News Update 05.06.08
Levon “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.”
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.
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.