Saturday, December 31, 2011

Louisville Metro Corrections chief launches investigation into certification lapses

Metro Corrections chief launches investigation into certification lapses - Louisville Courier-Journal

Metro Corrections Chief Mark Bolton said Thursday that he has ordered an internal investigation to find out why four Breathalyzer technicians’ certifications had lapsed, jeopardizing the alcohol breath test results in about 600 local drunken-driving cases.

A preliminary investigation shows the technicians mistakenly believed they had been properly certified, Bolton said.

The Metro Department of Corrections said this month that the technicians mistakenly allowed their certifications to lapse in September and a system allowing employees to track their own certification would be replaced.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Editorials about Kerry Porter

Legislature, Supreme Court must address flaws that lead to wrongful convictions - Lexington Herald-Leader

The legislature and state Supreme Court must fix flaws in the system that led to Porter's and other wrongful convictions. Otherwise, more such errors and injustices will be inevitable.

This should be an urgent concern, not just for public defenders, but for all of law enforcement because convicting the wrong person lets the real criminal off the hook.

As is true of most wrongful convictions, a faulty eyewitness identification was at the heart of the case against Porter. This is not surprising as a growing body of science reveals the unreliability of eyewitness IDs.Police agencies should adopt model procedures for eyewitness identifications. Unless these procedures are scrupulously followed, the Supreme Court should exclude the use of eyewitness identifications by prosecutors.


Editorial | 14 stolen years - Louisville Courier-Journal

In 1997, Bill Clinton started his second  

term as president of the United States, 
Madeleine Albright became the first woman 
secretary of State, Steve Jobs was rehired 
by Apple, Princess Diana died in a car 
crash — and Kerry Porter went to prison 
for the murder of Tyrone Camp, a crime he 
insists he didn’t commit.

Fourteen years later, Mr. Clinton is a gray 
eminence on the world stage, Hillary 
Rodham Clinton (his wife) is the third 
woman secretary of State, Mr. Jobs died a 
legend beyond Apple, the late Princess 
Diana’s older son is married and nearing 
30 — and Kerry Porter was just released 
from prison for a murder others now 
believe he didn’t commit.

Last week, he spent the first night of his 
freedom, sleeping under the Christmas 
tree in his mother’s living room.


Monday, December 19, 2011

Kerry Porter - Kentucky Innocence Project Client Exonerated and Released

Kerry Porter, imprisoned for murder, is exonerated, freed after 14 years - Louisville Courier Journal 

After serving 14 years behind bars for a 
murder he insisted he didn’t commit, a 
stunned Kerry Porter learned Monday that 
he was exonerated and hours later was 
released from prison.

“He was virtually speechless,” said Melanie 
Lowe, who won Porter’s exoneration after a 
five-year battle.

“He said it was a lot to take in … and that 
he was a little nervous” about returning to 
the real world, she said. “He’s never held a 
cell phone or seen a flat-screen TV.”

Jefferson Circuit Judge Irv Maze signed an 
order dismissing Porter’s conviction and 
ordering him released “immediately and 
without delay” in the 1996 murder of 
Tyrone Camp.


Suspend Kentucky executions until system is reformed - Louisville Courier Journal Op-Ed

Suspend Kentucky executions until system is reformed: Ensuring justice must be our primary concern

As officers of the court and members of the bench and bar, we have a duty to uphold the law. We also have an obligation to use our skills, talents and expertise to ensure the fair administration of justice. We take that commitment very seriously. After reviewing too many areas in which we fall short in protecting against wrongful conviction and failing to ensure fair and accurate procedures, we agree with the team’s unanimous recommendation.

We are hopeful that our detailed report and analysis will be a call to action for reform of the death penalty system.

In Kentucky, we must reserve capital punishment for the most heinous of offenses and offenders; we have to make sure that we are getting it right. We owe the citizens of this commonwealth no less.

The Op-Ed is authored by Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, president of the American Bar Association and former president of the Kentucky Bar Association and James E. Keller and Martin E. Johnstone, former Kentucky Supreme Court justices and members of the Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment Team.

read the complete article

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Plce Moratorium on Kentucky Executions - Lexington Herald-Leader

ABA Study: Too Much Evidence of Inaccuracy, Unfairness

Even supporters of capital punishment, which includes this editorial page, will come away from this study with serious doubts about the fairness and accuracy of the process that condemned 34 people to Kentucky's Death Row.

read entire editiorial

Friday, December 16, 2011

KY To Release 1,000 Inmates Six Months Early Under New Law - Louisville Courier Journal

996 Kentucky inmates get out early in new prison plan

Easing transition, fighting recidivism are main goals

Kentucky is poised to release nearly 1,000 inmates about six months early as part of a mandatory new program aimed at easing their transition back into the community, reducing recidivism and helping trim its corrections budget by about $40 million next year.

 By providing support in such areas as finding jobs and homes in their first few months outside prison, the new program — part of a major corrections overhaul passed earlier this year — attempts to lessen the chances that offenders will commit new crimes, Justice Cabinet Secretary J. Michael Brown said.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Call for Moratorium on Executions

KY Public Advocate and Louisville Metro Chief Public Defender Endorse the Call for a Moratorium on Executions and the Expeditious Implementation of the Reforms recommended by the ABA Assessment of the Kentucky Death Penalty

(Frankfort, Kentucky, December 7, 2011) Kentucky Public Advocate Ed Monahan and Louisville Metro Chief Public Defender Dan Goyette echoed today’s call by the American Bar association and the Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment Team for a suspension of executions in Kentucky until the recommendations in its December 7, 2011 report are fully implemented. Over the last two years, the Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment Team objectively reviewed the fairness, accuracy and reliability of Kentucky’s system for administering the death penalty. The review is thorough and scholarly. It was conducted by experienced, highly respected Kentucky criminal justice experts. It is a fact-based analysis supported by comprehensive, detailed evidence. It found major deficiencies that undermine the integrity of the system.

Today, Goyette and Monahan sent a request to the Governor asking that he not sign any execution warrants until the study’s reforms are put into effect. A similar request was submitted to the Attorney General asking that he not seek any execution warrants until the Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment Team recommendations are enacted.

See full press release here.

For more information and supporting documents, click here.

ABA Press Release - The Kentucky Death Penalty Assessment Report

Kentucky Legal Team Identifies Problems With Commonwealth’s Death Penalty System, Calls for Moratorium on Executions

WASHINGTON, D.C., Dec. 7, 2011 — A two-year review of Kentucky’s system of capital punishment concludes that the commonwealth doesn’t adequately ensure fairness or sufficiently guard against executing the innocent.  The report, released today by the American Bar Association, calls for a suspension of executions in Kentucky until the identified problems are addressed and corrected.

The Kentucky-based assessment team was comprised of former state Supreme Court judges, a state legislator, state bar leaders, law school professors and other lawyers from the commonwealth.  The team also consulted with a number of state government and judicial entities, law enforcement and criminal justice groups.

“The assessment team in Kentucky is an esteemed group of highly dedicated individuals who are committed to ensuring justice,” said ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, a native of the state.  “The report provides a thorough analysis of the death penalty system, and identifies many areas that need reform,” he said.

The report evaluates Kentucky’s laws, rules, procedures, standards and guidelines relating to administration of the death penalty, and uses 92 benchmarks set by the ABA to evaluate death penalty jurisprudence.  The report found that Kentucky is in full compliance with six protocols, partial compliance with 40 and not in compliance with 26.  The team did not have sufficient information to assess compliance with 20 of the benchmarks.

Assessment team co-chair Linda Ewald, professor emeritus at Louis D. Brandeis School of Law, says that the system in Kentucky does not adequately assure that capital defendants receive fair treatment.  “The problems with the death penalty system are substantial, and need to be addressed so that we also minimize the risk of executing the innocent,” she said.

The report identified the following issues as most in need of reform:

  • Inadequate protections to guard against wrongful convictions
  • Inconsistent and disproportionate capital charging and sentencing
  • Deficiencies and inadequate funding of the capital defender system
  • Inadequacies in post-conviction review to correct error
  • Capital juror confusion
  • Imposition of a death sentence on people with mental retardation and severe mental disability
  • Overall lack of data keeping on capital charging and sentencing practices

The report recommends several measures to bring the commonwealth into compliance with ABA protocols, including state-specific measures to address the issues raised in the 438-page report.  The team is recommending a suspension of executions in the commonwealth until problematic issues are rectified.

The report notes that Kentucky has made some progress in seeking to achieve fairness and accuracy in its administration of the death penalty.  Those measures include: the establishment of a statewide capital defender to represent indigent capital defendants and death row inmates; adoption of a post-conviction DNA testing statute to minimize the risk of executing the innocent; and adoption of a racial justice act that seeks to eliminate racial and ethnic bias in application of the death penalty in the commonwealth.

The full report and executive summary are available here.

In 2003, the ABA’s Death Penalty Moratorium Implementation Project, housed in the Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, began several comprehensive evaluations of the death penalty, like the one conducted in Kentucky.  The ABA has examined administration of the death penalty in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.  The Project expects to release additional reports on Missouri, Texas and Virginia.  The reports have not been adopted by the ABA House of Delegates.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world.  As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.


Monday, December 5, 2011

11/23 Relevant KY Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Kenneth Williams v. Commonwealth, 10-SC-138-DG, rendered 11/23/11, and to be published

Williams was among a group of nine people standing in the street in front of a vacant house.  Some of the individuals, but not Williams, were smoking marijuana.  Police approached the group and began questioning them.  One man admitted the bulge in his pocket was marijuana.  Two individuals were searched, and guns were discovered on them.  At that point, the remainder of the group, including Williams, was ordered on the ground and asked if they had weapons on them.  When Williams lay down, an officer noticed a bulge in the middle of his back.  It was a handgun.

            Held:  There was a reasonable articulable suspicion of criminal activity on the part of the group that justified an investigatory stop of individual group members. Particularized suspicion as to Williams was not required; he was part of a group that included some people smoking marijuana and some who possessed handguns, and that was sufficient grounds to initiate a stop pursuant to Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1 (1968).    

 Lawrence Robert Stinnett v. Commonwealth, 10-SC-347-MR, rendered 11/23/11, and to be published: 

Stinnett was convicted of murder and kidnapping.  He was alleged to have beaten  his girlfriend to death because he believed she was cheating on him.

            Held:  (1) Kidnapping exemption did not apply where the restraint of the victim exceeded that which was ordinarily incident to committing the crime of murder. “Appellant could have killed her without taking an extended time to terrorize her.” (2)  General dissatisfaction with appointed counsel is insufficient to support a motion for new counsel.  “A bar complaint or a lawsuit filed by an indigent defendant against his appointed counsel may give rise to good

cause for his replacement, [but] such filings do not warrant an automatic substitution of an assigned public defender.”

Jared Fields v.  Commonwealth, 10-SC-169-MR, rendered 11/23/11, and not to be published: 

First, the Court addressed an issue not raised at trial or by either party on appeal, holding that same sex non-consensual sexual acts can never be rape.  Fields had been charged with both rape and sodomy, as well as complicity to both and sexual abuse for having non-consensual sexual relations with a 16 year old boy.  The Court held it was not palpable error for Fields to be convicted of rape, rather than the proper sodomy, as both crimes are of the same degree.   The Court then addressed arguments raised on appeal and reversed Fields’ conviction for kidnapping as the interference with the victim’s liberty was no greater than needed to commit the sexual crimes.  Contrast the facts in Stinnett v. Commonwealth, 2010-SC-000347, rendered the same day, where the Court upheld a kidnapping conviction as not qualifying for the exemption. 

Contributed by Kathleen Schmidt