Questions From the Class: Part #5

Management Resources principles Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin were honored to be included in Penn State’s online course, Presumed Innocent? The Social Science of Wrongful Conviction. Interviewed extensively about the wrongful conviction and exoneration of Jonathan Fleming, many questions arose from the class. Kim Anklin has been answering questions from students in the forum, “Ask Kim Anything.” Although the class is complete we are reprinting some of the general entries with the hope that readers will learn more about these types of investigations.

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Were any of the government agents involved in withholding the evidence of Fleming’s alibi (being in Florida) prosecuted? If not, why not?

Lester, this question is not only a great question it is probably one of the most important questions to keep asking if we are to reduce the possibility of being wrongfully convicted in the future.

The answer to your question has anyone has been prosecuted for their part in withholding evidence in the Fleming case is a resounding no. Since Fleming’s case was tried in Brooklyn, NY, I’ll answer based upon the efforts being made here. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, from 1989 – 2012 New York is the fourth in the nation in wrongful convictions. It will be interesting to see where we rank after the close of 2014. However, make no mistake this is not a New York problem, we are experiencing exonerations across the country.

Almost immediately the news of Fleming’s exoneration and the reasons for his conviction went global. If you Google the case, you will see how fast and how wide spread this case took hold. I feel the reasons can be found in the thousands of comments throughout the world that have a common response theme of bewilderment, compassion and then outrage. Your very question has been asked most likely thousands of times throughout the world, and that is just this case.

I will try to be brief; although you can see in prior posts being brief has been a challenge. The recent number of people being exonerated has finally made the issue prosecutorial misconduct a topic being talked about amongst the general public. It has longed been an issue that criminal defense attorneys, and some very out spoken professors, have written about for decades. Now, we are seeing just how damaging it is from cases such as Fleming’s.

One of the issues is that while we respect the hard work and public service of many prosecutors, there are those who continue to violate the ethics rules and laws, such as with disclosing to defense attorneys any information that is favorable or exculpatory to the defense. It is their obligation to disclose this information in order for the accused to receive a fair trial, set appropriate punishment if guilty, or fairly negotiate a plea deal, even if the defense did not ask for it. Also, even if the evidence cannot be directly used at trial, the Supreme Court ruled in 1963 (Brady v. Maryland) that evidence that is favorable to the defendant must be turned over as it may provide investigative leads that may reveal additional favorable evidence.

If you look into this subject closer, you may find there are enforcement mechanisms such as attorney disciplinary committees and judicial sanctions that exist, but are not utilized. In addition, especially here in New York, these violations are rarely even dealt within their own offices. Why? Because for one, a system and the culture that rewards on high conviction rates, coupled with judges that are in fear of being harsh on prosecutors, has undermined any accountability. Two things happen, one the prosecutor is not held responsible, let alone prosecuted, and two it impacts the outcome of the case at hand. Therefore any reform needs to be outside of the court system.

Earlier this year, a first time bi-partisan bill was introduced to establish a state wide commission that would have the power to investigate complaints of prosecutorial misconduct, just as there is a similar commission of judicial conduct, and sanction prosecutors after a hearing. Although it did not make it out of the Rules Committee, hopefully it is presented until it passes. The District Attorneys Association argued that some of the disciplinary actions might conflict with the state’s constitution.

One final thought, any attorney other than a prosecutor can and has faced serious sanctions including disbarment for seemingly minor mistakes. Hiding evidence that is favorable and even exculpatory that destroys entire families is irreparable. Other direct costs include loss of precious resources to convict the right person, loss of public confidence, and failing to protect the public because the actual perpetrator(s) remain free.

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey. .  Management Resources is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.  Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com 

St. Francis College Lecture with Jonathan Fleming

wrongful conviction of Jonathan Fleming, Management Resources investigations
Bob Rahn, Jonathan Fleming, and Kim Anklin

On October 28, 2014 Bob Rahn, Kim Anklin, and Jonathan Fleming were honored to be guest lecturers hosted by Professor Emily Horowitz at St. Francis College in Brooklyn, NY. Their presentation to the class covered wrongful convictions and the high price of innocence, specifically Fleming’s wrongful conviction and subsequent exoneration.

Joining Rahn and Anklin, Jonathan Fleming  was able to speak to students and faculty about his first hand experience of being innocently incarcerated for close to 25 years and what it took to regain his freedom.

DSC_0059Each spoke about their direct participation in re-investigating Fleming’s conviction and uncovering prosecutorial misconduct and overlooked evidence. Fleming was exonerated in April of 2014.

While the case has many compelling aspects, two exceptionally important events effected its outcome. First, Kim and Bob were successful in obtaining a sworn affidavit from a new witness that was the impetus behind the Kings County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit reopening its case and agreeing to work with them. Secondly, they located a witness and obtained a recorded statement and signed affidavit in which he identified the true shooter and confirmed that Mr. Fleming was innocent.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin have received high honors from their peers for their painstaking work on the Fleming case, and have managed to keep the best interest of their client in the forefront since his release

Criminal Justice majors at St. Francis College learn about social issues; the theory, research, policy, and practice of criminal justice; and how to think critically and objectively. Class instruction is often complimented by guest lecturers and adjunct instructors.

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Kim Anklin, Jonathan Fleming, Professor Emily Horowitz, Bob Rahn

St. Francis Professor Emily Horowitz has conducted research on wrongful convictions and false confessions. Her work has appeared in the New York Times (with journalist Debbie Nathan), CounterpunchReproductive Rights Reality Check, the Italian newspaper Il Foglio Quotidiano, and the social science journal The Journal of the Institute of Justice and International Studies.

Horowitz says, “Thank you all so much for coming and speaking to our students yesterday. You were all remarkable and make a great team. Bob did such a good job setting up the story and the case and putting everything in context, and Kim did a great job giving the story a human angle and explaining the “web of impact”…and then Jonathan did such a beautiful job telling the story from his perspective. It was an amazing event.”

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey. .  Management Resources is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.  Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com 

Investigating Family Violence

 

October is traditionally National Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), however, family violence occurs every day of every month, all year. While we recognize the emphasis on more awareness to the issue during October, we also recognize the need for available tools all year-long.

Management Resources is often contracted to work with clients who are ending relationships. We strive to objectively gather the facts, without emotion, and without bias,  then compile and analyze the information for our clients to prepare for court, if necessary .

Relationships end for a variety of reasons, and each party must have the ability to safeguard not only their assets, but their personal reputation and safety.  Many times relationships end because of an abusive partner, and the victim of the violence must be represented fairly, as well as any children.Document the Abuse, Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit, Management Resources

We are able to assist putting into place an exit plan including legal support recommendation, child custody, and other personal issues.

Safety Planning: Document The Abuse

We find that often victims aren’t well versed in what to do to best keep themselves and children safe. As we investigate the facts in the case we also advise victims to create a safety plan, including an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit (EAA). This is similar to a living will which legally documents and video tapes your testimony about the abuse in case it should be needed in a court of law. Details can be found at DocumentTheAbuse.Com

Our partnership with Intimate Partner Violence Strategy Specialist, the late Susan Murphy Milano, brought this essential safety planning tool to our agency. We continue to assist victims to generate their personal EAA containing any and all information or evidence we may uncover to improve the risks associated with safety.

If you find yourself in a violent relationship and don’t know what to do, remember never “hint” at leaving, keep it to yourself until a safety plan is in place. Before you announce you are ending the relationship, call Management Resources or a domestic violence resource for sound advice. Don’t assume that you can handle the situation without an expert.

If you need immediate assistance, call 9-1-1, or the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey. .  Management Resources is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.  Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com 

 

Questions From the Class: Part 4

Management Resources principles Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin were honored to be included in Penn State’s online course, Presumed Innocent? The Social Science of Wrongful Conviction. Interviewed extensively about the wrongful conviction and exoneration of Jonathan Fleming, many questions arose from the class. Kim Anklin has been answering questions from students in the forum, “Ask Kim Anything.” Although the class is complete we are reprinting some of the general entries with the hope that readers will learn more about these types of investigations.

Bob Rahn, Marvin Schecter, Kim Anklin
Bob Rahn, Marvin Schecter, Kim Anklin

Obviously the main idea is to ensure that people are not wrongly convicted to begin with rather than to deal with appeals and so on after the fact. What advice would you have for young defense counsel and young prosecutors?

To better answer this question, I reached out to Attorney Marvin E. Schecter. Marvin is a very well-known criminal defense attorney here in New York who has served as the Section Chair of the NYSBA (New York State Bar Association) Criminal Justice Committee. For many years, Marvin has worked tirelessly to bring reform for prosecutorial misconduct. Recently he and the NYSACDL (New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers) proposed a bill calling for the establishment of a new state commission that would bring public accountability to violators of ethics rules and criminal procedure laws.

A few words of advice for new defense and prosecution attorneys – Marvin E. Schecter:

For young defense attorneys, they must prepare their cases completely if wrongful convictions are to be prevented.  Part of that preparation involves the aggressive litigation pre-trial of Brady issues.  Only when prosecutors are pushed, and pushed hard, do we get a more searching inquiry on the prosecution side of potential Brady material in their possession.

Defense attorneys should be asking the courts pre-trial sign orders requiring the release of Brady material even if statutes already require such turn over.  The advantage of an order is that if it is violated then the court can use its contempt powers to punish – yes punish – the prosecutor for failing to insure that the defendant received a fair trial or is getting due process as required by the Constitution.  When a court signs an order it has the effect sometimes of causing the prosecutor to focus with greater intensity on searching for, or re-evaluating, evidence which can properly be classified as Brady material.

For prosecutors the task at hand is simple: if in doubt turn over the material. Prosecutors need to understand that they must view a piece of evidence which is favorable to the defendant, or for that matter can be utilized by the defense as a lead for further investigation which may reveal further evidence exonerating the defendant in a way which comports with the law instead of the current nationwide system in which many prosecutors seek a variety of ways to MINIMIZE the evidence as not being favorable and therefore not within the Brady compulsion.

First, the law is clear that it is not up to the prosecutor to determine if evidence is admissible or if the evidence is not really a prior inconsistent statement of a prosecution witness.  Repeatedly thousands of cases have been decided in the federal and state courts that REQUIRE the prosecutor to turn over such evidence REGARDLESS OF WHETHER IT IS ADMISSIBLE in evidence because the simple standard is the sought after Brady evidence need only be favorable  to require it being turned over. For example, a prior inconsistent statement – whether there strong or even weak inconsistencies – is in fact Brady material.

Furthermore, it is not for a prosecutor to determine the strength or elasticity of a statement that the defense can utilize to impeach the credibility of a prosecution witness whose testimony is being utilized by the prosecution to prove the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.  It is for the jury to determine credibility and whether the burden of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt has been met and a jury cannot do that if the prosecutor is hiding Brady material.  What young prosecutors need to do is confront a cognitive bias that impels them to discount favorable evidence, and instead wrap their cognitive brain power around the concept that justice must be done first.

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey. .  Management Resources is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.  Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com 

Vernon Kent Jones: Missing Without a Trace

 

Vernon Jones, missing person
Vernon Jones

Vernon Kent Jones was 24 years old when he went missing without a trace on January 2, 1993 from a NYC apartment. Born and raised in North Carolina and a graduate of UNC, Vernon came to New York with the hopes of becoming an actor. He lived on the Upper West Side and on the night he went missing was at a party in an apartment building on East 7th St and Ave D in what is known as Alphabet City. Vernon was partying there with three friends, two of whom he had just met.  According to their statements Vernon became ill in the apartment. Two of the individuals left and went across the street to an all night store to purchase “cleaning products. When they returned to the apartment Vernon was gone. The third individual stated he was in the bedroom, heard the door slam an assumed Vernon went outside to get some air. None of the three attempted to look for Vernon and simply continued to party. Vernon did not have his wallet or any identification in his possession at the time he disappeared. His wallet and ID were found in his apartment by his family.

Vernon’s younger brother Michael was 14 went Vernon went missing. Now 31 years old Michael contacted us and asked if we could help him find out what happened to his brother. We spoke to Michael and his mother and decided we would look into the case. After reviewing the facts, we felt compelled to take the case and told the family we would be willing to accept the case pro-bono and attempt to help them.

We have worked on this case for about a year and half. During that time we have tracked3768786245_f6e6124781_m down, located and re-interviewed the three people who were with Vernon that night. They continue to maintain they have no idea what happened to him. We were successful in creating a DNA profile of Vernon from a baby tooth that his mother had. That profile is now in the national DNA database known as CODIS. Click on this link to see a CBS News Exclusive report. http://bit.ly/cU2k0U

We have also utilized the services of a Forensic Artist to draw an age progression sketch of what Vernon would look like today. We have spoken to Psychics to see if they could assist us in any way. To date we have not been successful in locating Vernon.

We are currently researching the records at New York City’s Hart Island, (Potters Field) of all unidentified males fitting Vernon’s description buried there.

It is our hope that one day we will find out what happened to Vernon so that we may be able to bring some closure to the family.

If you or someone you know has any information regarding the whereabouts of Vernon please call us at: 800-490-2267. All information will be kept confidential.

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey. .  Management Resources is a member of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, Associated Licensed Detectives of New York, and Founding Members and Regional Directors of Investigating Innocence.

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin are available for interviews or speaking engagements.  Contact ImaginePublicity at 843-808-08509 or email contact@imaginepublicity.com