Jamie Snow’s federal appeal given new life

Jamie Snow

http://blog.freejamiesnow.com/jamie-snows-federal-appeal-given-new-life/

When a Northern Illinois District Court judge denied Snow’s federal habeas petition right before Christmas, she also summarily denied his request to appeal the decision to a higher court by issuing a denial of Snow’s Certificate of Appealability (COA) at the same time.

The Exoneration Project immediately appealed the denial of the COA, and was granted the right to appeal to the Seventh Circuit on February 18th. Read more >>

The 2017 Injustice Anywhere Newsletter is now online

According to the National Registry of Exonerations, courts in the United States overturned 165 wrongful convictions in 2016, which broke 2015’s record of 149 corrected wrongful convictions. It is promising to see that the numbers continue to be on the rise. If you look at data over the past 25 years, we are now seeing substantial progress.

Over the past quarter century, America has incarcerated more people than any civilized nation on earth. A disturbing number of those incarcerations have been wrongful convictions. Hundreds of exonerations can be credited to advanced DNA technology. But research on topics like, bite mark evidence, fire investigation technology, and shaken baby syndrome, have all played a significant role as well. The ability to distribute information via the internet has also proven to be an invaluable resource when fighting wrongful convictions.

Exoneration statistics show that we are on the right track, but we have a long way to go. We need to correct the mistakes we have made, all while working to reforming the system which allowed those mistakes to occur in the first place. Sadly, the wrongful conviction problem is far more pervasive than most people realize, and even with increased interest, most cases continue to lack the attention they warrant. Many innocent people remain in prison. They need others to be their voice. They need you. Please join us in the fight to free the innocent.

Click on the image below to download the newsletter.

 

Endorsed Case: Edward “Max” Lewis

Max Lewis

Edward “Max” Lewis was convicted in Wisconsin in 2004 for the repeated sexual assault of his step-daughter, over a span of two-years beginning in 2002. Lewis was sentenced to 22 years of incarceration. He was released from prison in 2015, and is currently on probation until 2025. Due to Wisconsin’s bifurcated sentencing system, Lewis is still considered incarcerated during his probation and can be returned to prison at any time. Also as a result of this system, Lewis is still able to appeal his sentence, even though he is not currently in prison.

Injustice Anywhere has reviewed Lewis’s case, and we are confident that he has been wrongfully convicted. We will be providing many more details of Max’s case in the coming weeks and months. We encourage you to check back often to learn more about the compelling case.

Resources

  • Case Files 

Case Overview

By Tom Zupancic and Karen Harden

The Max Lewis case is a complicated one that involves several people in Lewis’s own family. Evidence, and especially the lack there of, now shows that Lewis is the victim of a wrongful conviction. His story is not one that is easy to explain, and many of the details are disturbing because they deal with accusations of sexual assault of children and family members.

Lewis had a brutal childhood, living as a Native American orphan in a flawed Indian child welfare system that left him homeless by the age of 15. Throughout his childhood, he was subjected to neglect and abuse in the foster care system and was also the victim of a failed adoption which left him devastated. In spite of all this, Lewis was a music prodigy and became an extremely talented musician.

Lewis overcame adversity and got back on his feet in his later teen years by working a variety of jobs and pursuing his passion for music. At the age of 18, Lewis obtained placement of his five siblings who had also suffered through rough childhoods. Lewis married Tammy Lewis, who had three children of her own. They all came together to live in a house owned by Tammy. Max and Tammy would go on to add to the bunch with a child of their own. Lewis’s sense of obligation to care for his family was a fundamental component of his character.

Still, Lewis was in treatment for mental illness over a long period of time. He was able to keep things together as he tried to provide for his growing family, but in September of 2003, Lewis had a mental breakdown that would change his life forever.

Lewis fell into a state of psychosis while attempting to deal with disturbing activities that were taking place in his home. Lewis’s five-year-old step-daughter was showing signs of sexual behavior that seemed odd to Lewis and his wife. The child was rubbing up against a pillow in a sexual way. The child also showed the same behavior while on a nap mat at school.

One morning while watching Dora the Explorer, the five-year-old was influenced by the subject of the show, which was a discussion about playing games. While watching the show, the child began talking about a “game” that her uncle Orin (Lewis’s brother) and her brother (Lewis’s step-son) would play. The “game” involved sexual activity. Hearing this information sent Lewis over the edge. While in a poor mental state, Lewis told his wife that he was responsible for the “game” that was being played, referring to his sense of obligation to look after his family. He had, after all, brought Orin into the household. Lewis’s wife was concerned and consulted with her mother for advice. As a result, Lewis’s mother-in-law called the police, and Lewis was taken into custody.

Lewis’s mental illness is a core issue of his case. Lewis had been through a series of tragic events throughout his life, which all contributed to his breakdown. Besides the abuses he suffered in foster care, Lewis also had family events which would have a deep impact.

Lewis was witness to seeing his brother die after being hit by a car, and in a shocking family twist, he would later have to deal with his brother-in-law’s suicide, after his brother-in-law found out that his own father was having an affair with his wife. The brother-in-law’s death was not immediate, which gave him the opportunity to give Lewis a message from his deathbed. He told Lewis that he was holding him accountable for taking care of his sister (Lewis’s wife). This was a responsibility that Lewis took very seriously.

These traumatic events may have been handled better if Lewis had not been suffering with a mental illness. But due to his illness, Lewis became paranoid that he was going to die, just like his brother and brother-in-law had. He also feared that his dead brother-in-law was going to come back to kill him for failing to properly take care of his wife. In Lewis’s mind, he was responsible for everything that occurred in his home. The trauma that was occurring with his step-daughter proved to be more than Lewis could bear.

Upon his arrest, Lewis’s mental health issues were apparent, and a jail nurse tried to help get him treatment. But in a critical turn of events, Lewis was denied assistance. Initially, Lewis had an attorney who raised an issue of competency.  Lewis had a court order to be transferred to an inpatient facility. However, the district attorney failed to execute the court order and then later lied about why this occurred. As Lewis was later appointed a new attorney and judge, no one realized Lewis never received critical treatment. Despite this, competency was alluded to again shortly before trial, and the district attorney lied again, telling the court that Lewis had already received a competency hearing. This was a serious act of misconduct.

During the investigation, authorities became aware of the involvement of Lewis’s brother Orin and Lewis’s stepson. As a result, the district attorney offered Lewis’s brother immunity and a plea agreement in return for testifying that he was also a victim and that he observed other acts of abuse in the home. In exchange for his testimony, the prosecution offered a punishment of time served, meaning that Orin would be a free man if he was willing to testify against his brother for the prosecution.

The details surrounding the five-year-old victim’s statements after Lewis’s arrest are troubling to say the least. Investigators interviewed the child multiple times without the child ever making any incriminating statements against Lewis. The child was given to Lewis’s in-laws to care for her during this time. After the child spent time with the in-laws, her story abruptly changed to incriminate Lewis.

In yet another twist, at the time all of this was happening, Lewis’s in-laws were under investigation for sexually assaulting a grandchild. The grandchild just so happened to be the daughter of Lewis’s brother-in-law who committed suicide after finding his own father in bed with his wife. The father-in-law was not only allegedly having an affair with his daughter-in-law, he was also allegedly molesting his granddaughter.

Why was Lewis’s five-year-old step-daughter sent to stay with grandparents who were under investigation for sexual assault? And why did the child change her story to incriminate Lewis only after spending time with her grandparents? These questions remain unanswered. It is also unknown if the child’s changed story, which benefited the prosecution, had anything to do with the investigation of the grandparents being dropped.

Max is a talented musician

At trial, Lewis didn’t stand a chance. He had not received proper treatment for his mental illness and was in no condition to stand trial. Shockingly, due to the fact that Lewis’s mental health had not been evaluated before trial, his mental illness was not even mentioned to the jury.

Even more shocking was the fact that Lewis was put on the stand. Because of Lewis’s mental state, he was faced with questions he could not understand. Without having proper knowledge that Lewis was suffering with a mental illness, the jury had no explanation for Lewis’s behavior in court.

Additionally, the judge refused to allow the information regarding the brother’s inducements and his plea deal to be heard by the jury. An agreement that dismissed the brother’s greater charge (the charge Lewis was found guilty of). The judge also allowed State witnesses to introduce numerous hearsay issues based on the inducements provided by Lewis’s brother which were never testified to by the alleged victim.

The jury was unaware of the fact that Lewis was suffering from a mental illness. They had testimony from the victim pointing to Lewis, that was far from accurate. The child’s account of events was manipulated by investigators and others before the trial to induce her to implicate Lewis. Her statements were then distorted by the prosecution to mislead the jury. In addition, they heard damning testimony from Lewis’s brother, Orin. Based on the information they were provided; it was not shocking that it only took minutes of deliberation for the jury to find Lewis guilty.

Lewis was initially placed in prison. However, it became apparent that he could not live in a prison setting as he continued to suffer from mental illness.

It was at this time that he was sent to an inpatient hospital where he was diagnosed with a number of severe mental health issues and a previously undiagnosed form of epilepsy called complex partial seizers. These mental health issues would have been recognized before Lewis’s trial if the prosecution’s office had done its job properly.

Once Lewis regained partial functioning, he began to appeal his conviction. During Lewis’s appeal process, his brother Orin recanted his statements and admitted that he lied. He also stated that the prosecutor implied to him that he knew his testimony was false, but he allowed it to be used anyway. As a result of Orin’s recantation, the court ridiculously ordered the district attorney’s office to investigate itself. Of course, the district attorney’s office cleared itself and concluded that Orin’s recantation was false.

Even though Lewis’s brother recanted his testimony, Lewis has been unsuccessful in his appeals, despite the fact that there is currently no solid evidence to support his conviction. The appeals system in America is a complicated one, and it is incredibly difficult to overturn a wrongful conviction regardless of overwhelming proof of innocence.

Lewis does not have the means to hire an attorney who is capable of giving him his best chance of clearing his name. He also lacks the means to hire experts to present the actual facts of his case. That is one of the major shortcomings of our justice system. Without money, it is very difficult to properly defend yourself, no matter how ridiculous the charges might be.

Lewis is currently serving a ten-year probation in Wisconsin. He Is hopeful that an attorney will come forward to take his case pro bono. As of now, that is Lewis’s only hope of finding justice.

Supporters Asking For Funds To Support Melissa Calusinski’s Family As She Continues To Fight For Her Freedom

Paul and Cheryl Calusinski

A gofundme account has been set up to help Paul and Cheryl Calusinski, the parents of Melissa Calusinski. Paul and Cheryl have suffered financial hardship as they have fought to free their daughter from prison.

Melissa Calusinski was convicted of murder in 2011 and was sentenced to 31 years in prison in Illinois. Calusinski was accused of throwing a child to the floor, causing fatal injuries, while working as a teacher’s aide at a day care center.

Calusinski has long maintained her innocence, and evidence now shows that she was wrongfully convicted based on false medical testimony and a coerced confession. In 2013, Eupil Choi, the pathologist who performed the autopsy on the child, stated in a sworn affidavit that he had missed an old injury. Choi’s statement was a major breakthrough in the case, because it supported Calusinski’s defense team’s longstanding argument that the child’s death was the result of a pre-existing injury. But the real bombshell came last year, which blew the case wide open. Lake County’s coroner, Dr. Thomas Rudd, reclassified the child’s death from a homicide to undetermined, after a new set of X-rays was discovered by his office. These X-rays show no sign of fresh injuries on the child at the time of death.

Melissa Calusinski

Calusinski is currently being represented by Kathleen Zellner, a high profile defense attorney who is credited with overturning eighteen wrongful convictions to date. Calusinski’s supporters are hopeful that Zellner will soon be adding one more case to her long list of successful exonerations.

Zellner’s involvement has been a blessing for the Calusinski family. Unfortunately, even with the best representation, the wheels of justice turn very slowly. The vast majority of wrongful convictions which are overturned go through multiple appeals over the course of many years before being corrected.

Paul and Cheryl Calusinski will continue to fight for their daughter for as long as it takes. And they have a strong group of supporters who are determined to make sure that they never have to fight the battle alone.

Please visit the Official Justice for Melissa Calusinski Family Page on Facebook to learn more about the Melissa Calusinski case.

If you would like to make a donation to help the Calusinski family, you can do so here: https://www.gofundme.com/paulandcherylcalusinski

Jason Flom Interviews Amanda Knox

Wrongful Conviction with Jason Flom is a podcast about tragedy, triumph, unequal justice and actual innocence.  Based on the files of the lawyers who freed them, Wrongful Conviction features interviews with men and women who have spent decades in prison for crimes they did not commit – some of them had even been sentenced to death.  These are their stories.

GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/darryl-pinkins-roosevelt-glenn-convicted-in-1989-rape-guilty-until-proven-innocent/

HAMMOND, Ind. — For nearly two decades, Sally Glenn went to prison every other weekend to visit her son, Roosevelt.

“It would hurt me. And when we’d leave there I would cry,” she told “48 Hours” correspondent Maureen Maher.

Roosevelt Glenn’s daughter, Darniese, who was just 7 when her father went to prison, was often by her grandmother’s side on those visits.

“I was nervous for him due to the fact I knew he was a very innocent man behind bars with very bad criminals,” she said.”I had suicide all over me … for a while,” Roosevelt Glenn said in tears.

“And what stopped you?” Maher asked.

“I believe it was the power of God,” Glenn said. “I was a good man before I went to prison, but I wasn’t a man of faith.  Prison changed my way of thinking and it made me a man of faith.”

Darryl Pinkins was also in prison.

“How do you survive in that environment?” Maher asked Pinkins.

“You have to become … colder, as far as emotions,” he said, “because I don’t trust people like I used to.”

“I don’t know if they realize you’ve pretty much taken the most valuable thing people have… time,” Pinkins’ son, Dameon, said. “I feel like I’ve lost the most important time of my life, where — a son bonds with his father and becomes a man.” Read more >>

Incredibly, prosecutors are still defending bite mark evidence

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2017/01/30/incredibly-prosecutors-are-still-defending-bite-mark-evidence/?utm_term=.bb52cd7018fa

As of today, bite mark evidence has led to more than two dozen wrongful arrests or convictions. Two men sentenced to death on bite mark evidence were later exonerated by DNA testing. Multiple proficiency tests have shown that bite mark analysts can’t even agree on whether marks on human skin were made by human teeth or teeth at all, much less agreement on which set of teeth made them. There are two underlying assumptions that need to be true in order for bite mark evidence to be valid — that the marks we make when we bite are unique to us and that human skin is capable of recording those marks in a way that allows analysts to distinguish them. So far, there is no scientific research to support either assumption, and the research that has been done suggests both claims are false. Bite mark evidence has been strongly criticized by several scientific bodies, including the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and, most recently, by the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST). The Texas Forensic Science Commission, a body convened specifically to review the validity of questionable fields of forensics, recommended a moratorium on the use of bite mark analysis in court. Read more >>

Judge rules against police immunity in Ryan Ferguson’s civil rights case

Ryan Ferguson

http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/local/judge-rules-against-police-immunity-in-ryan-ferguson-s-civil/article_72de379e-fc23-5d88-ada7-3639253e49f6.html

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that six Columbia police officers who worked on the case against Ryan Ferguson are not entitled to immunity from the remaining counts of Ferguson’s civil rights lawsuit.

U.S. District Judge Nanette Laughrey issued the order about three months after the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had sent the case back, instructing her to clarify whether the officers should be entitled to qualified immunity. The order clears up the issue and allows the case to go to trial on several claims of constitutional violations, pending any further appeals at the Eighth Circuit level.

Qualified immunity protects government officials from legal liability unless their conduct clearly violates a person’s rights and an official acting reasonably would have known the conduct was unlawful. The doctrine is meant to shield officials from frivolous lawsuits.

Kathleen Zellner, Ferguson’s lawyer, did not respond to a message seeking comment. Brad Letterman, attorney for the officers, declined to comment. Read more >>

The unimaginable, infamous case of Pam Hupp

ILLUSTRATION BY RAÚL ALLÉN

https://www.stlmag.com/longform/pam-hupp/#.WIKFTGk3wdo.facebook

The 911 operator heard a woman refusing to get into a vehicle and begging for help. Gunshots—loud and staccato—cut through the confusion of noises. A smoke alarm shrilled.

When police arrived, a 33-year-old man lay dead inside an O’Fallon, Missouri, house. The caller said the man had climbed into her SUV, held a knife against her throat, and demanded that she take him to a bank to get “Russ’s money.” Terrified for her life, she said, she’d knocked the knife away, run inside through the garage door, dashed into the master bedroom, and grabbed a .38 Ruger revolver from her nightstand. He came after her like “a madman.”

The 911 caller—a 58-year-old woman named Pamela Hupp—was questioned and released.

Seven days later, she was arrested and charged with first-degree murder.

Before being booked, she asked to use the restroom and stabbed herself in the neck and wrists with a ballpoint pen.

St. Louisans squinted at their TV screens, trying to fathom this blond woman, her square jaw set hard, her face impassive. This was the same woman who’d testified three years earlier in a murder trial after her friend was stabbed 55 times. The friend’s husband was convicted and later acquitted. In the meantime, Hupp’s mother had died in a suspicious fall from a third-floor balcony.

The only possible motive connecting all three cases was money. Hupp, who’d held several jobs in the insurance industry, was the beneficiary of both her friend’s and mother’s policies. But would somebody really stab a sick friend and shove her own mother off a balcony to get cash she’d receive in a few years anyway, then shoot a perfect stranger just to twist the plot?

“Even Hollywood,” one St. Louisan tweeted, “doesn’t write scripts this convoluted.”


Pamela Neumann Hupp grew up in an orderly Catholic household in Dellwood, the third of four kids, their mother a schoolteacher, their father a union man who worked for decades at Union Electric. Pam rode bikes with her friends, went Christmas caroling, occasionally skipped Sunday school. At Riverview Gardens High School, she was a blond pompommer with a laugh that burst forth like a geyser, no stopping it.

Pam was always ready for fun, friends recall—no moodiness or drama, no talking behind people’s backs. Her grades could’ve been higher, one friend guesses, “but she was boy-crazy.” By senior year, she’d made a real catch: a boy who was soft-spoken and well-liked, a member of the soccer team, golf team, and National Honor Society. They went to their senior prom together. Three months later they “had to get married.”

Pam’s devout mother couldn’t have been pleased about the pregnancy. Pam did the responsible thing, but her friends sensed a wistful resentment: Everybody else was caught up in the whirl of college, while here she was, sitting in a cheap apartment spooning strained beets.

The marriage lasted six years. Soon after her divorce, Pam married Mark Hupp, a quiet, easygoing guy who played minor-league baseball for the Texas Rangers and, when he didn’t get drafted, fell back on carpentry. They gave Pam’s daughter a little brother, and in 1989 moved to Naples, Florida. When they returned in 2001, they settled in O’Fallon, Missouri, and started flipping houses on the side.

Pam also took a clerical job in a State Farm office, and Betsy Faria was the first person she met there. Eleven years younger than Pam, Betsy was warm-hearted and bubbly and scatterbrained, always short of cash but shored up emotionally by dozens of friends who adored her. Even at 32, she looked like a greeting card illustration—round face, curly hair, pink cheeks, bright-blue eyes—and in her part-time gig as a DJ, she could coax anybody onto the dance floor. Read more >>

‘Justice Nightmare’: 32 Years in Texas Prisons After Conviction Voided

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/19/us/jerry-hartfield-texas-prison.html?_r=0

The legal record shows that Jerry Hartfield’s first murder conviction was thrown out on appeal, and for the next 32 years, he was not officially guilty of anything, not sentenced to anything. Yet he spent that time in Texas prisons, in what an appellate court now calls “a criminal justice nightmare.”

He was finally tried and convicted again in 2015, but on Thursday, Mr. Hartfield moved closer to freedom than he has been in decades. A state Court of Appeals ruled that he was not only denied his constitutional right to a speedy trial, but to a degree the court had neither seen nor imagined before; it noted that the important precedents dealt with delays of three years, six years, eight years — not 32.

The three-judge panel dismissed the indictment against Mr. Hartfield, who is developmentally disabled, in effect erasing the recent conviction. But it is still not clear whether, or when, he will get out of prison. Read more >>