Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wrongly convicted? You'd better listen!

I'm especially reminded of those words this week. That's what Rubin Hurricane Carter told me back when he and I were working to free the late Maurice Carter. The myth seems to be that all prisoners claim innocence, which is not true. But some protest their innocence the rest of their lives, and those are the ones that we must listen to, according to Rubin.

HFP is not an Innocence Project, but we do try to find help for those inmates who seem to have compelling evidence of a wrongful conviction.

We were heartened in two cases this week.

David, who has claimed innocence from day one and who has now exhausted all court avenues, remains in prison for life. BUT, he and I found a glimmer of hope when a retired state police officer, now on the Parole Board, believed him and recommended that I help in attracting the attention of an innocence project. A retired judge visited him this week, as a volunteer assisting two innocence organizations. After a two hour discussion, he informed him that he completely believed in his innocence!

Tony, who has been telling us that he is innocent since we met him several years ago, is about to be paroled but wanted to prove to his family and friends that he wasn't lying. They were able to put up the money, and we assisted them in retaining the services of a reputable polygraph examiner. Tony informed me this week that the lie detector test was administered in the prison, and he passed with flying colors!

These are just two cases, in the books of a very small organization. I say it's the tip of iceberg.

Before meeting Maurice Carter, I pretty much assumed that when someone was found guilty in America's system of justice. Many years later, I'm skeptical. Our system is badly flawed, and I'm wondering today how many innocent people are sitting behind bars.

We've gotta try harder.

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