidence, manipulated witnesses and took advantage of victims.

Siegler said it "absolutely" was prosecutorial misconduct.

"The worst I've ever seen," she said.

Sebesta flatly denied any misconduct and responded to each allegation leveled at him by Siegler and Parham.

Siegler and the current district attorney spoke during a press conference this morning with investigator Otto Haneck and Texas Rangers Sgt. Andres De La Garza.

Graves was sent to death row for being 1 of 2 men who brutally killed a Somerville family, including 2 adults and 4 children.

Graves was convicted of assisting Robert Earl Carter in the slaying of Bobbie Davis, 45; her 16-year-old daughter, Nicole; and Davis’ four grandchildren, ages 4 to 9, on Aug. 18, 1992.

The home was then set ablaze.

Carter was executed in 2000. 2 weeks before his death, he provided a sworn statement saying that his naming of Graves as an accomplice was a lie.

He first gave investigators Graves' name days after the murders because he knew Graves was not there and could easily provide an alibi for himself, Siegler said.

She said Sebesta threatened the woman with whom Graves was asleep with when the murder occurred by saying in open court that she was a suspect in the slayings.

Sebesta said it was hardly a threat when he alerted the court that she should be advised of her rights to not incriminate herself because she was a suspect.

Seigler said Sebesta indicted Carter's wife, Teresa, without any evidence.

Sebesta said a grand jury returned the indictment after hearing that Teresa Carter had a burn on her shoulder.

Robert Carter had facial burns, which first made him a suspect because the house had been set on fire.

Sebesta also threatened Robert Earl Carter with pursuing a conviction against his wife to make him testify against Graves, Sielger said.

Sebesta denied that he had a conversation with Carter like that.

Sebesta has never believed Carter’s recantations, which began 2 days after he first gave it to police.

Sebesta retired 12 years ago. In 2009, he took out ads in 2 Burleson County newspapers calling Graves "cold-blooded" to dispute critical media reports.

"Go back and look at the evidence," Sebesta said. "He was convicted by a jury."

He said allegations of prosecutorial misconduct were "really stretching."

"I just don't see it," he said.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Graves’ conviction in 2006. A three-judge panel said he deserved a new trial after ruling that prosecutors elicited false statements from two witnesses and withheld two statements that could have changed the minds of jurors.

Since that ruling there were at least 2 special prosecutors before it has handed to Parham.

Graves eventually was returned to county jail with a bond set at $1 million, and Parham began to investigate. He hired Siegler, a former Harris County assistant district attorney, as a special prosecutor.

Siegler said Sebasta was interviewed and that he could not be convinced of Graves' innocence.

Parham said he believes there was a 2nd man involved in the murder, but that Graves "unequivocally was not one of them."

(source: Houston Chronicle)


Freed death row inmate speaks out----Texas inmate on death row for 18 years freed

A former inmate who spent 18 years on death row spoke out for the first time since his release.

Anthony Graves was released from the county jail in Brenham Wednesday after the DA dropped all murder charges against him. Graves, 45, was convicted of assisting Robert Carter in the murders of a woman, her teenage daughter and her four grandchildren in Somerville in 1992.

On Thursday afternoon, Graves held a press conference and said he was ready to rebuild his life.

"I'm ready to live, be among my family and friends. Put my life back together," Graves said.

When asked how he felt being a free man, Graves responded, "For the first few moments, first few hours, I thought that I would wake up back in the cell, it's not real to me. It's still not real to me."

After 18 years in prison, Graves said he never gave up hope.

"I had a lot of love and support, but knowing that I was innocent, there were some things I wasn't going to give them. I refuse to give them my hope and belief in myself," Graves said. "I knew I was innocent. I wasn't going to lay down and die for something they did wrong."

His lawyer, Katherine Scardino, put much of the blame of convicting an innocent man on prosecutors and investigators at the time.

"The idea that they would offer life to him a year ago is pretty amazing. I don't believe anybody investigated anything since 1992," said Scardino. "I don't believe I have ever seen such injustice."

Graves went on to say that he wants to help people in a similar situation.

"I'm going to create my own future. Doing something positive. I think this is the opportunity to help someone," he said. "I'd like to be an advocate for justice."

He said he spent his 1st day as a free man eating ribs and taking it all in, and that he kept messing up while trying to use a cell phone for the 1st time.

New details emerge

Graves' brother says he always knew he was innocent. Arthur Curry, told us he was sleeping in the same house with Graves the night of the murders, and it was that information, along with additional research by investigators as well as special prosecutor and former Harris County Assistant District Attorney Kelly Siegler, which won Graves a new trial.

In a news conference, Siegler blasted former DA Charles Sebesta, saying he encouraged Ronald Carter to lie on the stand and grossly mishandled this case. It would all eventually lead to the charges being dropped altogether.

Washington-Burleson County District Attorney Bill Parham filed the motion, dismissing the charges against death row inmate Anthony Graves.

He'd been in prison for 18 years, convicted of the mass murder of a Somerville family in 1992, during which the victims' home was also set on fire.

Graves maintained his innocence and Parham, who was not the DA at the time, now agrees with him.

"We did shift from the possibility of maybe we don't have sufficient evidence to we have no evidence to the fact that we may have an innocent man," said Parham. "It's kind of a rare situation where prosecutors without the use of DNA or any other type of evidence that dispels guilt looks at a case and says, 'There's no evidence. This man is not guilty.'"

"Charles Sebesta handled this case in a way that would be best described as a criminal justice system's nightmare," said Siegler.

Eyewitness News spoke with Graves' brother and mother at their Brenham home on Wednesday night, just a short time after Graves' family greeted him. They say there have been feelings of bitterness along the way, but now there's joy, and his freedom has been a long time coming.

"We just have to get back to starting all over again. We have to start all over again because he can't get back what he lost; that's 18 years he lost," said Doris Curry, Graves' mother.

As for former DA Sebesta, he retired 12 years ago, and we have not had opportunity yet to seek his response to what was said in the news conference.

Graves will now be eligible to get more than a million dollars from the state because of his wrongful imprisonment.

(source: KTRK-TV News)

Hope you don't mind a few more?

*Update*Anthony Graves and His Attorney To Hold (held) News Conference About Graves Release Newly released from prison Anthony Graves and his attorney will hold (held) a joint news conference in Houston at 2pm Thursday.

DA Bill Parham to Speak at News Conference here

After enduring 'hell,' Graves looks ahead: At a news conference on Thursday, former death row inmate Anthony Graves says he's ready to move on with his life after being wrongly imprisoned for 18 years.

here Texas death row inmate freed after prosecutors drop capital murder charges in 1992 slaying of family

Anthony Graves had been convicted of helping Robert Earl Carter kill six people in Somerville in 1992. Graves' conviction was based solely on Carter's testimony, which Carter recanted shortly before he was executed for the crime in 1998. Dallas News
(Which by the way would be a great place to look for more stories breaking on this event. Also, please go to the Texas Journey 2010 site since THEY ARE THERE...)

Western North Carolina Events

We welcome submissions to your local events as these often get missed in the larger national happenings. Please send to Connie: and/or post in Comment section (if NOT anon.) and we will post if appropriate. If you don't hear from us within a few days, feel free to try again.

WCU (NC) death penalty events next month

See (left as is for easy copy/paste/disseminating or CLICK here

WCU to host discussions on death penalty, Nov. 8-9 From staff reports • October 27, 2010

Western Carolina University’s Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice will host two public events in early November examining the death penalty.

The first is “Issues in the Death Penalty: Wrongful Convictions,” a presentation scheduled for 6 p.m. Nov. 8 in the Grandroom of A.K. Hinds University Center on the WCU campus.

The program will feature Edward Chapman, who spent 14 years on North Carolina’s death row before his convictions on two murder charges were overturned in 2008, and Pam Laughon, a faculty member who found evidence to support his release.

A panel discussion titled “The Death Penalty Under Debate: Experts Weigh In” will be 2:30 p.m. Nov. 9, also in the Grandroom.For more information, Cyndy Caravelis Hughes at 227-2165.

Alex Cury
(828) 253-5088


Plz check out and support The Texas Journey of Hope - Info/schedule and ways to support available with a clik in column on right and in the posts below...

Also be sure to hear Susanne's moving talk on behalf of Humanity just below among the posts!

Monday, October 25, 2010

How Long Will Texas Hide This Crime Against Humanity?

Cases of people who have been wrongly accused, wrongly prosecuted, wrongly condemned and sentenced to death, wrongly executed? Already 139 human beings have been exonerated and released from death row in the US (19 following DNA testings that proved them innocent), 11 of them were in Texas. There are just too many and the truth always comes out. It is coming out right now...


Saturday, October 23, 2010

No Less than 9 plus events (last Sunday alone) for Texas Journey of Hope 2010...

You just have to check these out at the Texas Journey 2010 blogsite including a bit of the genius Charlie King and Karen Brandow truly are as Journey Troubadours...I'll never forget Charlie as such a poet/songwriter/musician of great, heart-pulling depth when I went on a Texas Journey - this time, Karen even adds more spice and expanse to what was already brilliant!

Here's the intro from Gilles:

There were no less than 9 events for Texas Journey of Hope that Sunday in Houston! (Not to mention all the others since then)...

Our speakers were sent in all directions to raise awareness and speak against the death penalty in Texas. In the evening, our Journey troubadours Charlie King and Karen Brandow offered their talent at a fundraiser concert for Journey of Hope...From Violence to Healing and KPFT.

READ MORE here and keep checking back...and BE SURE to see the post just below this one from the activist extraordinaire, Susanne... See Friday, October 22, 2010 for this post entitled "To advance our common humanity..."

Susanne's speech was at the Voices for Death Row Inmates peaceful protest outside the US Embassy in London, UK, on October 10, 2010. Susanne is Chairperson of the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and co-blogger to this blog.

Friday, October 22, 2010

"To advance our common humanity..."

Susanne's speech at the Voices for Death Row Inmates peaceful protest outside the US Embassy in London, UK, on October 10, 2010. Susanne is Chairperson of the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty and co-blogger to this blog.

Please find more speeches here.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Capital punishment is cruel and unusual

By Chris Dodson, Alligator Columnist, the independent florida alligator

An eye for an eye.

This way of thinking can be traced back to the Code of Hammurabi, a set of Babylonian law codes from about 1792 B.C. These codes stated, among other things, “If a man puts out the eye of an equal, his eye shall be put out.”

The sad thing is, nearly 4,000 years later in the U.S. we are still using a version of these codes in the form of capital punishment.

Capital punishment, more often referred to as the death penalty, is still on the books in 37 states in this country. Only two states have ruled it unconstitutional by their state Supreme Courts.

The Supreme Court of the United States has heard capital punishment arguments on multiple occasions and has ruled both ways in the past.

For those at home who don’t quite remember the Eighth Amendment, it’s that kind-of-important part of the Constitution that grants you security from cruel and unusual punishment from the government.

I find it hard to believe anyone would try to say death is not cruel.

But what about unusual? Every major superpower in Europe has eliminated the death penalty, so to these countries, I suppose capital punishment would be quite unusual.

In fact, with the exception of Latvia and Belarus, Europe is entirely capital punishment free. That even includes Russia, which currently has a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

To really drive the point home, the U.S. is one of only three industrialized democracies in the world to still have capital punishment, and one of those other two currently has a moratorium on its use as well. That seems pretty unusual to me.

We also have to deal with the possibility of an innocent person being convicted of murder and being executed. If an innocent individual is convicted but sentenced to life without parole, then there’s a possibility once the truth is discovered they can be released. But if they have already been executed, well, there’s not a whole lot one can do about it.

Don’t think that’s all that common? Since 1973 there have been 138 people released from death row after new evidence proved their innocence.These are the lucky people who had their innocence proved before their execution happened.

In this economy, we’re all looking for any way possible to save a few bucks here and there. If only the government would take that approach too. Replacing capital punishment with a sentence of life without parole would save quite a bit of money.

In a report issued from our very own UF, the average cost of an execution in Florida is $3.2 million, as opposed to the $600,000 it would cost to keep that same person in jail for life. Those are millions of dollars that could be put to good use in these downtrodden economic times.

So wait, we would be improving our country socially and economically by not killing more people? It seems way too good to be true.

Sunday, October 17, 2010



HOUSTON – October 15-19, 2010
DALLAS October 20-22, 2010
SAN ANTONIO October 23-27, 2010
AUSTIN October 27-31, 2010
Last updated October 7

HOUSTON – October 15-19, 2010

Friday October 15
9:00-10:00 PM
Ray Hill Prison Radio Show KPFT • Carlson, Pelke

Saturday October 16
10:00 AM
West Democrats Tracy Gee Center • 3599 Westcenter Dr. 77042 • McCarty, Steinberg
2:00 PM
Interfaith Prayer Service • Walls Unit, Huntsville • All

Sunday October 17
9:15 AM
St. Paul’s Methodist • Pelke, White
9:45-10:45 AM
Bering Memorial United Methodist • 1440 Harold • Ageorges-Skinner, Carlson
9:55 AM
Houston Mennonite Sunday School Class • 1231 Wirt Rd, Spring Branch • Klassen-Landis
10:00 AM
Magdelene Community • 1409 Sul Ross • Klassen-Landis (Guests Ballotta, Mancini)
10:00 AM
Thoreau Unitarian Stafford • McCarty, Welch
10:40 AM
Houston Mennonite • 1231 Wirt Road, Spring Branch • Klassen-Landis
11:00 AM-12:00 PM
Unitarian Fellowship Church of Houston • 1504 Wirt Road, Spring Branch • Kaczynski
6:00 PM
Most Holy Trinity Catholic Church Angleton • Jaeger-Lane (Guests Ballotta, Mancini)
6:00 PM
Concert by Charlie King & Karen Brandow
Unitarian Fellowship Church of Houston • 1504 Wirt Road, Spring Branch

Monday October 18
10:00 AM
St. Pius Catholic High School • Jaeger-Lane, Kaczynski
8:00-10:00 AM
Houston Community College • Central Campus Anthropology Class •
Klassen-Landis, White (Guests Ballotta, Mancini)
7:00 PM
Ft. Bend Co. Democrats • McCarty, Steinberg
7:00 PM
Meeting with ArchBishop Fiorenza • Dominican Sisters • Jaeger-Lane, Welch (Introduction by Pelke)

6:45-9:00 PM
Harris County Green party • Houston Institute of Culture • Ageorges-Skinner, Carlson

Tuesday October 19
8:00 AM
Duchesne Academy • 10202 Memorial Drive • Jaeger-Lane, Kaczynski
8:10-9:45 AM
St. Agnes Academy • 9000 Belaire Blvd. • Pelke, Steinberg, Welch
12:00-1:00 PM
South Texas College School of Law • Kaczynski, Klassen-Landis
HCC Richmond Central Campus • Ageorges-Skinner, White
4:00 PM
University of Houston Honors College • McCarty
7:00 PM
Rice University • Jaeger-Lane, McCarty (Guests Ballotta, Mancini)
7:00-9:00 PM
Bay Area UU Church • Carlson, Kaczynski, Klassen-Landis

DALLAS October 20-22, 2010

Wednesday October 20
1:05-2:20 PM
Ursuline Academy Theology Class • 469-556-2927
2:25-3:45 PM
Ursuline Academy Theology Class • 469-556-2927
7:00 PM
The Episcopal Church of St. Thomas the Apostle • NW corner of Inwood Road & Mockingbird Lane • 214-352-0410

Thursday October 21
8:50-9:55 AM
Ursuline Academy Theology Class • 469-556-2927
11:00 AM – 12:20 PM
TCU Ethics Class • 817-257-5230 12:10-1:20 PM
Ursuline Academy Theology Class • 469-556-2927
1:25-2:35 PM
Ursuline Academy Theology Class • 469-556-2927
2:40-3:45 PM
Ursuline Academy Theology Class • 469-556-2927
7:00 PM
SMU Human Rights Education Program • McCord Auditorium Dallas Hall SMU •

Friday October 22
7:00 PM
First Unitarian Church Santuary • 4015 Normandy at Preston Road • 214-352-0410
7:00 PM
Friendship West Church • 214-823-7793

SAN ANTONIO October 23-27, 2010 (Oct 23 is Travel Day)

Sunday October 24
Incarnate Word Congregation after mass
Other events tba

Monday October 25
12-2 PM
St. Mary’s University School of Law
12-1:30 PM
St. Mary’s University Theology Class

Tuesday October 26
9:00-12:00 PM
Incarnate Word University • 2 classes
(from 7:00 to 27 Oct 10 AM McAllen, Texas • 2 events • Graham & Perez Meyer)
10:30-2:30 PM
Providence High School • 3-4 Classes

Wednesday October 27
10:00 AM
Tree Planting St Mary’s • In memory of victims San Antonio

AUSTIN October 27-31, 2010

Wednesday October 27
6:30 PM
St. Teresa Catholic Church • 4311 Small Drive (near 2222 & Mt. Bonnell) • 512-451-5121 • Jaeger-Lane, Pelke

Thursday October 28
12:30-2:30 PM
St. Edwards University • 3001 South Congress • 512-448-4400
2:00-3:00 PM
Soul Talk Live Radio Show
Live Oak Unitarian Universalists • 512-331-5124
2:00 PM
ACLU • 611 South Congress Ave., 3rd Floor Conference Room
Television show taping • 512-459-3829
7:00 PM
Universalist Unitarians • 3315 El Salido Parkway • 512-331-5124
7:00 PM
St. Edward’s University • Social Justice Committee & Campus Ministry • 3001 S. Congress Ave. • 512-448-8400

Friday October 29
6:30 PM
St. Albert’s the Great Catholic Church • 512-837-7825
6:30 PM
St. John Vianney Catholic Church • 3201 Sunrise, Round Rock • 512-218-1183
7:00 PM
University of Texas • Campaign to End the Death Penalty • 512-417-2241

Saturday October 30
Greg Wilhoit Day
2:00 PM
11th Annual March to End Executions • State Capitol • 512-552-4773
Honoring Greg Wilhoit & Celebration

Sunday October 31
11:45 AM
Wildflower Unitarian • 3911 Manchaca Road
Please note: Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing reserves the right to change events, participants, venues, dates or times when circumstances require such changes, without notice.

To see links to the NAMES above and much more, plz GO here

Saturday, October 16, 2010

THE WALLS: Today - Saturday - 2 PM Texas Time

Electric Chair once used here

The Journey of Hope will hold an Interfaith Prayer Service at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, where more human beings are legally liquidated than in any other part of the United States.

A typical numbered gravesite at the graveyard marked for those executed in Huntsville.

Death Row Facts from Texas Department of Criminal Justice GO here

This image of the lethal injection gurney used, painted, considered so clinical as to be tho't "business as usual" found here The other images at top are from internet cache

For More info on the " Texas Journey of Hope 2010 " - Plz Go here

Texas Journey of Hope has Begun!

We are in Houston, Texas, right in the belly of the beast. And the beast did not take long to show its ugly face - Continue Reading here and sign up for automatic emails for each phase of this new TEXAS "Journey"

Seeking Mississippi Pardons: fairness, two sisters and a "law/order" gov...

Jaimie Scott - with her grandchildren

The following is from Bob Herbert by far my favorite NYTimes reporter to whom I was introduced years ago --

by our dear "Journey" friend, Dr. Rick Halperin.

Herbert has written about a number of cases/issues crucial to abolitionists, mercy, fairness, minorities and human rights.

While not precisely about mercy from death penalty, some of the issues are completely relevant to our Journey of Hope values and not at all unlike issues that have affected those for whom we advocate - other youth waylaid for mild or terrible mistakes, mistaken identities, drunk lawyers, injustice and completely arbitrary laws and lawmakers. Plz read following from both the intellect AND the heart...

October 15, 2010
The Mississippi Pardons

Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi has to decide whether to show mercy to two sisters, Jamie and Gladys Scott, who are each serving double consecutive life sentences in state prison for a robbery in which no one was injured and only $11 was taken.

This should be an easy call for a law-and-order governor who has, nevertheless, displayed a willingness to set free individuals convicted of far more serious crimes. Mr. Barbour has already pardoned four killers and suspended the life sentence of a fifth.

The Scott sisters have been in prison for 16 years. Jamie, now 38, is seriously ill. Both of her kidneys have failed. Keeping the two of them locked up any longer is unconscionable, grotesquely inhumane.

The sisters were accused of luring two men to a spot outside the rural town of Forest, Miss., in 1993, where the men were robbed by three teenagers, one of whom had a shotgun. The Scott sisters knew the teens. The evidence of the sisters’ involvement has always been ambiguous, at best. The teenagers pleaded guilty to the crime, served two years in prison and were released. All were obliged by the authorities, as part of their plea deals, to implicate the sisters.

No explanation has ever emerged as to why Jamie and Gladys Scott were treated so severely.

In contrast, Governor Barbour has been quite willing to hand get-out-of-jail-free cards to men who unquestionably committed shockingly brutal crimes. The Jackson Free Press, an alternative weekly, and Slate Magazine have catalogued these interventions by Mr. Barbour. Some Mississippi observers have characterized the governor’s moves as acts of mercy; others have called them dangerous abuses of executive power.

The Mississippi Department of Corrections confirmed Governor Barbour’s role in the five cases, noting that the specific orders were signed July 16, 2008:

• Bobby Hays Clark was pardoned by the governor. He was serving a long sentence for manslaughter and aggravated assault, having shot and killed a former girlfriend and badly beaten her boyfriend.

• Michael David Graham had his life sentence for murder suspended by Governor Barbour. Graham had stalked his ex-wife, Adrienne Klasky, for years before shooting her to death as she waited for a traffic light in downtown Pascagoula.

• Clarence Jones was pardoned by the governor. He had murdered his former girlfriend in 1992, stabbing her 22 times. He had already had his life sentence suspended by a previous governor, Ronnie Musgrove.

• Paul Joseph Warnock was pardoned by Governor Barbour. He was serving life for the murder of his girlfriend in 1989. According to Slate, Warnock shot his girlfriend in the back of the head while she was sleeping.

• William James Kimble was pardoned by Governor Barbour. He was serving life for the murder and robbery of an elderly man in 1991.

Radley Balko, in an article for Slate, noted that none of the five men were given relief because of concerns that they had been unfairly treated by the criminal justice system. There were no questions about their guilt or the fairness of the proceedings against them. But they did have one thing in common. All, as Mr. Balko pointed out, had been enrolled in a special prison program “that had them doing odd jobs around the Mississippi governor’s mansion.”

The idea that those men could be freed from prison and allowed to pursue whatever kind of lives they might wish while the Scott sisters are kept locked up, presumably for the rest of their lives, is beyond disturbing.

Supporters of the Scott sisters, including their attorney, Chokwe Lumumba, and Ben Jealous of the N.A.A.C.P., have asked Governor Barbour to intervene, to use his executive power to free the women from prison.

A spokeswoman for the governor told me he has referred the matter to the state’s parole board. Under Mississippi law, the governor does not have to follow the recommendation of the board. He is free to act on his own. With Jamie Scott seriously ill (her sister and others have offered to donate a kidney for a transplant), the governor should move with dispatch.

The women’s mother, Evelyn Rasco, told The Clarion-Ledger of Jackson, Miss.: “I wish they would just hurry up and let them out. I hope that is where it is leading to. That would be the only justified thing to do.”

An affidavit submitted to the governor on behalf of the Scott sisters says: “Jamie and Gladys Scott respectfully pray that they each be granted a pardon or clemency of their sentences on the grounds that their sentences were too severe and they have been incarcerated for too long. If not released, Jamie Scott will probably die in prison.”

As they are both serving double life sentences, a refusal by the governor to intervene will most likely mean that both will die in prison.
Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company

Also see related Herbert article from a few days ago here ; the San Fransisco Bay View article "Jamie Scott's Son, 18, Fights to Free the Scott ; here for the moving "Scott Sisters are Us" ; and essential: The Free the Scott Sisters blogsite here
Recently a very well-attended Jackson, MS rally which has generated a lot of mainstream media - Let's do our part to raise the cry for mercy...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Interfaith Prayer Service "at the Walls Unit" in Huntsville, Texas

Huntsville Walls Unit Murder Chamber

Many of us remember standing in front of this stark scene above on one, two or numerous occasions...or at least seeing the photos, reading the report. In a few days, meet us there if you are able or let others know...

October 13 – Texas Journey in 2 days!

NOTE: On Saturday, October 16, at 2:00 PM, the Journey of Hope will hold an Interfaith Prayer Service at the Walls Unit in Huntsville, where more human beings are legally liquidated than in any other part of the United States.

Keep checking in for Gilles colorful and frequent blogposts here

"Three Days in Paris Against the Death Penalty"

Photo by Gilles

On Friday, I traveled to Paris and attended a conference organized by Ensemble contre la peine de mort (ECPM) as part of their 7 Days Against the Death Penalty programme.

Sitting and standing in a packed auditorium at the Paris Bar Association, everyone eagerly awaited to hear a brillant panel of speakers, particularly Senator Robert Badinter – who was instrumental in abolishing capital punishment in France – and Lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei – who initiated the international campaign to save his client Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani from stoning in Iran....

Plz "Tune In" and read the rest of this interesting report - GO here to read this and other outstanding blogposts and more by Gilles Denizot "Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing" board member & Secretary

(Sign up to receive Gilles posts directly)

Monday, October 11, 2010

World Day (from Center for Constitutional Rights)

Join CCR in opposing the death penalty as an abuse of the most basic of human rights. There are events and actions occurring worldwide that can give you the opportunity to do something! In New York City on October 11th from 1-2:30 p.m., there will be a live debate exploring the death penalty and its relevance in the US today. This event will be held at the White Box Gallery at 329 Broome Street and will also be streamed to 29 universities across the US, Canada and the UK. For information about other actions and events worldwide, visit the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty here

Yesterday marked the World Day Against the Death Penalty, and CCR is adding our voice to the international call for the abolition of capital punishment. This year, for the first time ever, this day of international protest against the death penalty is focused specifically on the United States. Since 1977, there have been more than 1100 executions in the US, 41 in 2010 alone. As people living in the US, it is up to us to take strength from these worldwide protests and active opposition to capital punishment and use them to embolden our abolition efforts at home.

As a human rights organization, CCR views the death penalty first and foremost as a violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that all human beings have “the right to life, liberty and security of person.” CCR staff attorney Rachel Meeropol, and Robert Meeropol, the Director of the Rosenberg Fund for Children wrote in an op-ed,

“In the aftermath of World War II, the United States took a leadership role in drafting an ‘international bill of rights’ that recognized all people have certain inherent rights. This core human rights document, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, put it simply: Life is a human right. This makes the death penalty our deepest human rights abuse. As long as governments have the right to extinguish our lives, they maintain the power to deny us access to every other right.”

Read the full op-ed at

Raise your voice now to oppose the death penalty and protect human rights.

Strong support for US abolitionists on World Day

On 10.10.10, the 8th World Day against the Death Penalty focused on ending the use of the death penalty in the United States of America. Since 2003, abolitionists have taken actions all over the world every 10 October to raise awareness and opposition to the death penalty.

This year, to mark the World Day against the Death Penalty, dozens of events have been organized across the USA from Texas to Alaska, including in New York and Washington DC. All over the world, abolitionists have been hosting events in support of the American movement to end the death penalty (photo: London).

By encouraging debates and education on the death penalty on 10.10.10, worldwide abolitionists would like every citizen to understand that the fundamental right to life applies to all people, that the death penalty is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent even in the most competent systems of justice.

The death penalty does not deliver justice

In the USA, as elsewhere, the death penalty does not deliver justice. Since 1977 more than 130 people have been released on grounds of innocence revealing significant flaws in legal process. It is also a system that continues to condemn people on discriminatory grounds and that diverts time and money from other more efficient law enforcement measures.

A 2009 report by the Death Penalty Information Center showed that the nation’s police chiefs rank the death penalty last in their priorities for effective crime reduction and they do not believe the death penalty acts as a deterrent to murder.

In 2010 the US has executed 40 people to date; Texas (16) having executed the most people so far. In 2009 11 states executed 52 prisoners.

Progress towards abolition

Although executions continue, the number of those sentenced to death has reduced. Today in the USA, 15 states do not have the death penalty and 11 more made legislative proposals to abolish capital punishment in 2009.

In 2002 the Supreme Court prohibited the execution of the insane, and in 2005 it prohibited the death penalty for offenders who were under 18 years old at the time of the crime. 2009 also saw a decrease in the number of death sentences, and the number of executions is trending down.

This World Day is the opportunity for abolitionists to work together, in the United States and abroad, to help continue this trend of restricting the use of the death penalty and to work to educate the public to bring about the end of its use.

By 2009, 139 countries in the world had abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, and 18 of the 58 retentionist states actually executed people. To support the American movement to end the death penalty is also to support abolition all over the world, to take another step towards universal abolition.

END article


Published by Thomas Hubert on 2010/10/11 at World Coalition dot Org (113 reads) FIND original, read more about the dedication to US abolitionists; how the Arab World is moving toward abolition; a report about the Community of Sant'Egidio meeting with the president of Mongolia and archives including the World Congress to Abolish the Death Penalty - CLICK here

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Dallas, Home of a Mensch

By texasjourney2010

Leaving Houston, the Journey will head to Dallas, the third-largest city in Texas and the ninth-largest in the United States. On October 21 at 7:00 PM, Journey of Hope…From Violence to Healing will be featured in the SMU’s Death Penalty Matters Fall 2010 Series at McCord Auditorium, Dallas Hall 306.

There is one person in Dallas I especially look forward to seeing again: Rick Halperin, the Director of SMU’s Embrey Human Rights Program, and one of our Journey of Hope board members.

Rick Halperin’s website was bookmarked on my computer for a couple of years before I had the chance to meet him in Washington D.C., during the 2010 Fast & Vigil to abolish the death penalty. There, in front of the US Supreme Court, Rick Halperin gave a remarkable speech that made me wish I could move to Dallas to study in his class. In my intervention, on the last day of the event, I paid him homage and said that he was the perfect definition of a Mensch: a person of integrity and honor.

In his own words:

My entire life has been spent defending and advocating the idea that there is no such thing as a lesser person, and that all persons, regardless of whatever they have done, still have and remain worthy of their inherent dignity and must not, for any reason, be tortured or be put to death.

Very recently, Rick Halperin published Why don’t people in Texas talk about the death penalty? in the Dallas News death penalty blog. Again, this article encompasses in an outstanding, yet concise way, everything there is to know and to understand about capital punishment. Specifically that the larger issue surrounding the death penalty is violence in our society.

Rick Halperin has witnessed this state-sanctioned violence in Huntsville and recounts it in the video below. I wonder how many pro-death penalty people have had the courage and the integrity to stand behind the death chamber’s thick glass while a man was being put to death. His testimony is as articulate as the killing of a human being in 1998 was methodical. Death was at 6:23…

SEE THE VIDEO and original post here

SMU’s Embrey Human Rights program presents “Death Penalty Matters,” a fall series of programs that is free and open to the public. Speakers include former Texas prosecutor Sam Millsap, Sister Helen Prejean and selected Texas Journey of Hope members. For more information, visit the website or call 214-768-8347.

Gilles Denizot
Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing board member & Secretary


Be sure to add Stoning and Extra-Judicial Executions as Death Penalties:
Death Penalty USA here

Amnesty I and USA here and


Also be sure to stay tuned to Dr. Rick Halperin's Death Penalty News and Updates

TEXAS Journey blogpost: Meet Curtis McCarty (with link to Video from Alaska)

October 5 – Texas Journey in 10 days!

What if the person on death row is innocent? I personally oppose the death penalty in all circumstances, whether innocent or guilty. But what if the person is indeed innocent? Do you still support capital punishment?

In a clip of Step by Step documentary of the 1998 Texas Journey, I remember hearing what a Texan said when interviewed in the street.

- Is it ok to sacrifice an innocent?
- That happens.

During the entire Texas Journey of Hope 2010, we have the privilege to have Curtis McCarty who spent 21 years on Oklahoma’s death row for a murder he did not commit. Privilege is not overrated, considering he could be a dead man now.

Curtis once said:

I am free physically, but mentally I am not. I am always there and I am always with the men I left behind and the men who died there, men whom I am certain are innocent.

In the following video, we meet Curtis McCarty (interviewed by Shannyn North Moore Up North) when he traveled to Alaska and supported our friends from Alaskans Against the Death Penalty.

From Gilles Denizot
Journey of Hope…from Violence to Healing board member & Secretary

SEE VIDEO and read more here

Texas Journey of Hope 2010
October 15-31 > Bringing Hope to > Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin


Extra note from Journey Secretary, Gilles, who said:

Here's the main link

TEXAS 2010 JOURNEY: (left easy to copy/paste and pass on...)

( CLICK here to SIGN UP to receive free updates AS they come in...easy! )

This is the URL for the daily reports before and during our Texas Journey of Hope 2010. At least mine.

Welcome to our Texas Journey 2010 Blog!

This blog will gather all information before the Journey starts, and will keep you all up-to-date during the tour.

Find all details about the itinerary, our 12 speakers – the finest team ever assembled for abolition work - the events and more!

Make sure you subscribe to our RSS Feeds or Sign Up for Email notifications (see right side once you're in the above link) and you won’t miss anything!

Last but not least, please support us with a donation and share this blog around you!


(SEE the Texas Journey LINK for donation options)

Again, Thanx so much for coming by, reader and Gilles. Keep on checkin' in


Friday, October 08, 2010

TEXAS: Journey 2010 coming soon...

TEXAS Journey of Hope 2010 October 15-31 Bringing Hope to Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, Austin

"The answer is love and compassion for all of humanity"
Bill Pelke, President


WRITE the Coordinator of Communications for this TEXAS JOURNEY GILLES DENIZOT with specific items/questions

Gilles is a Member and Secretary of The Journey of Hope: From Violence to Healing

CONNECT with Journey and Gilles engaging blogs and more on the official TEXAS JOURNEY site here where you can also click to connect with Journey on Facebook - Twitter - YouTube and Change

Download our documents on Scribd CLICK here

GO here
Donate Now for our October Texas Journey all these ways:
Network for Good -
Facebook Cause -
Change - PayPal -
Donate on your Birthday

Get to know Gilles DENIZOTT Official Website here

NOTE: IF you're going to be (or happen to be) at any of The Journey events in Texas, PLZ let us know - send photos, articles and reports - just email BOTH GILLES and CONNIE at same time. THANX for stopping by!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Watch for Journey of Hope in Texas Reports/Photos

Look for links and various LIVE reports here soon. Gilles, Hooman, Bill: You are all welcome to sign self in as contributor and to post directly here so we and the readers don't miss too much and put in links to other sites. If you have trouble, perhaps Susanne or another "tech" might sign you in. I will try to get back soon as possible.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

"I Did It"
Why do people confess to crimes they didn't commit?

The woman was naked from the waist down, her pants and underwear tossed into the weeds.

Her down jacket was pulled to her chest, exposing her left breast to the autumn chill. Her head and face had been pummeled, and embedded in the blows were pellets from a BB gun; smashed shards of the gun were found nearby in the brush. Her hair was so gummed with blood that the hunter who stumbled on her body couldn't tell that it had once been all white.

By nightfall on November 29, 1988, the whole upstate village of Hilton was talking about Viola Manville 74 years old and a grandmother, a free spirit, outspoken, and now a homicide victim. Hilton is a small, blue-collar farm town on the edge of Lake Ontario west of Rochester where a good number of people once worked on the assembly lines at Kodak. The town can be rough -- one neighbor from a wealthier suburb calls it "a little Appalachia here in New York" -- but Hilton had never seen a murder like this. The Monroe County Sheriff’s Office interviewed dozens of people: neighbors, family members, an ex-boyfriend, troubled teenagers. They learned that Manville often had been seen walking along the same set of abandoned railroad tracks where her body was found, even after having been the victim of an attempted rape there 3 years earlier. The man arrested in that attack, Glen Sterling, was still in prison.

Glen Sterling had a brother named Frank. He was tall but hunched and painfully shy. Frank Sterling grew up just 100 yards from the abandoned railroad tracks, a mile from the spot where the victim's body was found. Both his parents were janitors, and Frank was the middle child, a chain-smoker so lonely that as a teenager he'd do almost anything to make a friend. His classmates at Hilton Central High called him Bug Chower, after a story got around that he ate insects to get attention. The name stuck. "He was the kid in school that everybody berated," says a former classmate, Rob Cusenz. An easy mark."

At the time of the murder, Frank was 25 and still living at home, working as a school-bus monitor. He had a clean criminal record, but to the police, he had the makings of a motive. What if Frank had been angry that his brother Glen was in jail? What if he'd been nursing a grudge against Manville ever since she accused his brother of trying to rape her? What if this wasn't a sex-related murder but revenge? It was all just speculation, and indeed when the police questioned Sterling, they found his alibi was solid he’d been seen working on the school bus all morning, and he recited the plots of the Smurfs and Chipmunks episodes he'd watched that afternoon. There was no physical evidence linking him to the crime, and Sterling was not arrested. Within a few months, other leads also dried up, and the Manville murder went unsolved.

Almost 3 years later, on July 10, 1991, an unmarked police car with 2 plainclothes detectives pulled up to the Sterling family’s house. This was the third time in four years that the police had come to see him. He was now almost 28. He had become a truck driver and moved to Alabama for a year, then came back when work dried up. That afternoon, he was tired; he’d just finished a job that took him through a half-dozen states over two days. The detectives said they'd been assigned to reinterview people of interest in the case, and they realized Sterling had never been polygraphed.

They asked him to come with them to a Rochester police station. He agreed.

At 7 p.m., Sterling followed a polygraph technician, Mark Sennett, into a small room on the 4th floor, where he sat at a table and waited. Before hooking up Sterling to the lie detector, Sennett spent more than 2 hours asking him questions: Did he know why he was there? Why would the police think he might have killed Vi Manville? Early on, Sennett told him that Glen had told his fellow inmates that one of his brothers had killed Manville a lie he'd made up on the spot to see how the suspect might react. Sterling was startled; he said (maybe a little too defensively, Sennett thought) that there was no way his brother would have said that. Sennett told Sterling he was in for a long night. When the polygraph man left the room at 10:45 p.m., Sterling began to panic. If he stayed, he feared, the police wouldn’t stop but asking to leave or for a lawyer, he thought, would be as good as admitting he was a murderer.

At 11:20 p.m., another interrogator came to see Sterling. Patrick Crough, a young, confident detective, had worked just two homicide cases before the Manville murder, but he had already shown a natural talent for bonding with suspects. Crough spoke softly and leaned in close to Sterling, taking his time explaining his theory of the case. He talked about the love Sterling must have had for his brother and the anger he must have felt about his not being home for Thanksgiving. He told Sterling he thought he might have bottled up his anger about Glen being in jail. Maybe, Crough said, it was the reason for his upset stomach, his bad teeth.

Sterling admitted to Crough that he was angry enough to have "killed the bitch" and threw his lighter across the room, saying, "I didn’t kill her, but I sure as hell could have." Still, as midnight approached, Sterling maintained his innocence and even asked to be hypnotized to prove he wasn't hiding anything. At about 12:45 a.m., Sennett returned and suggested what he called a "relaxation technique." He had Sterling lie down on the floor and keep his feet elevated on his chair. He told him to take 4 deep breaths, then slid his own chair up to Sterling and held his hand. He asked Sterling if he could picture himself on those railroad tracks, running into a lady with white hair, arguing with her, seeing her lying naked in the bushes. He asked him how he felt about seeing her this way. "Happy," Sterling said.

Seconds later, Sterling jumped to his feet and snapped, "This is a bunch of bullshit! I didn't do nothing!"

"You're right, this is bullshit," [Crough] said before walking out of the room. "I think you killed this lady, and I’m going to prove it." Sterling was trembling now, verging on hysteria. He had been in the small room for close to 8 hours. Crough came in again at 2:40 a.m. and started rubbing Sterling's back. "I was whispering," Crough said later, "simply that we would not dislike him, that we were here for him, we understood we felt he should tell the truth to get it off his chest." Crough's partner, Thomas Vasile, held Sterling's other hand, and the 2 detectives huddled around him for a long time, gently reassuring him.

Finally, according to the police report, Sterling blurted out, "I did it. I need help."

Just before dawn, at 5:22, Sterling made a videotaped statement. Onscreen for just over 20 minutes, Sterling can be seen speaking in a slow, defeated monotone, the ash of his cigarette burning to the nub. With Sennett working the camera, Sterling nods and agrees to every detail Crough and Vasile ask about the BB gun, the naked body breaking into sobs now and then as the 2 officers console him. He mentions the purple color of Manville's jacket a crime-scene detail police said no one else could have known. Sterling's motive, he explains on the videotape, is exactly what Crough had said: "I was already upset about not having my brother home for Thanksgiving. Turned out later she was that one my brother was in prison for. She said the wrong thing at the wrong time. Things transpired. After she said, 'Your brother got what he deserved,' I hit her."

Without witnesses or physical evidence linking him to the crime scene, prosecutors made the videotaped confession the centerpiece of their case. On September 29, 1992, Frank Sterling was convicted of murder and later sentenced to 25 years to life in prison, and sent to the state prison in Elmira. And several days after the trial, when a number of people in Hilton came forward saying that a 19-year-old man named Mark Christie was telling everyone he knew that he'd just gotten away with murder, the police didn't pay them much attention. The killer, after all, had confessed.

In the criminal-justice system, nothing is more powerful than a confession. Decades of research on jury verdicts has demonstrated that no other form of evidence not eyewitnesses, not a video record of the crime, not even DNA is as convincing to a jury as a defendant who says "I did it." The police, of course, understand the power of confessions and rely on interrogation techniques to produce them quickly so they can clear their cases. This is the stuff of countless TV procedurals the small interrogation room with a bare table and 2-way mirror; the good-cop-bad-cop routine; the deployment of outright lies like "You failed the polygraph" or "Your prints are on the knife."

As a society, we have come to view these as acceptable, if blunt, tools of justice. We count on the integrity of police and safeguards like Miranda rights to prevent abuses, and we take it on faith that innocent people would never confess to crimes they haven't committed.

But, of course, they do. In recent years, the use of DNA evidence has allowed experts to identify false confessions in unprecedented and disturbing numbers. In the past 2 decades, researchers have documented some 250 instances of false confessions, many resulting in life sentences and at least 4 in wrongful executions. Of the 259 DNA exonerations tracked by a major advocacy group, 63 of them or 1 out of every 4 was found to have involved a false confession. Counting just the homicide cases, the proportion shoots up to 58 % of all exonerations.

Even this number could be an underestimate. "Most of the documented false confessions have been in highly publicized murder cases," says Steven Drizin, of Northwestern Law School's Center on Wrongful Convictions. "There is no reason not to think the same tactics would be as effective if not more effective in lesser cases, where the punishment that could flow from a confession would be less." False confessions appear to be particularly common in New York State, in which 12 of the 27 DNA-based exonerations have turned out to be based on bogus admissions of guilt.

Researchers who study false confessions say the roots of the problem lie in the interrogation tactics themselves. The most influential such method is the Reid technique, a decades-old 9-step procedure designed to isolate and persuade a suspect to reveal his deceptions. Virtually every police department in the country has been influenced, directly or indirectly, by the Reid technique. Its defenders see it as the cornerstone of good police work, but its detractors say it places too much power in the hands of interrogating officers. In light of the new research documenting the scope of the problem, reformers in New York and elsewhere are calling for a wholesale reevaluation of the way the police question suspects. Frank Sterling's story should help their cause; it demonstrates just what can go wrong with the science of interrogation.

In 1940, a burly, clean-cut Irish Catholic cop named John E. Reid was thinking of quitting the Chicago police force. Reid was tough, a former guard on the DePaul University football team, but was never comfortable carrying a gun. At the last minute, he applied for a transfer to a desk job at the Chicago crime lab. He arrived in the midst of a technological revolution in police work. In 1931, a presidential panel known as the Wickersham Commission had exposed abuses brought by "the 3rd degree," the use of force by police to extract confessions. Police across the country had held suspects’ heads underwater, hung them out of windows, and beaten them. In 1936, the Supreme Court decision Brown v. Mississippi -- the brutal case of 3 black men who were beaten and whipped until they confessed effectively outlawed confessions brought by brute force. Crime labs like Chicago's began developing new, more scientific means to solve cases: ballistics, document examination, and lie detection.

As much as anyone, John Reid can be credited with leading American law enforcement into the modern age. Reid's advances began with the lie detector. In 1945, he designed a chair that used inflated rubber bladders to detect a subject's jitters. In 1947, he essentially created the modern polygraph procedure with the "control-question technique," a way of measuring a suspect's reaction to provocative questions. That same year, Reid left the crime lab and founded John E. Reid & Associates, which went on to train scores of polygraph analysts, including members of the CIA and the Mossad.

Reid's most influential work focused on the art of the interrogation. Soft-spoken and sincere, he had a knack for gently persuading suspects to confess. "It was almost a priestlike approach,"says George Lindberg, who worked for Reid for 13 years. "He’d hold your hand and say, 'You should really get this off your chest.'"? Reid played an important role in a number of high-profile Chicago murder trials, and other cities shuttled him in as a closer for their most sensitive cases. He was credited with personally helping to solve some 300 murders and coaxing 5,000 thieves to confess. Some in law-enforcement circles called him the most famous name next to J. Edgar Hoover.

Reid's aim wasn't always true -- in 1955, he got a Nebraska man named Darrel Parker to admit to killing his wife, and the real killer confessed 33 years later -- but his faith in his own ability, and in the professionalization of his craft, led him to believe interrogations could be systematized to the point of being foolproof. "It's almost as if every crook reads the same book on what to do and say to give themselves away," he liked to say.

In 1962, Reid and his mentor, a Northwestern Law professor named Fred Inbau, co-wrote the 1st edition of Criminal Interrogation and Confessions. Criminologists and law historians credit their method with defining the culture of police-interrogation training for the past half-century. The procedure basically involves 3 stages meant to break down a suspect's defenses and rebuild him as a confessor. First, the suspect is brought into custody and isolated from his familiar surroundings. This was the birth of the modern interrogation room. Next the interrogator lets the suspect know he's guilty -- that he knows it, the cops know it, and the interrogator doesn't want to hear any lies. The interrogator then floats a theory of the case, which the manual calls a "theme."

The theme can be supported by evidence or testimony the investigator doesn’t really have. In the final stage, the interrogator cozies up to the subject and provides a way out. This is when the interrogator uses the technique known as "minimization": telling the suspect he understands why he must have done it; that anyone else would understand, too; and that he will feel better if only he would confess. The interrogator is instructed to cut off all denials and instead float a menu of themes that explain why the suspect committed the crime -- one bad, and one not so bad, but both incriminating, as in "Did you mean to do it, or was it an accident?"

Reid was hailed in his time as the man who made the third degree obsolete. But if his method wasn't physically coercive, it was certainly psychologically so. The Supreme Court's 1966 Miranda decision singled out the Reid method for creating a potentially coercive environment, citing it as one reason suspects needed to be informed of their right to remain silent. Reid and Inbau made minor modifications to the program, adding some language about Miranda to the 1967 edition of their manual, but they remained true believers. Criminal Interrogation and Confessions asserts that Reid investigators could judge truth and deception with 85 % accuracy, a higher rate than anyone else has ever claimed to have achieved -- or, as Reid once put it, "better results than a priest."

In Elmira, Frank Sterling kept to himself, spending most of his time in what was called the college block, where inmates can study toward degrees. His family visited for a time, but his father died in 1995, and his mother stopped coming to see him after she developed heart problems and moved to Texas to live with her son Gary. Sterling had his own health issues. The dust at Elmira made it difficult for him to breathe, and some of the prisoners referred to him as Shaky because he trembled. "Each time I’d see Frank upon coming back from being at another prison, I’d see he had aged more his face, his eyes," says fellow inmate Jeff Deskovic.

Sterling had tried to recant his confession almost immediately after he gave it. He told his lawyer he was so worn down by the police that he didn't even remember what had happened that night. But the authorities weren't moved by that claim. Right after Sterling's trial, Sterling's lawyer filed to vacate the conviction on other grounds: He argued that the rumors surrounding Mark Christie, the man who had been heard bragging about killing Vi Manville after Sterling was convicted, provided sufficient justification to investigate whether he was the real killer. Christie, whose alibi fell apart under new scrutiny, was asked to take a polygraph and agreed. He fidgeted too much for the first test to be considered conclusive but took it again the next day and passed. On December 23, 1992, a judge refused to overturn Sterling's conviction. Christie, the judge said, was simply a young man who liked to brag.

In 1996, 4 years into Sterling's sentence, Mark Christie reentered the picture. If Sterling had been the weird kid in Hilton, Christie had a creepier reputation: He wore combat fatigues every day and took an e18-inch Bowie knife with him wherever he went. Now Christie had confessed to another murder, the brutal killing of a 4-year-old Rochester-area girl named Kali Ann Poulton. His confession prompted Sterling's appeals lawyer, Don Thompson, to file a new motion to overturn Sterling’s conviction. If Christie were capable of killing Poulton, couldn’t he have killed Vi Manville? A State Supreme Court judge rejected the motion. "Only Sterling confessed to authorities," read the decision. "Only Sterling had a motive to kill Manville. Only Sterling knew facts that had not been publicized."

Sterling and Thompson filed a total of 4 motions to vacate Sterling's conviction over the next 8 years, but all of them failed. Then, in 2004, Thompson sought the help of the Innocence Project -- the Benjamin Cardozo School of Law based group led by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld that has won wide acclaim for its work in freeing the wrongly convicted. The 1st time Neufeld watched Sterling’s confession, even he thought he was guilty. But he soon came to see how everything pointed toward Christie. In 2005, Monroe County District Attorney Michael Green agreed to let the Innocence Project conduct DNA tests on some of Manville's clothing from the crime scene. In the fall of 2008, after 3 years of testing and legal maneuvering, word came back with what seemed like a match. The samples contained so-called touch DNA -- a few skin cells -- instead of the more definitive evidence found in blood and semen samples. Still, Neufeld says, "the profile had a very rare type. And Christie has that type."

In spite of the apparent match, a year passed, and the Monroe County D.A. still didn’t take action. Last fall, an Innocence Project staff attorney named Vanessa Potkin personally visited Christie in prison to try to persuade him to own up to the murder. She spent part of 2 days talking to Christie, and while he almost seemed to acknowledge his role, and perhaps even to taunt her a bit, he admitted nothing. His attitude was "he's not responsible for Frank being there in prison," Potkin says. "Frank's the one who talked."

Sterling's team decided on a new tactic. On January 22, Potkin visited Christie again, this time with a polygraph and interrogation expert named Richard Byington who worked for the leading company in the field: John E. Reid & Associates. Neufeld had been waiting for the right case to ask the Reid people for pro bono help -- a sort of Nixon-in-China move -- and the company's president, Joseph Buckley, had agreed. The hope was that Byington, an experienced and highly regarded interrogator, could persuade Christie to confess.

At first, Christie appeared to relish the visit. He boasted to Byington that he had stolen a copy of the Reid-Inbau manual from the Hilton library to try and beat the polygraph he'd been asked to take after the Manville verdict. Of course, he'd aced it. Byington spent several hours trying to get Christie to warm up to him. Eventually, Christie seemed to grow impatient. "What do you want?" Byington remembers Christie saying.

Byington turned more aggressive. "I said, 'Listen, here's the deal. There’s no doubt that you committed the Manville murder. The physical evidence says it, and the DNA basically says it. Now you need to do the right thing so Frank, who hasn't done anything, can go home.'?" But Christie, who still harbored thoughts of getting out one day, still wasn’t inclined to talk. "Why should I say anything?" he told Byington. Then Byington played another card. In a strange coincidence, the detective who had procured Christie's confession in the Kali Ann Poulton case was Patrick Crough, the same man who had gotten Frank Sterling to confess. Byington pulled out a copy of a newly published memoir Crough had written about child-abduction cases called The Serpents Among Us and pointed to the page where Crough calls Christie not just a child-killer but, he believed, a child molester.

Christie became furious. After thirteen years in prison, he had no real sense of how well he was remembered in the outside world, and he had hoped Kali Ann’s murder, and his role in it, might have been forgotten. Now he saw that Crough was working to keep the case alive -- and accusing him of raping the young victim as well. He knew he'd never lead a normal life outside of prison now.

"You know more about this than you’re telling me," Byington said to Christie. And shortly after, Christie’s confession began.

Earlier this year, on April 28, Frank Sterling was set free. He wept at the courthouse, hugged Don Thompson, and expressed disbelief. Peter Neufeld took a shot at the cops who interrogated Sterling 18 years earlier. "There's no question that in this case," Neufeld said, "the police officers had tunnel vision."

In the early days of DNA exoneration, even the lawyers working the cases didn’t know what to make of the surprising number of false confessions they came across. "It wasn’t until the late 90s that we began to see patterns emerge," says Neufeld. "But still, it was running against 25 years of my own experience. Why would an innocent person confess?"

That question was eventually taken up by a handful of researchers, including the University of San Francisco School of Law's Richard Leo, Berkeley sociologist Richard Ofshe, John Jay College's Saul Kassin, and Northwestern Law School’s Steven Drizin. False confessions now are generally understood to break down into 3 categories. There are voluntary false confessions, in which innocent people come forward on their own. Some, like John Mark Karr in the JonBenet Ramsey case, do it for the attention -- others to self-punish or because they’ve lost touch with reality. Then there are what Leo calls "persuaded false confessions," in which people are convinced by the interrogator that they actually committed the crime. In New York, 17-year-old Marty Tankleff famously falsely confessed to killing his parents in 1988 after being convinced he must have blocked it out. Finally, there are "compliant" false confessions, in which the suspect is psychologically coerced to confess even while believing he's innocent. "They do it," Kassin writes, "to escape a stressful situation, avoid punishment, or gain a promised or implied reward often coming to believe that the short-term benefits of confession relative to denial outweigh the long-term costs." This appears to be what happened in the infamous Central Park jogger case. It also seems to explain Frank Sterling's confession.

Critics say the Reid technique is a major source of the problem. What was once seen as the vanguard of criminal science, they argue, is nothing more than a psychological version of the 3rd degree, in which police have "carte blanche in the interrogation room for any tactics shy of physical abuse," says Drizin. Others believe police shouldn't be able to mislead suspects with lies or manipulate them by suggesting that what they did isn't so bad. Great Britain's police aren't allowed to employ those tactics, and Kassin says the best available data suggest the efficacy with which they arrest and convict criminals isn't diminished by that.

Reid detractors also say that police often feed evidence to suspects, which accounts for why false confessors sometimes know details about a crime that they wouldn't otherwise know. In a recently published study, University of Virginia law professor Brandon Garrett found that in 97 % of the false-confession cases he studied from the DNA era, the wrongly accused suspects were said to have supplied such telling details -- facts either picked up elsewhere or provided by police. Interrogators also tend to be overconfident of their abilities to spot guilty suspects. No study so far (aside from Reid's own research) has shown the police to be any better than average at picking out liars. In fact, they’re sometimes worse. In one 1987 study, police officers watched videotaped statements of witnesses, and their record at identifying deceptive testimony was no better than the average person's. Overconfidence can blind investigators to evidence suggesting that the suspect is innocent. The pressure to resolve cases quickly and tidily can have a similar effect, especially in high-profile cases. Simply wearing suspects down is another issue: At some point, a given suspect will say anything just to make the immediate discomfort stop. "Why don't they beat people anymore?" asks Don Thompson. "It's not because they're particularly enlightened now. It's because the psychological coercion is so much more effective."

Frank Sterling's confession, Thompson believes, was marked by a number of these problems. After Sterling says he hit Vi Manville, Patrick Crough asks Sterling what he hit her with. Sterling says, "My hand." A moment later, Crough says, "Frank, as best as you can remember, and I know this is difficult for you, did something happen with that BB gun?" Only after being prompted that way does Sterling say, "Yeah, I started hitting her with it." Mark Sennett, the polygraph examiner, lied to Sterling about his brother Glen. Crough teased out the motive and alternately pressured and consoled Sterling. Sterling knew about the supposedly telling crime-scene detail of Manville's purple jacket, but Thompson says many people in Hilton would have seen her on her daily walks in that jacket. Finally, there was Sterling’s state of mind. Having been held alone, without counsel, in a small interrogation room and questioned for twelve hours, he became isolated, exhausted, and vulnerable to manipulation. Over the years, Thompson and Crough had crossed paths in Rochester, running into each other around town or at the supermarket. "I'm never really comfortable when I'm talking to him," Thompson says. "He's an accomplished interrogator, which translates to being an accomplished manipulator."

Shortly after Sterling’s release, I had dinner with Crough in Rochester. Calm and self-assured, he did what he could to sound gracious about Sterling's ordeal. But he couldn't help but also be defensive. He insisted he did good work that night in 1991. "His responses kept the interview going," he told me. "As a homicide detective, you don't walk out on an interview when the person's giving you a little something." Crough pointed out that he was the one who visited Christie in prison -- he volunteered to do it and talked him into giving his DNA sample when Christie didn’t have to do that -- and it was his book that helped persuade Christie to confess. After a while, though, some contrition bled through. "Like that hasn't haunted me?" he told me. "I've been doing interrogations in major crimes for 20 years. This is the 1st time I've ever had one go bad on me. That’s not a bad statistic, you know."

The law-enforcement community insists current interrogation techniques are sound. The courts have upheld tactics like deceit and minimization, Reid president Joseph Buckley notes, and without such methods, police would have a far more difficult time eliciting confessions from suspects who are, in fact, guilty. When false confessions do happen, Byington says it's not the Reid technique that's to blame but the misapplication of it. The police's main mistake with Frank Sterling, he says, was starting in on their suspect before they were reasonably sure he was guilty. Then, when Sterling gave Crough and the others questionable information, they blindly barreled ahead. "When they ask Frank what he was wearing, he says he thinks he was wearing a T-shirt and jeans," Byington says. "Well, if Frank was wearing a T-shirt and jeans, he’d have frozen to death." In Byington's opinion, Sterling had essentially been fed information over 12 long hours, then encouraged to spout it back over twenty minutes of video. In a good confession, Byington says, the suspect should do about 80 % of the talking, narrating their experience for the benefit of the police, not saying yes and no to a series of prompts.

To prevent false confessions, interrogation critics say there's a solution so simple that it's remarkable it hasn't happened already: videotaping every minute of every police interrogation. Where the idea was once impractical, they note, the digital era changed that. Some law-enforcement officials fear that if juries see how the sausage is made, they might blanch at convicting even guilty suspects.

In fact, Kassin's recent research indicates that when people see 2 versions of a false confession -- 1 with just the confession and another that includes the entire interrogation -- they become more effective jurors, correctly acquitting the innocent and convicting the guilty. Still, 18 states and more than 800 jurisdictions have already started taping interrogations. New York has moved slowly -- when they videotape at all, police tend to tape only confessions, not whole interrogations -- but the New York State Bar Association has called for taping the full questioning session.

Earlier this year, the NYPD announced with some fanfare that it would test recording interrogations in two precincts. Last week, spokesman Paul Browne told me the bids have been selected, and that the 67th Precinct in Brooklyn and 48th Precinct in the Bronx will soon be outfitted with interrogation rooms ready for digital recording. Tests should start after the 1st of the year. Commissioner Ray Kelly "is open to seeing what we learn," Browne says, though in the spring, Kelly told me deploying such a system throughout the NYPD was a complicated endeavor, and that it wasn't clear to him yet that the effort would be worth the results.

One group solidly against tape-recording in New York is the Detectives' Endowment Association, whose president, Michael Palladino, holds on to the belief that what happens in an interrogation room is too messy for some jurors to tolerate. He also worries that juries won't be the only ones influenced.

"Every taped interrogation can be used as a training film for criminals on what to expect from the police during an interrogation," he says. "Certainly, the element of surprise is gone."

Curiously enough, however, research shows that police and prosecutors forced to tape their interrogations often wind up supporting the practice. One Minnesota prosecutor famously called it "the best thing we've ever had rammed down our throats." A taped record can mean fewer motions to suppress and fewer claims that suspects were unduly deceived or abused. Joseph Buckley says the Reid method and taping can go hand in hand. "When somebody claims there was coercion, the record speaks for itself," he says. Even Patrick Crough says he believes in it, calling it "a tool to let the jury see what we see."

Don Thompson has thought a great deal about what would have happened in 1992 if the jury had been able to see the whole Sterling interrogation and not just the final 20 minutes. "You can't describe to a jury the effects of isolation over a 12-hour period," he says. "I’d make them sit through the whole 12 hours. Because at that point, even for the jurors sitting in the jury box, it begins to feel like a hostage crisis."

Frank Sterling is standing on the railroad tracks in Hilton behind his old house -- a small ranch-style building on a 2-lane road, about a quarter-mile from the high school. "When we first moved here, the trains were still running through, he says, pointing at the tracks. Then they disbanded it."

As we walk down the gravel path, Sterling points in the direction of the Big M supermarket he walked to on the afternoon Vi Manville was killed. To get to the store, he had to cross a train trestle over a creek and then leave the tracks, walking along the opposite creek bed. To get to where Manville was killed, Sterling would have had to continue on the tracks away from the market -- "another mile and a half down the road," he says, laughing.

Sterling is heavier now than he was when he was sent to prison. His teeth were neglected for so long that a week before his release, he had nine of them pulled. At the time, he joked to his lawyers that he put them under his pillow for the Exoneration Fairy. He can’t drive a truck because of medical issues, but he hopes to find computer work. For now, he is living with friends one town over from Hilton. He drives to Rochester when he needs to see his lawyers about finding health benefits, job training, and donated clothes. Sterling says he's angry, but he tries not to dwell on it. "I don't want it to tear me up." He hasn't decided whether to file a civil suit for wrongful conviction. The 1st night he was out, he says, he woke up in the middle of the night to the sound of rain on a windowpane. "It was something I couldn't hear for 18 years," he says. "It's amazing. Something so simple that happens every day. Something everyone complains about."

Is it difficult being back here? "No," Sterling says. "I enjoyed growing up here." The creek is where he liked to fish for salmon. The train trestle is where kids liked to drink and where Frank walked his dogs Outlaw and Shebia. For a time, he says, he considered Vi Manville a friendly presence on the tracks.

"She’d reach into her pocket and give the dogs a cookie."

When Crough and his partner first came to Sterling's house in 1991, he says, "they claimed they were looking at others. But I have a feeling they were focused on, 'Okay, we'll make it look like we're looking into others, but he's the one who probably did it for revenge.'"? He agreed to the polygraph, he says, "because I didn't do it. I thought, Okay, well, I've got nothing to hide, so I should pass with flying colors."

So why did he confess? "They just wore me down," he says, shaking his head. "I was just so tired. Remember, I hadn’t had any sleep since about 2:30 Tuesday night."

He tries to explain what it was like to spar with the police for twelve hours.

"It’s like, 'Come on, guys, I'm tired what do you want me to do, just confess to it?’'

'No, we want the truth.'

'Well you're not fucking listening to the truth, I'm telling you. What more do you want me to say?'

'We want to know what happened.'"

Sterling says the police never asked him to say in his own words what happened. "Yes’ and grunts -- that’s basically what the whole confession is about." Regarding the color of Manville's coat, he says, "I knew in the fall she always wore her purple jacket."

I ask him what he thinks when he watches the twenty-minute confession video now. "When you look, you'll notice I shake a little bit," he says. "But to hold on to the whole cigarette and let the whole cigarette go to ash and never take a drag off of it? I’m a smoker. Normally, I would be sitting there dragging on it, not letting the whole cigarette just sit there burning down. Yeah, I was not in the right mind, looking back at it now."

He knows some people will never understand why he admitted to a crime he didn't commit. "They say, ' Why confess if you didn’t do it?’ But they don't have the whole understanding of what I was going through at the time. It's like, yeah I wanted to get it over with, get home, and get some sleep."

He laughs softly. "18 years and 9 months later, I finally get to go home."

(source: New York Magazine)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

TEXAS: October 13th Hank Sinner case before the Supreme Court & More...

JUST IN from Bill...


Oyez, Oyez! Justice Elena Kagan Joins Court; Cases Scheduled on Death Penalty, First Amendment Cases Scheduled on Death Penalty, First Amendment; Court term begins Monday

Justice Elena Kagan will take the bench of the Supreme Court on Monday, joining her 8 colleagues for the 1st day of arguments of the 2010 term.

Death Penalty:

Henry Skinner was WITHIN A COUPLE OF HOURS of his execution when the Supreme Court intervened. The Court has agreed to hear his case asking whether he could bring his request for DNA evidence as a civil rights claim.

Skinner was convicted in 1995 in Texas of killing his girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her 2 adult sons. Skinner, who said he doesn't remember much from the nights of the murders, says he could never have killed anyone because he was too incapacitated by massive quantities of alcohol and codeine.

Since his conviction, he has sought testing of the remainder of DNA material found at the crime scene. Although the State of Texas agreed to more testing, it did not test Ms. Busby's fingernail clippings, a bloody towel and two knives that were at the crime scene.

In court papers attorneys for the Texas district attorney argue that Skinner was proven guilty of the murders based not only on some DNA but on "extraordinary amounts of other physical evidence, his own statements, and numerous witnesses' testimony." The lawyers argue that states have important interests in "preserving the finality of valid convictions" as well as "avoiding the costs associated with defending successive, meritless challenges to convictions and sentences."

The high court will focus on a narrow procedural issue that has split some of the circuit courts: Can such a claim be brought as a civil rights claim, or is it restricted to the more traditional route of writ of habeas corpus -- the right of a defendant to know all the evidence against him or her?

According to Nina Morrison, a staff attorney at the Innocence Project, "This case is about equal access to justice and whether the civil rights law can be used to keep innocent people from being executed for crimes they didn't commit. Even though the court will consider a narrow procedural issue regarding which legal action is the appropriate one to bring for DNA testing, it raises issues of fairness and accuracy in the administration of the death penalty that have been in the forefront of the justice system over the last decade."

(source: ABC News)

For more on Hank and Sandrine as well as their "fight" CLICK here; here and see The Odyssey of a Condemned Texas Man's French Wife: Le Monde, FranceMar 26, 2010 ... FRANCE 24 VIDEO: Coverage of the case of Hank Skinner, and the battle being fought by his wife, French national Sandrine Ageorges Skinner here for earlier report with video; Also, as always, keep watching Dr. Rick Halperin's Death Penalty News and Updates...