Thursday, December 10, 2009
"In a recent 79-page decision, a Manhattan judge could well have stopped after the first four sentences of his concluding paragraph and still conveyed his main point: that Fernando Bermudez was no longer guilty of murder. Instead, the judge, Justice John Cataldo of State Supreme Court in Manhattan, tacked on a fifth sentence that ended with two powerful words: 'actual innocence.' .. To the layperson, the distinction might seem nuanced, if not trivial. But to advocates for the wrongfully convicted, Justice Cataldo's decision, which was released Nov. 12, clawed toward what they view as a groundbreaking push to get New York State courts to focus more on the content of evidence, rather than procedural roadblocks. ... [Eric] Schneiderman is one of the sponsors of a bill introduced in the Senate last month that would add a provision to state law allowing judges to overlook procedural errors in a defendant's case and overturn a conviction when the evidence before them 'conclusively establishes" innocence. ... 'It elevates substance over form,' said Glenn A, Garber, a Manhattan defense lawyer and founder of the Exoneration Initiative, an organization that focuses on innocence claims that lack DNA evidence. 'If they know they're required to engage in actual innocence analysis, it sends a message to courts that they have to do more when they're confronted with compelling evidence of innocence.' ... Federal courts have been especially skeptical of actual innocence claims and do not recognize them as a ground for overturning a conviction", my emphasis, John Eligon at the NYT, 23 November 2009, link: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/23/nyregion/23innocence.html.
Much of what goes on in our courts is just word play. I find lawyers poor at evaluating evidence, preferring to make procedural rulings. Out Texas Court of Criminal Appeals is terrible at reviewing criminal appeals, sustaining 98% of them with little if any consideration. Our Fifth Circut is no better. Our courts stink. Exxon could appeal the Valdez judgment to the Supremes. Good luck to a death row inmate trying that.