"Rebuilding the Lives of the Wrongfully Convicted"

A Steadfast Denial of Guilt, Backed by Victim’s Kin

Richard LaFuente has had plenty of opportunities to leave federal prison and go back to Plainview, Tex. All he had to do was confess to a murder on the Devils Lake Sioux Reservation in North Dakota, for which he was convicted in 1986, and show a little remorse.

Richard LaFuente, convicted in the 1983 killing of a police officer, could get out of prison if he showed remorse and confessed.
The first time he refused was at a 1994 court hearing. “I can’t show remorse,” he told his lawyer. “I won’t ask forgiveness for something I didn’t do.” He went back to his cell. For the next 17 years, at six parole hearings (the latest in June 2011), Mr. LaFuente refused to confess and show remorse, and each time he was sent back to his cell.

Julie Jonas has had plenty of opportunities to walk away from Mr. LaFuente’s case. Ms. Jonas is the managing attorney for the Innocence Project of Minnesota, which has been working on behalf of Mr. LaFuente. She has represented Mr. LaFuente, 54, since 2004, along with hundreds of other prisoners who have claimed they were innocent. Mr. LaFuente, she said, is different.

“I don’t think I have met one who would turn down a deal to get out of prison after eight years in a federal penitentiary, much less one who would continue to deny his guilt even though it meant his parole would be denied after serving 25 years in prison,” Ms. Jonas said. “The system keeps asking him to apologize for something he did not do, and his conscience won’t let him do that.”

Lawyers who work for innocence projects are a particular breed of optimist, and Ms. Jonas has tried a number of ways to get relief for her client. Her latest effort is a second petition for executive clemency, which she will be able to file on Nov. 19, one year after the first (which was filed in 2008) was denied. Clemency, in the form of a commutation of sentence, is extremely difficult to obtain. President Obama has granted one in four years in office. (George W. Bush granted 11 and Bill Clinton 61.)

Ms. Jonas plans to emphasize that Mr. LaFuente, who is half Mexican-American, half Sioux, has been a model prisoner with no disciplinary infractions. He is a father and grandfather. He has a job and a home waiting for him. “He’s worthy,” Ms. Jonas said. “Beside all that, he’s innocent.”

Mr. LaFuente was 25 in the summer of 1983 when he and his brother-in-law, John Perez, left Plainview to visit relatives on the Devils Lake reservation. During that time, a former police officer named Eddie Peltier was found dead on a rural highway, apparently the victim of a hit and run.

In 1985, Mr. LaFuente and Mr. Perez, who had returned to Texas, as well as nine local American Indians, were arrested in Officer Peltier’s murder after four witnesses said they had seen a mob beat him at a party. One swore she had seen Mr. LaFuente, with Mr. Perez’s help, run the officer over with his El Camino. There was no physical evidence, and every defendant but one had an alibi. Nonetheless, all 11 were found guilty. The two Texans were given the longest sentences: 20 years for Mr. Perez and life for Mr. LaFuente.

Soon, though, details began to emerge that conflicted with court testimony. Stories about the party and the fight turned out to be fabrications. Two witnesses recanted and said they had been threatened by James Yankton, a police officer with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. By 1989, the convictions of nine of the defendants had been overturned for insufficient evidence. Mr. Perez was paroled in 1999. Only Mr. LaFuente remains in prison, steadfastly maintaining his innocence.

Twice a federal court has ruled that Mr. LaFuente should be given a new trial because the first one was unfair; both decisions were overruled. The victim’s own mother, brother and sister have told parole officials that they believe Mr. LaFuente is innocent. “I have never worked on a case where the victim’s family was certain the wrong man was in prison,” Ms. Jonas said.

Hollywood has taken notice. This year the story came to the attention of Todd Trotter, a Los Angeles television writer and documentary filmmaker. He began tracking down police and F.B.I. files and found a recording of a woman who claimed she had witnessed Mr. Peltier’s murder. The closer Mr. Trotter looked, the more Mr. LaFuente’s story seemed to be a classic tale of wrongful conviction.

Mr. Trotter talked with two dozen people involved in the case, asking them to agree to be interviewed on camera. He was granted permission to use the Robbie Robertson song “Coyote Dance” in the promotional video. He came up with a title, “Incident at Devils Lake.” All he needed was money to start filming. So in September he started a campaign at Kickstarter.com to raise start-up financing for the documentary. If he is successful — he is aiming for $50,000 in pledges by Wednesday — he hopes to start production early next year.

Mr. Trotter has had some fund-raising help from an unlikely source: the victim’s sister, Andrea Peltier. Nearly every day since Oct. 19, Andrea has stood outside the Devils Lake Walmart, holding a large sign bearing the word “fund-raising” and photos of her brother and Mr. LaFuente. She asks shoppers to donate to the film, and has collected more than $1,000.

“I stand out here no matter how cold it is,” Ms. Peltier said by cellphone. “I want justice for my brother. It’s been too long. Eddie’s spirit won’t be able to cross over until the right ones are caught. And I want to get Richard out of prison. He didn’t do it. He had nothing to do with it.”

Chicago Sun Times: More prosecutors worry innocent people go to prison


More prosecutors these days are starting to admit that innocent people sometimes go to prison.

Or at least that's the observation of Samuel R. Gross, who is the Thomas and Mabel Long Professor of Law at the University of Michigan Law School and a graduate of Columbia College in 1968.

As discussed in a blog post here on Wednesday, Gross is the editor of the National Registry of Exonerations, a joint project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law.

The registry, which went into business in May, maintains a detailed online database of all known exonerations in the United States since 1989. It recently posted its 1,000th case. The rate of adding new cases could be faster, but "finding and researching and writing up these cases is a fair amount of work" and the registry has only two staff people.

"The main purpose of putting it together and making this information available was to learn more about wrongful convictions," Gross said.

By examining what happened in those cases, we can learn more about "these terrible errors that send innocent people to prison. ... We may learn about types of issues that we didn't know about before."

The registry expects to issue another report in four or five months that may cast more light on how wrongful convictions happen.

A sign more prosecutors are willing to admit errors can occur is the growing number of conviction integrity units around the country, Gross said. Those units re-examine cases to ensure that people who were convicted were not in fact innocent.

"What we are seeing is that many prosecutors, not all, but more than in the past, are now sensitive to the fact that errors do occur," Gross said.

Among the reasons that errors can occur is that prosecutors' offices tend to be underfunded, leaving them without enough time for every case, he said.

"Prosecutors have a unique role," Gross said. "They are advocates whose job includes taking an adversarial role, vis a vis the defendant, and if, they have a strong case, getting the defendant's conviction. On the other hand, they are also ministers of justice. They also have an obligation to society as a whole to make sure that justice is done to prosecute people who are guilty and not people who are innocent, and to make sure they do their best to secure substantive justice as opposed to just getting victories."

So the registry could actually help prosecutors learn how to do their jobs better.

"The goal remains learning how we make mistakes," Gross said.

Read the July 25, 2012, report by Gross and Michael Shaffer "Exonerations in the United States, 1989-2012" here.

Friends Wrongfully Imprisoned for Nearly Two Decades — Until the Innocence Project Won Their Freedom

Obie Anthony and Reggie Cole grew up around the corner from one another in South Central. The Nine Deuce Hoover Crips, a huge black gang, recruited them when they were 11 or 12 — they're not sure because, as Cole admits, "We were always 'claiming.' We grew up right there."

In their teens, life was about hanging out with friends and getting into fights at school. "We were just young punk kids out on the street trying to do what we was doing, hustling fast cash with drugs — weed and stuff like that," Cole says. "That was it."

But when the two hell-raisers were 17 and 18, in March 1994, Mexican immigrant Felipe Gonzales Angeles, a young father of four, was gunned down during a botched robbery outside a brothel at 49th and Hoover streets. Angeles' friends, waiting for him in a nearby car, were shot at. Eyewitness John Jones — a pimp who managed the building — reported seeing three young black male robbers, two with guns, open fire.

In newspaper coverage, Miles Corwin of the Los Angeles Times reported the chilling audio caught by security cameras: "Give me your money ... all your money ... too slow ... kill him! Kill him!"

Jones told LAPD that one suspect limped away, possibly hit by a compatriot's stray bullet. Sure enough, that night two unidentified, young black men showed up at Martin Luther King Jr. Hospital's emergency room, one with a heavily wrapped leg; they fled when the receiving nurse started asking questions.

When LAPD got an anonymous phone tip that "Baby Day Day," a 5 Deuce Hoover Crip, had "made the move at 49th and Fig" — an apparent reference to the murder at 49th and Hoover — homicide detectives prepared "six-pack" photo lineups to show witnesses, including an MLK hospital guard and the pimp, Jones.

Jones chose both Cole and Anthony from the lineups, the only eyewitness to do so. Neither teen was a member of 5 Deuce, but they were members of another branch of Hoover Crips.

Jones' credibility should have made LAPD and the Los Angeles County district attorney far more wary, it later turned out. He'd killed a girlfriend and done time for it, and now he was facing 12 years in prison for pimping, so he needed a leniency deal.

"Jones said whatever they wanted him to say," Anthony says today. "He told three different stories by trial time. It was clear he was making it up as he went along."

Several weeks after the murder of Felipe Angeles, as Cole and Anthony nervously sat in jail facing an unrelated carjacking charge, LAPD detectives arrested them for the Angeles murder. Police found an old gunshot wound on Cole's leg, but the two teens insisted they had been home the night of the murder, nursing hangovers from a birthday party.

Curiously, LAPD never tied any physical evidence to Cole or Anthony despite the numerous fingerprints and footprints found at the crime scene. "You would think they would reconsider, but they didn't," Anthony says.

His attorney, Paige Kaneb, alleges that LAPD was "blinded by tunnel vision." But in 1995, a judge gave them life. Lead LAPD detective Marcella Winn did not return calls seeking comment.

Years later, after the two friends had spent nearly half their lives in state prison, the pimp, Jones, would testify that his earlier claims were false. He had not seen the killer's faces. He'd merely heard about the incident from his daughters.

When the jury sent Cole and Anthony to prison for life, they did not know that District Attorney Gil Garcetti's office was going to decrease Jones' pending 12-year felony sentence for pimping, granting him three years' probation for helping ID Anthony and Cole.

The two scared young friends, now murder convicts, were sent to a place even more violent than South Central, circa 1994 — Calipatria State Prison near the Salton Sea, where such monsters as Hillside Strangler Angelo Buono were housed. The two men would still be there today, averting their eyes from rapes and fending off big, violent bodybuilders with nicknames like El Diablo, if not for the fact that the thinly built Cole knifed a prisoner to death in 2000 — a big, violent bodybuilder named El Diablo, in fact.

Cole contended that his shank attack against El Diablo was self-defense, but pled no contest to voluntary manslaughter. For nearly a decade, as the California Innocence Project team fought to get his first homicide vacated, the only human touch he received was from guards slapping handcuffs on his wrists when he exited his cell.

Ironically, had Cole not killed El Diablo, an act that elevated Cole's case to the death-penalty level, "Nobody would have represented him," explains Christopher Plourd, Cole's attorney, who volunteered with the California Innocence Project in San Diego. Plourd, who represented Phil Spector during his murder trial, led the team that took up Cole's case, convincing a judge that Cole had been wronged in his initial murder conviction as a teen.

"Without that situation, we wouldn't have a leg to stand on," Cole recalls. "Both of our appeals were over with. We were supposed to sit in there and rot."

Letter from 59 lawyers backs ouster of special prosecutor in Va. murder-for-hire case

RICHMOND, Va. — Fifty-nine former judges, prosecutors and other attorneys sent a Prince William County judge a letter Wednesday advocating the removal of the special prosecutor in a high-profile murder-for-hire case.

A federal appeals court earlier this year upheld a judge’s decision to toss out Justin Wolfe’s conviction and death sentence in the slaying of his marijuana supplier, Daniel Petrole. The court ruled that prosecutors wrongly withheld evidence from Wolfe’s attorneys that would have discredited their star witness — triggerman Owen Barber IV, who later recanted his testimony. The court left open the possibility of a retrial.

Prince William County Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul Ebert, chastised by the appeals court for actions that it called “abhorrent to the judicial process,” recused himself and Fairfax County Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond Morrogh was appointed special prosecutor. Morrogh promptly announced he would retry the case.

Wolfe’s attorneys have questioned Morrogh’s impartiality, and a hearing is set Oct. 31 on their motion to remove him as special prosecutor. A broad spectrum of lawyers supported that motion in a letter to Circuit Judge Mary Grace O’Brien, saying Morrogh’s quick decision suggests he “did not carefully examine the evidence to reach an independent conclusion” about the case.

Instead, they wrote, Morrogh appears to have taken his cue from Prince William prosecutors “who were responsible for the misconduct and errors in judgment that left Mr. Wolfe on death row for more than a decade.”

Morrogh did not immediately return a telephone message seeking a response.

The letter was filed along with court papers by Wolfe’s lawyers, Edward Ungvarsky and Kimberly Irving, alleging that Morrogh has been improperly collaborating with Ebert and his aides as he prepares for the retrial. They also say Ebert orchestrated the appointment of Morrogh, his longtime friend, prompting “public concern and loss of confidence in the integrity of court proceedings.”

The Wolfe case exposed a multi-million-dollar drug ring run by young people barely out of high school in the affluent northern Virginia suburbs. Wolfe was convicted based largely on the testimony of Barber, who in 2005 retracted his story that Wolfe hired him to kill Petrole. After a four-day evidentiary hearing, a federal judge found Barber’s recantation credible and ruled that prosecutors improperly suppressed several pieces of evidence.

The key piece of withheld evidence was a report by a detective who flew to California to bring Barber back to Virginia. According to the report, the officer told Barber he might avoid the death penalty if he implicated Wolfe in the slaying. Barber later agreed to plead guilty to first-degree murder and testify against Wolfe in exchange for a life sentence.

Philly DA Scored for Defending Prosecutorial Misconduct Wed, 10/03/2012 -

The recent outrage in Pennsylvania over the scheduled October 3 execution of a man who killed two men who had sexually abused him during his childhood has tarnished the reformer image of Philadelphia DA Seth Williams, exposing him as just another prosecutor willing to trample justice to preserve a death penalty.

When Seth Williams successfully campaigned to become Philadelphia’s top prosecutor a few years ago he used a catchy phrase: “A New Day/A New DA.”

But based on Williams’ recent posturing and positions taken by him, evidence indicates this new DA continues operating in the same old way as his predecessors.

Instead of running his office in accordance with that ‘New Day’ many expected, DA Williams is defending death penalty cases that are stained by prosecutorial misconduct and is pursuing factually bogus charges against victims of police brutality, including one involving a blind man charged with attacking the police who beat him.

The most pronounced example of Williams’ old wine/new bottle stance is his vigorous --and intellectually dishonest -- public relations campaign backing the execution of child-sex abuse victim-turned-murderer Terrance Williams.

A week before the scheduled execution (which was halted by a Philadelphia judge just days before it took place), DA Williams wrote an op-ed article in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which the DA denounced death row inmate Williams for never mentioning his sexual abuse during trial. But putting aside the obvious point that a sex abuse victim might not dare to report such a violation, in his op-ed the DA himself declined to report that prosecutors during that trial had withheld evidence of that very sexual abuse, in the form of police reports about it, from the defense, the court and the jury, in order to enhance the the chances of winning a sentence of death.

The DA’s failure to mention that the prosecution had withheld important mitigating evidence is journalistic misconduct of the same nature as the prosecutorial misconduct he was hiding from readers.
The Philadelphia DA’s Office took a spanking later when, during the same week, a Philadelphia city court judge set aside the death penalty on Terrance Williams and Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons, which had earlier met and denied Williams’ request for clemency, reconvened a clemency hearing in his case.

Terrance Williams was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on October 3 for killing one of his abusers. His death warrant had been signed in September by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett, a Republican former state attorney general who ignored an avalanche of clemency pleas including pleas from former prosecutors, judges, clergy, jurors who convicted Williams and even the wife of one of Williams’ victims, who had informed prosecutors at the time of the trial that her husband had indeed earlier sexually abused his killer.

Corbett, it should be noted, had received criticism for foot-dragging a probe into the Penn State child predator scandal involving now convicted Jerry Sandusky when Corbett served as the state’s attorney general.

The actions by the judge and pardons board in the Terrance Williams case both resulted largely from more evidence of disturbing misconduct by Philly prosecutors -- misconduct which violates ethical rules and court rulings.

The prosecutorial misconduct cited by the judge as the basis for her halting of the execution of inmate Williams occurred over two decades before DA Seth Williams assumed control of that office in January 2010.

However, the prosecutorial misconduct that led to a second Pardons Board hearing occurred during DA Williams’ watch.

The Pardons Board, though, learned there had been a misrepresentation by one of DA Williams’ prosecutors, who reportedly assured Board members considering Williams’ most recent clemency petition that Philly prosecutors had not made a plea deal with Terrance Williams’ co-defendant during Williams’ 1986 murder trial.

But the DA’s office knew, in fact, that just such a deal had been made, because documents in DA files detailed it.

In the legal world, “misrepresentation” is as an assertion “not in accordance” with facts.
In the world of laypersons, “misrepresentation” of this sort is generally called, more bluntly, a lie.
Laypersons and lawyers both understand the often damaging consequences of lies, especially in death penalty cases.

That op-ed article authored by DA Williams mentioned poignently how the daughter of the man whose murder landed inmate Williams on death row opposed clemency, but he omitted all references to a recent campaign by police and prosecutors to force that man’s wife to withdraw her support for clemency -- a campaign which included unannounced evening visits by police to her front door to pressure her.
Prosecutorial misconduct is perhaps the most grievous yet least publicly examined element of systemic lawlessness by law enforcers.

This willful lawbreaking by prosecutors leads to wrongful convictions, imprisonment of innocent people, the failure to pursue real criminals and in the worst instances, executions of the innocent or of those who should never have faced a death penalty.

Jurors in the Terrance Williams case, contacted by his current defense team, have said they would never have sentenced him to death if they had been aware of his earlier sexual abuse by the victim – information prosecutors withheld from jurors, according to defense representations and to the latest judge’s ruling halting the execution.

An article in the Summer 2012 edition of the New York Criminal Law Newsletter labeled prosecutorial misconduct as “something which is learned and taught.”

A now infamous training video showing Philadelphia prosecutors receiving instruction from a DA office supervisor on how to illegal stack juries to obtain convictions especially death penalty cases surfaced in 1990s, leading to the reversal of many convictions. The prosecutor in that video, Jack McMahon, now in private practice, regrets his participation and today is an ardent opponent of capital punishment.

Prosecutorial misconduct is one of the “leading” causes of wrongful convictions according to a 2006 Wisconsin Law Review article.

According to the respected Innocence Project, while honest mistakes cause some wrongful convictions, far too many wrongful convictions arise from the “conviction-at-all-costs” policies adopted by too many prosecutor offices nationwide.

The Innocence Project, which specializes in using DNA to expose wrongful convictions, recently secured the death row release of Damon Thibodeaux in Louisiana. Thibodeaux is the 18th person released from death row due to DNA and the 300th person exonerated by DNA evidence.

The core problem with the kind of prosecutorial misconduct in Philadelphia evident in Terrance Williams’ death penalty case and in those police abuse cases ending in acquittals of the (falsely) accused is that this misconduct fits the same old pattern of Philly prosecutors staunchly defending the indefensible – including fighting to retain tainted convictions, even in capital cases.

Since inmate Williams only seeks conversion his death sentence to life in prison without parole, not prison release, DA Williams is wasting DA office resources appealing. Life–without-parole is considered by many to be the harsh punishment of “walking death,” and those given such sentences can pose no further threat to society.

There’s a decades-long legacy of Philadelphia prosecutors playing fast and loose with facts and fairness in prosecutions ranging from cases of simple disorderly conduct to the super-serious death penalty.

Three of the six persons exonerated and released from Pennsylvania’s death row since the mid-1970s were Philadelphia residents.

And mixed into the matrix of injustice endured by each of those three men was misconduct by prosecutors -- misconduct that included the withholding evidence of innocence from defense attorneys, judges and, of course, jurors.

That trio includes Harold Wilson, whom prosecutors wrongfully put on death row in 1988 by citing as evidence of guilt a bloody shoe print and a blood-stained jacket.

The thing is, that shoe-print size was 8 while Wilson wore/wears a size 13 shoe. And, that blood-stained jacket was much smaller than clothing fitting the tall, heavy-set Wilson.

Post-conviction DNA testing also helped secure Wilson’s 2005 release after he had spent nearly 6,000-days on death row. Wilson has blasted Philadelphia prosecutors for trying to withhold that DNA evidence of his innocence from his defense lawyers.

As long ago as 1978, when Philadelphia DA Seth Williams was 11 years old, a federal judge castigated misconduct by Philly prosecutors as “absolutely incredible.”

That judge leveled his criticism at the conclusion of a trial which convicted six Philly police detectives for outrageous brutality during their investigation of a fatal fire-bombing.

One of the acts angering that judge in 1978 was Philly prosecutors giving immunity to a man who confessed to that fire-bombing. He found that those same prosecutors – only days later – had prosecuted another man for the very same fire-bombing, despite their knowing of his innocence due because of the other man’s confession!

Meanwhile, many members of Philadelphia’s Puerto Rican community remain angered about prosecutorial misconduct underlying the conviction of an alleged murder-rapist in a 1973 case that took place outside of Philadelphia’s world-famous Art Museum.

Prosecutors, using tainted testimony from one alleged participant, secured six convictions, including those of two men later exonerated based on one’s having been in Puerto Rico at the time of the crime and the other having been at a police station reporting a stab wound he had received earlier that day.

That tainted Art Museum rape-murder case testimony came from a man who said police brutally beat him into falsely confessing after he went to them – while high on LSD – to fraudulently claim a reward offered for information about that rape-murder.

Activists currently are seeking the mercy release of an ill and elderly inmate sentenced for that 1973 crime, but they have reportedly received a cold shoulder from DA Williams’ office.

Yes, Philadelphia DA Seth Williams has initiated commendable reforms of prosecutorial practices including some involving death penalty cases.

Yet DA Williams’ public posturing on the Terrance Williams case echoes that of his widely despised predecessor, Lynne Abraham – an avid execution advocate. Williams had assailed the ardent death penalty advocacy of Abraham while campaigning to replace her.

DA Williams is entitled to his dubious opinion that inmate Williams is a brutal murderer who is despicably attempting an orchestrated make-over from villain to victim.

And DA Williams is entitled to his fact-challenged claim that former prosecutor now Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Teresa Sarmina erred in finding prosecutorial misconduct (including suppression of evidence) during that 1986 trial of Terrance Williams when she halted his scheduled execution.

However, DA Williams strains credulity when defending his efforts to have inmate Williams executed as simply an attempt to “preserve the integrity” of the jury’s verdict and sentence. (DA Williams denies “celebrating” the death penalty in his insistence that inmate Williams face execution.)

Where is the integrity in Terrance Williams’ conviction when the reality is that Williams’ inept defense attorney, in a capital case where his client’s life was on the line, only met Williams, then a teen, for the first time one day before the beginning the trial?

A truly “New Day DA” should not be defending the integrity of a conviction arising from lawyer ineffectiveness that constituted an obvious denial of the defendant’s fundamental fair trail rights.
Judge Sarmina found evidence that prosecutorial misconduct had undermined “confidence” in Williams’ guilty verdict.

And where is the “integrity” in DA Williams’ office prosecuting those court-clogging, cost-wasting police abuse cases that recently ended in acquittals?

One of those acquittals involved Darrell Holloway, a legally blind man whom police accused of attacking officers during an August 2011 incident.

Prosecutors did not question the believability of that alleged attack, which police claimed apparently involved Holloway employing super-human radar/sonar through his prosthetic right eye, which enabled him to chase after policemen he couldn’t see.

A cell phone video of that 2011 incident, where eyewitnesses contend police beat Holloway, contains distinctive audio of eyewitnesses telling police that Holloway was blind, including one man who yelled “he’s blind” twenty times during a span of one 71-second interval.

Holloway’s left eye was shot and damaged by the same 2007 shotgun blast to the face that destroyed his right eye.

Holloway, during his trial, removed his prosthetic eye in front of the jury to counter police testimony proclaiming he was not blind, testimony that included sworn assertions from the officer who beat him that he saw Holloway walking without assistance and texting after the 2011 incident.

The other acquittal involved Jeff Hart, a noted Philadelphia radio broadcaster charged by police with disorderly conduct in July 2012 for cursing an officer after that officer ordered Hart to leave the scene of an arrest where Hart said he had seen an officer beat a handcuffed man.

Hart, who denied disobeying the police order, said the arresting officer roughed him up before falsely charging him with using profanity.

Incidentally, federal and state courts have repeatedly held that is it not illegal to verbally abuse a police officer.

Also, courts have repeatedly held that it is illegal for police to use excessive force.

Philadelphia’s Police Department is now rocked by yet another brutality scandal – this one a cell-phone video of a police supervisor viciously punching a woman in the face, knocking her to the ground and then arresting, her despite her appearing to have committed no criminal offense, and posing no threat to the officer.

The major problem with prosecutorial misconduct in Philadelphia and across America is that the offending prosecutors are rarely if ever penalized.

Prosecutors who engage in misconduct endure neither criminal prosecution for their illegal conduct nor even disciplinary proceedings for their unethical activities.

The Pennsylvania court rules on “Special Responsibilities of a Prosecutor” bar prosecutors from bringing charges “not supported by probable cause” and those ethical standards require prosecutors to make “timely disclosure” to the defense of all evidence that “tends to negate the guilt of the accused or mitigates the offense…”

In 2003 Philadelphia authorities paid out $1.9-million to four men wrongfully charged with a mass murder in a case where prosecutors and police had willfully rejected and covered up evidence of the men’s innocence.

In 1996 Philadelphia authorities paid $1.9-million to settle a long-standing prosecution/police misconduct case filed by Neil Ferber, who falsely spent 1,375-days on death row after conviction for a 1981 murder.

Ferber was arrested six month before Mumia Abu-Jamal, the inmate whose internationally-condemned and misconduct-plagued murder conviction is still being strenuously defended by DA Williams, the first black to hold a top prosecutor post in Pennsylvania.

A New Day of prosecutorial integrity, like the one DA Seth Williams pledged while campaigning, demands that prosecutors prosecute illegal acts by prosecutors and police with the same vigor that they prosecute civilian offenders.

Additionally, such a New Day demands that DAs not battle to keep people already convicted in jail or on death row when DAs know that earlier prosecutors have put them there through the use of lies and misconduct.

Evidence is piling up daily that Seth Williams is falling short of being that “New Day/New DA” he promised.

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