Fundraiser for Ed Chapman

February 18, 2011

In 2008, Glen Edward Chapman was exonerated and released from death row after spending 15 years behind bars for two murders he did not commit.  He has yet to be compensated by the State of North Carolina.

On March 31st, the Grey Eagle in Asheville is hosting the third annual Freedom Ball in Mr. Chapman’s honor.  Performers will include singer-songwriter David LaMotte, the surf/psychobilly band The Krektones, and reggae/dub act Kinjah.

You can buy tickets online here.  Even if you can’t attend, please consider purchasing a few tickets as a donation.


Faulty Forensic Evidence in Cases of Three NC Executed

August 18, 2010

A report released today by two former FBI agents, commissioned to review North Carolina’s State Bureau of Investigation laboratory in the wake of the Greg Taylor exoneration, finds that the convictions of three people executed in North Carolina were based in part on forensic reports and testimony that were, to be kind, misleading.  The report is available online here.

The executed persons identified in the report are Desmond Carter (report confirmed the presence of blood on an item when the test was in fact negative), John Rose (report stated that there were chemical indications for the presence of blood and no further tests were done when in fact further tests were done and were negative), and Timothy Keel (report stated that blood test was inconclusive when in fact subsequent tests were negative).

The report also identified four current death row inmates whose cases involved similar errors by the SBI, as well as five potentially innocent people who died in prison before this information came to light.

The report is focused on one test performed by one division of the lab between 1987 and 2003, and only looked into cases in which certain language, identified as misleading in the Taylor case, was repeated in the lab’s report.  Still, the survey identified 269 defendants who were charged based on faulty evidence.

Imagine how many more potentially innocent persons could be identified through a more comprehensive review.


Freedom, Year One

April 2, 2009

One year ago today, Glen Edward Chapman walked off of North Carolina’s death row.  Chapman had spent the last fifteen years behind bars for two murders he did not commit.

Chapman had last been a free man in 1992.  The first George Bush was president.  Cell phones and the internet were not in common use.  Edward Chapman was entering a world he could hardly recognize, with nothing to show for the last 15 years and few possessions besides the clothes on his back.  It seemed like a recipe for failure.

Today, Edward Chapman lives and works in Asheville, North Carolina.  He has a full-time job at a prestigious local hotel, and rents a home where he lives alone.  Chapman no longer struggles with the addictions that plagued him before his incarceration, and he is not bitter about the years he has lost.  “I can forgive.  Does it mean I have to forget?  No, but I can use that as a lesson to teach someone else,” he said.

You can read past articles about Chapman here, here, and here.


Edward Chapman – Life After Death Row

August 14, 2008

News Update 08.14.08

North Carolina

A truly stunning profile of North Carolina death row exoneree Glen Edward Chapman appears in this month’s Details magazine. Chapman spent nearly 14 years on death row for two murders he did not commit (one of which was not even a murder). He was released with less than $200 to his name, no apology, and nowhere to go. Four months later, Chapman has a job, a house, and an inspiring perspective on the time he served and the road ahead.

The article begins:

The sergeant says, “Pack up.”

Glen Edward Chapman has no idea what’s going on. It’s a sunny afternoon in April, and he has just come in from playing basketball with some of the other inmates at the maximum-security state penitentiary in Raleigh, North Carolina. He’s still drying off from his five-minute shower—if you let the water run too long, they extract 10 bucks from your prison account—and he’s confused. He knows that a judge has ordered a new trial, but nobody’s said anything about when it will be.

Pack up?

“I’ve been packed up for a long time,” Chapman says to the sergeant. As one of his small gestures of mental independence, he’s never gotten around to arranging his personal items in a neat space under the bed—that would suggest he plans on sticking around. Instead, he’s kept everything in a bag for close to 14 years while he’s gradually morphed from a wiry and wide-eyed 26-year-old into a stocky, bespectacled 40-year-old. A guard leads him out of Unit III. Chapman expects the two of them to turn right, toward Safekeeping, where prisoners are housed when they’re awaiting trial, but they turn left, toward Shipping. The guard is as nonchalant as a shopkeeper telling a late-night customer that it’s closing time. “See you later,” he says. “You’re going home.”

(As a side note, DW encourages folks to pick up a paper copy of the mag; there are incredible photographs of Mr. Chapman which do not appear in the online version.)

Reactions to the State’s decision to seek death for Demario Atwater are here and here. From the Charlotte Observer article: “If my loved one were murdered, my gut would tell me to find the person responsible and exact some old-fashioned, Biblical vengeance, “an eye for an eye.” Then, I would hope and pray that some other emotion took over, one that rejects legal as well as illegal violence in a world that has always had more than its share of both.”

Elsewhere

Amnesty International and StandDown reflect on the predicament of Raymond Riles, a Texas inmate who has languished on death row for 33 years because even Texas agrees he’s too mentally ill to execute. Still, Texas will not allow Mr. Riles to be moved from death row, the restrictive conditions of which only exacerbate his paranoia and delusions, to a psychiatric prison facility.

From the company we keep department, Iran is taking steps towards ending the practice of stoning condemned prisoners. Relatedly, SLAP links to this article, which notes the decline of the death penalty in Asia, even in China, which executes more people than any nation on Earth.


Death Row Exoneree Bo Jones Speaks

May 6, 2008

News Update 05.06.08

North Carolina

Levon JonesLevon “Bo” Jones, recently released after serving over a decade for a murder he did not commit, held a press conference yesterday in Raleigh. Jones’ attorneys spoke first. Ernest “Buddy” Conner told those gathered how the police failed to dust for fingerprints at the scene and eventually lost what little physical evidence they gathered. He also spoke of the State’s star witness, Lovely Lorden, who unbeknownst to Jones’ trial attorneys was a paid, professional snitch who changed her story several times before trial. Conner noted that this injustice could have been corrected years earlier had North Carolina state courts bothered to consider Jones’ appeals.

Cassy Stubbs noted that Mr. Jones came within weeks of execution in 1997, his life saved only after attorneys Ken Rose and Mark Kleinschmidt intervened and rescued the case from counsel who missed a critical filing deadline. Jones is the third person exonerated in North Carolina in six months, Stubbs said, and in every case proof of innocence was withheld from the defense. Paid informants like Lovely Lorden are the leading cause of wrongful convictions.

Attorney Brian Stull added that Jones’ life was nearly ended because he lost the lottery of assigned counsel that often puts overworked, underfunded, and unprepared lawyers in charge of capital cases. Stull recognized that North Carolina has made great improvements in the last decade, but noted that many on death row – like Jones – were put there before the reforms were implemented. Studies show that a defendant is three times more likely to be sentenced to death if his victim was white. Where the defendant is black and the victim is white, as in Jones’ case, death is even more likely. The police could have investigated another suspect, George Overton, who owed the victim money, went to the victim’s house at least twice that night, lied to police about his activities, and fled the county the next day. But Overton was white. Stull suggested that cases like Jones’ illustrate the importance of passing the Racial Justice Act, which is before the state legislature this session.

Jones spoke only briefly, saying, “”From the day I was locked up, August 14, 1992, I said I was innocent, until this day…I’ve always been innocent. I hope you all believe the same.” In response to questions from the audience, Jones and his attorneys said that they hope there will be consequences for those responsible for putting him on death row, including the DA who prosecuted him despite evidence of his innocence, the attorneys who failed to seek out that evidence, and the lying witness on whose testimony his conviction was based. This befuddled District Attorney Dewey Hudson, who seeing nothing wrong with robbing a man of over a decade of his life responded, “I did my job…The guy’s won. What’s all this bashing Dewey Hudson about? I’ve done nothing wrong.”

(Photo source. See also reporting from The Progressive Pulse.)

Elsewhere

Cuban President Raul Castro commuted nearly all of that nation’s death sentences to terms of 30 years to life. He declared, “This decision was not undertaken because of pressure, but as a sovereign act in line with the humanitarian and ethical conduct that has characterized the Cuban revolution from the start.”

In Virginia, lawyers for Christopher Scott Emmett have appealed to the US Supreme Court, arguing that the Virginia lethal injection protocol is “unique and uniquely dangerous…far more dangerous” than the protocol approved in Baze. The State’s response is here.

Meanwhile in Georgia, a federal judge has found that state’s lethal injection protocol to be constitutional. After being denied clemency by the governor and the Board of Pardons and Paroles, William Earl Lynd is scheduled to be executed at 7 PM tonight.

Execution dates have also been set for Mississippi’s Earl Wesley Berry, Texas’ Jose Medellin, and a number of other inmates.

In Missouri, a new study reveals that race and geography play a significant role in capital sentencing.

After a vicious hacking, DPIC (a wee little non-profit organization) is having to shell out big bucks to beef up security for their site. Pitch in a few duckets to help here.


Fund for Glen Edward Chapman

April 23, 2008

As regular readers will know, Glen Edward Chapman was released from North Carolina’s death row recently after having served over a decade in prison for two murders he did not commit. People of Faith Against the Death Penalty have set up a fund to help Edward adjust to life in the free world. He was released from prison with little more than the clothes on his back and some pocket change, and needs help with basic things like renting an apartment. 100% of donations will go to help Mr. Chapman, and they are tax-deductible.

Send a check or money order to:

People of Faith Against the Death Penalty
110 W. Main St., Ste. 2G
Carrboro, NC 27510

Be sure to note “For Edward Chapman” on your donation.

(While it is possible that Mr. Chapman might receive compensation from the State for his wrongful conviction, he would first have to receive a full pardon from the Governor. Such pardons are extremely rare, particularly in cases like Mr. Chapman’s that do not involve DNA.)


Glen Chapman Freed From Death Row

April 4, 2008

News Update 04.04.08

North Carolina

Chapman - Free ManMedia coverage of Glen Chapman’s release from death row via the News & Observer, the New York Times, the Charlotte Observer, WRAL, the Hickory Daily Record, NBC-17, and WSOC-TV. Chapman was released two days ago after serving nearly 14 years for two murders he did not commit – one of which may not have been a murder at all.

In the picture above, (source) Chapman savors his first meal as a free man. He requested a bologna and cheese sandwich, like his mother used to make. You can hear Chapman speak at the press conference that followed his release by clicking on the Video tab here.  I highly recommend it.

Dennis Rhoney, the detective whose testimony put Chapman on death row for the murders of Betty Jean Ramseur and Tenene Yvette Conley, has been suspended from his job as a Sheriff’s deputy, pending a perjury investigation.

Learn more about Mr. Chapman’s case here and here.

Mark Bowling, who stands accused of arranging for his girlfriend to murder his wife in 2006, has had the venue of his trial changed from Nash to Pitt County. Citing over 100 local newspaper articles about the crime, and a survey of local residents that showed 90% of prospective jurors were aware of the case – 44% of whom had already decided that Bowling was guilty – Bowling’s attorneys argued that it would be impossible for him to receive a fair trial in his home jurisdiction.

Elsewhere

Virginia governor Tim Kaine has stayed the scheduled execution of Edward Bell. Kaine acknowledged “the national legal consensus that no execution can go forward until [Baze v. Rees is decided].” He added that, “Stays in the final hours before an execution can take an emotional and physical toll on those who must prepare for the execution, including the family members of the victim or victims.” Bell’s execution has been stayed until at least July 24th.


Innocent Man Released from Death Row

April 2, 2008

From press release:

INNOCENT MAN PUT ON DEATH ROW BY LYING POLICE OFFICER FINALLY SET FREE

NEWTON, NC – Today Glen Edward Chapman, who spent 15 years on North Carolina’s death row for crimes he did not commit, is walking out of prison a free man.

Chapman was sentenced to death for the 1992 murders of Betty Jean Ramseur and Tenene Yvette Conley in Hickory. Last November Superior Court Judge Robert C. Ervin ordered a new trial for Chapman, citing withheld evidence, “lost, misplaced or destroyed” documents, the use of weak, circumstantial evidence, false testimony by the lead investigator, and ineffective assistance of defense counsel. Ervin also cited evidence that Ms. Conley may not have been murdered, but instead died of a drug overdose.

Catawba County District Attorney James Gaither, Jr. dismissed the charges against Chapman today.

Chapman’s lawyers, Frank Goldsmith and Jessica Leaven, are very pleased with their client’s release for which they fought long and hard. “Edward has always maintained, and we have always believed in, his innocence,” said Goldsmith. “Justice has not been served for the families of Ms. Ramseur and Ms. Conley, and we hope their deaths will be reinvestigated.” Goldsmith added, “We are extremely grateful to Judge Ervin and to Mr. Gaither for doing the right thing.”

Judge Ervin found that each of the lead detectives assigned to the cases by the Hickory Police Department had covered up exculpatory evidence that pointed to Chapman’s innocence and that was inconsistent with the State’s theory of his guilt. In addition, Judge Ervin found that Hickory Police Department Detective Dennis Rhoney had perjured himself at Chapman’s original trial, and that his testimony at the hearings conducted by Judge Ervin was “not credible.”

In his order, Judge Ervin also cited evidence presented by a forensic pathologist, Donald Jason, who found the cause of Conley’s death “undetermined.” Dr. Jason found no life-threatening injuries and suggested a possible cocaine overdose. Judge Ervin wrote that Dr. Jason’s report “strongly indicates that Terene Conley’s death was not a murder. The notion that a defendant can be put to death when no crime in fact occurred is troubling at best.”

Additionally, Judge Ervin found ineffective assistance of counsel by Chapman’s trial attorneys, Robert Adams and Thomas Portwood, for failing to adequately investigate the facts. Adams has been disciplined by the North Carolina State Bar and Portwood died of an alcohol-related illness. Portwood represented Ronnie Frye in his death penalty trial less than a year before Chapman’s trial started. Portwood admitted that he was drinking 12 shots of rum nightly during Frye’s trial. Frye was executed in 2001. Portwood was later removed from another death penalty case and entered alcohol detoxification treatment.

For more information, contact:
Frank Goldsmith (828) 230-6977 or (828) 652-3000
Jessica Leaven (919) 942-5200 or (919) 428-1924

Congratulations to Mr. Chapman and his attorneys. A victory hard-fought and long deserved.


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