Justice System Misconduct and Wrongful Convictions

interrogation room

A recent article in the NY Post describing an investigation into corruption within the New York Police Department (NYPD) has the possibility of a history making scandal. It’s alleged that several high-ranking officers are under suspicion of taking bribes harkening back to police scandals of the 70’s.

The consequences of police misconduct is disheartening on every level from officer morale to public distrust.

As investigators we’ve uncovered evidence of police and prosecutorial misconduct in several cases, one which led to exoneration (Jonathan Fleming) and the other (Randy Williams) to dismissal of all charges.

Evidence based in fact doesn’t bend and is where truth lies. When evidence is suppressed or hidden the truth is also obscured. Any action along this course is considered professional misconduct.

Examples of misconduct found in wrongful convictions:

Flawed police work:

Police officers, detectives and prosecutors who rush to win a case at all costs instead of seeking truth, contribute to a system of flawed justice.

Witness intimidation:

By definition, witness intimidation…”involves trying to get a witness to lie, say certain things under oath, alter or destroy evidence, or not testify or cooperate with authorities at all.” Intimidating a witness is a criminal act and is a fundamental risk to justice.

Eyewitness testimony:

Eyewitness testimony “is the account a bystander gives to the police and in the courtroom, describing what that person observed that occurred during the specific incident under investigation.  Memory recall has been considered a credible source in the past, but has recently come under attack as forensics can now support psychologists in their claim that memories and individual perceptions are unreliable; being easily manipulated, altered, and biased.”

Withholding information/Brady Rule violations:

All evidence must be disclosed by prosecutors to the defendant and their attorney whether or not they think it’s relevant to the case or not. Failure to do so results in a Brady Rule violation. (Brady vs Maryland)  However, there is little in the way of accountability and consequences to prosecutors who commit violations.

Misconduct in the justice system has no boundaries. It can be found at all levels of an investigation, from the first officer on the scene, all the way up to the prosecuting attorney.

Compounded by other unethical acts as described in the investigation of the NYPD, such as bribery and witness intimidation, it creates the perfect storm for a wrongful conviction.

It’s important for everyone involved in an investigation to uphold the ethics to which they are sworn, look at the case objectively, seek the truth instead of the win and don’t cut corners.

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey, members 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

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Posted in Wrongful Convictions

Randy Williams Finds Freedom

Randy Williams charges dismissed

Management Resources, Ltd. of NY principals, Kim Anklin and Bob Rahn once again worked alongside defense attorneys to secure another man’s freedom.

In early 2008, Randy Williams was wrongfully convicted for the 2007 murder of 36-year-old Vincent Hill. Hill, a known violent felon, was killed during a multiple person shoot out. The incident occurred in a courtyard within the Williamsburg Houses located in Brooklyn, NY.

During the 2008 trial, the prosecutor told the jury Williams had been identified by three eyewitnesses. However, when it was their turn to testify, two of the prosecutor’s witnesses recanted their stories and the third refused to come to court. The judge permitted the taped  grand jury testimony of the  final witness, a woman with a history of mental illness, to be played to the jury. Cross examination by the defense was not permitted based on a vague claim that someone in the neighborhood had called her a “snitch” causing her fear of live testimony.

He was sentenced to 25 to life sentence in prison.

Over the next 9 years, Randy Williams maintained his innocence. He had three alibi defense witnesses that testified Williams was with them in Coney Island during time of the murder in Williamsburg located 15 miles away.

Subsequent to the conviction, his mother Rosie Benjamin, hired Richard Mischel, a highly regarded appellate attorney. In February 2015, and Williams’ 8th year in prison, the Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, Second Department, vacated Williams’ conviction and ordered a new trial. The court held that barring Williams from the courtroom without setting up video or audio link so that he could communicate with his lawyer during the witness threat hearing deprived him of the opportunity to confer with his attorney and to engage in the “meaningful participation to which he was entitled.” The Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office decided to retry Williams for the murder of Hill. Williams would lose another year of his life waiting.

Randy Williams charges dismissedWilliams’ new defense attorney, Michael Farkas, working with civil rights and wrongful conviction attorneys Paul Callan and Martin Edelman retained the investigative services of Management Resources Ltd. of NY to uncover any further information that would lead to the truth, and justice for Randy Williams.

During their 10 month investigation, Kim Anklin and Bob Rahn located and interviewed all three original prosecutor witnesses, the majority of 911 callers, and like other similar cases, uncovered instances of police misconduct and eyewitness recantations.

The only eyewitness, who refused to appear for both trials, told defense investigators she was under constant threat of arrest for perjury and drug charges, and threats of eviction for her and her family’s apartment.

The defense team also hired a photo specialist to determine whether what the witness claimed to have seen was even possible. It was established that she could not see any individual’s face and definitely not a face to identify Williams as the shooter.Wrongfully convicted Randy Williams, investigators and attorneys after charges dismissed.

Randy Williams’ retrial began on March 7, 2016.  Once again, the eyewitnesses refused to testify by evading the prosecutor’s investigators and NYPD Detective’s resulting in the judge dismissing the charges against him. Randolph Williams Jr. was immediately released and walked out of Brooklyn Supreme Court with his family a free man.

The ripple effect of wrongful convictions resonates throughout families and communities. Randy Williams’ time behind bars can never be returned, nor his time away from his family and the promise of his future.

The person who shot and killed Vincent Hill in 2007 is still at large. As with virtually all wrongful convictions, justice for his family has not been served.

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Posted in Wrongful Convictions

Being an Investigator: A Personal Look at the Profession

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin review requests from possible wrongful convictions

Bob Rahn and Kim Anklin review requests from possible wrongful convictions

Being an investigator is a unique and intriguing profession. A vocation that requires us to stay in the background of a case, working in the shadows of others.

Given this fact, Bob and I never imagined we would one day come from behind the scenes in such a big way and talk publicly about ANY case, let alone the exoneration that was heard around the world. Receiving the Investigator of the Year Award was such an amazing honor.

Receiving awards represent the work that investigators do every day. But more importantly, awards represent all the work we have yet to do because exonerations are rapidly increasing in frequency. To quote Marty Edelman, “….we are in a growth industry.

Yes, exonerations are rapidly increasing, but let me put that into context.

In 2012, when we began to consider post conviction cases, there were more than 2.2 million people incarcerated in the US. That same year the National Registry of Exonerations listed only 79 exonerations across the country.

We knew the odds of prevailing in proving a wrongful conviction were small. However, after working only a couple of months on Jonathan Fleming’s case, we told ourselves, this case was going to be one of them.

Why? Because IT HAD TO BE -what we found could not be ignored. We had an innocent man who had already spent half of his life locked up. He and his family were depending on us.

We are proud to state that our case is one of the only 125 exonerations for 2014.

When we took Jonathan’s case, we were on our own. We were handed his box of transcripts and a wish of good luck. After some pretty big breaks there came a time when we we needed some strategic advice. Everyone told us “Eh, you’re wasting your time, you’ll never get him out, these cases are impossible

Even members of the media shrugged us off, and doubted the viability of the case. Bob and I like to think all the doubters ended up sitting together at the same bar watching the story on every news outlet knowing they could have been in on it.

After the exoneration I met Marvin Schecter who said to me, “Kim, for years defense attorneys have fought hard to level the playing field. We knew some weren’t playing by the rules. We knew amongst other things they were hiding exculpatory evidence. Kim, exonerations are the gifts that keep on giving because each time an exoneration occurs, we get to find out why and how it happened in the first place.”

One of these gifts came when Brooklyn District Attorney, Ken Thompson, publicly acknowledged that his predecessors got it wrong, and that Jonathan was indeed an innocent man. Thompson took it further by saying the DA’s office withheld the evidence that HE believes would have acquitted Mr. Fleming.

It’s our job, it’s what we do

As investigators we bring the evidence the attorneys need in order to win. I ask that each investigator take on a post conviction case.

We can no longer ignore the fact that innocent people are incarcerated, losing years of their lives. If you do take a case, get ready to have your patience tested with our criminal justice system, but your efforts WILL matter to the incarcerated and his or her family.

To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson:

“To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived – that is to have succeeded.”

You never know, as an investigator, your efforts may one day bring home a son or daughter home to their mother.

 

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey, members 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

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Posted in Criminal Defense Investigations, Wrongful Convictions

Brendan Dassey: The Power of Confession in Making a Murderer

Brendan Dassey interview

Brendan Dassey interview

Both mainstream media and social media are in the grips of the Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer. Everyone has an opinion on the guilt or innocence of Steven Avery with some calling loudly for his release.

The film has opened needed dialogue on the issue of wrongful convictions, as well as police corruption, prosecutorial misconduct, and the dynamics of a flawed justice system.

One of the key players in the documentary is Avery’s 16 year old nephew, Brendon Dassey,  described as having an IQ in the range of 70, borderline for being classified as intellectually disabled. Dassey was tried separately and also convicted in the murder of Teresa Halback.

Several scenes in Making a Murderer surround the video taped confessions of Brendon Dassey describing the horrific torture, rape and murder of Halback, his alleged participation at the instruction of his uncle, Steven Avery.

In one video we see the defense investigator who seemingly coached Dassey to admit his involvement and sign a document of his confession which he handed over to the police. Ordinarily, this is never done unless forced by the court.

Listening to phone conversations with his mother, it’s quite possible that Dassey’s confession was elicited by investigators and that he had little understanding of the consequences. Does the story he tells contain some thread of truth? Possibly so.  Transcript of Brendan Dassey interview

Is Brendan Dassey Telling the Truth?

Brendan Dassey in court

Brendan Dassey in court

Dassey’s narrative is, for the most part, one word answers to questions posed by investigators who threaten to walk out if he doesn’t tell the truth on more than one occasion.

For someone with cognitive difficulties the truth may not be so simple, and when accused of lying, or under pressure, truth gets mixed up with the intent to please. Dassey admits to being nervous, he admits that he lied and changed his story, and he admits to taking part in the crime.

However, it’s apparent that Dassey should have been accompanied by someone who understands those with intellectual difficulties, someone who could speak objectively to the questions and answers and offer an opinion to investigators as to what is, or is not truth, before considering his testimony as evidence. He was questioned without his attorney or parent present.

In a recent article by Attorney Dan Abrams at Law Newz he states, “The notion that an attorney sent a defense investigator to a jail to convince a 16-year-old client with a well below average IQ to confess without his mother present is beyond inexplicable.”

It’s shameful to think someone who is intellectually challenged would find compounded challenges in the justice system that would change everything in his future.

Making of a Murderer’s best attribute is revealing to the general public the many flaws within the current judicial system and creating a platform for discussing change.

Whether Avery and Dassey are guilty or innocent, there’s an abundance of shortcomings in the case.

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey, members 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

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Posted in Criminal Cases

Reflecting on Wrongful Conviction and “Making a Murderer”

The nation is gripped with the Netflix documentary, Making a Murderer, featuring the case of Steven Avery’s wrongful conviction in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.

Avery was imprisoned for 18 years, and subsequently exonerated with DNA evidence, for a rape that he did not commit. Tasting freedom for 2 years and awaiting the start of a $36 million settlement lawsuit, he was accused and convicted for the gruesome murder of Teresa Halback along with his nephew, Brendon Dassey, a teenager with a very low IQ.

The discussions in America’s living rooms range from Avery’s part in the murder, whether he did or didn’t do it, and the misconduct of the prosecutors and police.

Because Management Resources works with the wrongfully convicted we’ve seen these issues arise first hand. Avery’s murder conviction could be the culmination of each piece of the puzzle, or, he could be guilty as he was found by the jury. Like many who come into the justice system, Avery was from the “wrong side of the tracks,” and with limited resources.

But, all that said, there are many unanswered questions about evidence which was not presented at trial, and which the jury never heard before making their decision to convict Avery of murder. For a good wrap up of that evidence we point you to a recent article by J.J. Slate, What did Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” leave out?

In her post Slate writes about missing evidence she was able to compile from searches and offers her opinion on each point, but leaving it up to readers to form their own opinion on Avery’s guilt or innocence.

 I don’t think it’s enough to convince me of Steven’s guilt–but I don’t necessarily believe he is 100% innocent either. All I’m saying is we still don’t know what happened there that day and, to be honest, I’m not sure any of us will ever know.

It’s good to see a case of wrongful conviction stir the emotions and raise the pulse of average Americans who may not have any idea how prevalent these cases are. We are finally seeing the public’s rage after viewing and our hope is it won’t stop with the Avery case, but that people will take a closer look into the thousands of cases of the wrongfully incarcerated and collectively do something about it.

Making a MurdererThe documentary shows viewers the coercion of witnesses, the reliability of eyewitness testimony, and the possibility of prosecutorial misconduct with no accountability. All the ingredients of wrongful conviction which we have written about extensively on this site.

The fact is, Making a Murderer relates a prime case of flawed justice. Avery and Dassey are still imprisoned and likely will stay there unless the wheels of justice take a turn. And then what? Will Steven Avery and Brendon Dassey ever be able to return to society and live normal lives?

Forbes writer Paul Tassi says,

In a way, Making a Murderer is justice for Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. Obviously, they’re still in prison, a situation which needs to be rectified, but a problem always was that even if they were found not guilty, at least in Wisconsin with the facts the police and media presented, everyone still would have believed they did it. What Making a Murderer does is restore their reputations, and tell their horrible story to those who have never heard it. The show itself is its own form of justice, showing the real heroes and villains of the case for the world to see.

When our justice system returns to the search for truth, instead of quickly solving crimes and rushing to judgement, we may see less innocent people in prison.

celebratingManagement Resources Ltd of New York is a professional investigative firm licensed in New York and New Jersey, members 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

 

 

 

 

 

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Members of the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers
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investigating innocence, management resources, bill clutter, bob rahn, kim anklin
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