(801) 355-1888
contact@rminnocence.org

News & Innocence Issues

Evidence Preservation

Problems Affecting Evidence Preservation

Many individuals are convicted for crimes they did not commit due to the spoliation of evidence; the alteration of evidence to damage it, suppress it (Brady Material), and contaminate it. Such evidence may be critical for an individual’s potential civil action. However, it can be very difficult to pursue cases of evidence spoliation because whether intentional or negligent, states do not have enough statutes to protect evidence from being destroyed while the individual is incarcerated. In addition, punishing the destruction of evidence associated with prosecutorial misconduct is exceedingly difficult. Utah still is in need of sanctions to prevent and demand compensation for spoliation of evidence.

 

Evidence Re-examination

 With the improving technology available for examining the evidence, it is important to have the resources to re-examine old evidence. Old methods of biological evidence testing had a high rate of error, and are therefore obsolete. ABO blood testing compares the blood types of suspects with that found on biological evidence at the crime scene. Bruce Dallas Goodman had been convicted for a crime he did not commit based on his blood type matching that on the victim. Since the biological evidence was preserved, DNA testing proved Bruce’s innocence and revealed the DNA profiles of 2 other perpetrators. The results of biological testing such as the latter can be combined with other non-biological evidence to appeal an individual’s sentence – but only if the evidence is preserved.

Read more

Parole

What is parole?

Parole is the temporary or permanent release of a prisoner before the completion of their full sentence. Parole is determined by the parole board based on the behavior of the individual seeking parole. It is to be enforced by a parole officer. 

Innocent Individuals on Parole

An important determinant of parole is the convict’s remorse and taking responsibility for the crime. For people who are innocent, and seeking a declaration of factual innocence, this can be a grave dilemma. Individuals such as Bruce Dallas Goodman have declared their culpability in order to leave prison on parole. However, for individuals like Bruce, the statement of culpability can be used against their case for factual innocence in the future. Though innocent convicts are able to leave prison, work and pay their social security while on parole, it still presents many challenges. The kind of parole determined by the parole board can place innocent individuals in half-way houses; an accommodation that aims to help people with mental, physical, emotional disabilities, and criminal backgrounds to be rehabilitated so they can renter society. If the individual on parol is innocent, half-way houses may be a traumatic and dangerous accommodation.

 

Read more

Brady Material Law

What is Brady Material Law?

Brady Material Law is the requirement for the prosecution to disclose any information that could be helpful for the case of the defense and that could help reduce the sentence of the defendant. In many cases, prosecutors will discover Brady Material, evidence that could help the defense to prove the innocence of an individual, but suppress it to increase their chances of winning a trial. This doctrine arose from the Supreme Court case Brady vs. Maryland in 1963. Infringements of this requirement include not disclosing:

 

  1. Evidence implicating someone else as the perpetrator of a crime
  2. Inconsistencies in a witness’s previous statements (Giglio Material)
  3. Evidence that would suggest police or forensic technician misconduct
  4. Motive(s) for a witness to lie

 

Despite the Supreme Court ruling, Brady violations still occur. To correct these violations, an extensive post-conviction investigation is needed. The evidence may be so well suppressed that luck is involved in discovering it. In addition, it is extremely difficult to discipline prosecutors that violate the Brady Material Law through the State Bar Association or civil courts.



Read more

RMIC Attends Criminal Justice Reform Panel Presentation Featuring Van Jones, Mike Farrell, and Kirk Bloodsworth

It is a priority for the Rocky Mountain Innocence Center’s staff and volunteers to engage in community events. On January 7, 2017 we attended a panel presentation titled “Van Jones Talks Criminal Justice Reform: with Mike Farrell and Kirk Bloodsworth.” We were pleasantly surprised when Van Jones asked the audience if they knew who was doing Innocence/Criminal Justice Reform work in Utah. This allowed our staff a perfect opportunity to share our contact information and to talk a bit about our work. Remember, we are the ONLY organization in the region providing innocence investigation and litigation services- and we provide these legal services at no cost to our clients!

Our managing attorney, Jennifer Springer, was recognized by Mr. Jones and received a well-deserved rousing round of applause from the entire audience for her relentless work on innocence projects. Congratulations, Jennifer!

Jennifer and Jensie Anderson (our Legal Director) met with Mr. Jones after the event and we were lucky to snap this picture of the three of them.

Read more