Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What happens to those wrongfully convicted once they are freed? 27 states offer restitution – the rest just say “oops…sorry” (Just Another Day In Paradise)

What happens when the wrong guy gets convicted……………

Robert Dewey was 31 years old when he was arrested and convicted of the rape and murder of 19 year old, Jacie Taylor, in Palisade, CO, in 1994 . He received a sentence of “life” in prison. That was in 1996.

Convinced of his innocence, Dewey’s post-conviction attorney, Danyel Joffe, and The Innocence Project worked to secure an exoneration from all charges questioning the evidence used against him – evidence destroyed , mishandled and test results dubiously reported by “experts”.

Dewey was convicted with a list of evidence that was mishandled, misrepresented and misapplied:

1) “DNA evidence” from blood found on a shirt belonging to Dewey was attributed to both Dewey and the victim. A DNA specialist stated, at trial, that evidence linking the blood on Dewey's shirt to Taylor (the victim) — and 45 percent of the Caucasian population — should never have been admitted. It was that sample taken from Mr. Dewey’s shirt, that Attorney Joffe had retested. In original testimony, it was stated the blood was that of the victim, Jacie Taylor, but new DNA testing concluded it belonged to Dewey alone.

2) Dr. Robert Kurtzman performed the autopsy on Taylor's body in 1994. He said he took great pains to preserve a key piece of evidence: fingerprints on the soap inserted into Taylor's vagina. The fingerprint was destroyed while in evidence.

"We'll never know now whose fingerprint that was," said Kurtzman, who still thinks that more than one person might have been involved in Taylor's murder or at least was present for it.

3) Randy Brown, the original defense attorney recalled finding out mid-trial that a bloody handprint found in Taylor's shower actually belonged to an agent for the Colorado Bureau of Investigation.

4) There were questions as to whom the semen found on Taylor's (the victim’s) blanket actually belonged - that remained unsolved for years until it was retested along with other evidence in 2011. New DNA technology revealed a complete DNA profile from that semen and linked it to Thames through the federal CODIS database.

Joffe and The Innocence Project worked to have everything left from the case (that was not lost, tainted or destroyed) retested and found the results nothing like those reported during the trial.

On April 30, 2012, Robert Dewey was exonerated.  Robert Dewey was freed, finally, from his hole, in which he lived for over 6,000 days ……….

"It's really a pretty humbling day for a lot of people involved in the criminal-justice system," District Judge Brian Flynn was quoted as saying in the Denver Post

"Mr. Dewey's case seemed to be one where someone was convicted because a jury wanted to blame someone," His attorney, Danyel Jaffe was quoted as saying.   "How do you set a price on 18 years of someone's life? It's something we're going to look at down the road”

Well let’s look at what Mr. Dewey has facing him today:
  •   Robert Dewey is now 51.
  •  A life sentence does not allow for the normal “rehabilitation” plan provided for prisoners with lesser sentences. He did not get the benefit of job training or “Skills” training.
  •  He has no civil case against the court because there was no prosecutorial misconduct.
  •  He is not eligible for unemployment because his earning years were spent behind bars.
  •  He left prison with a back injury that prevents him from doing many jobs. He needs surgery to remove metal rods and plates that a prison surgeon put in his spine.
  •  No income or job and limited skills – he went in when computers were barely out of DOS and pagers were the tether to the planet. Today it is cell phones (and texting) that are the ties that bind – along with Windows 8, IPods, Notebooks……….
  • He must search for a job while carrying a prison record.
  • He will be subsisting on food stamps and donations from individuals who learned of his plight and have sent him checks for $25 to $100 via his attorney’s office.
  • A civil engineer in CO heard that Dewey had been a motorcyclist (Robert had been known as “Rider” in his “former life”) and donated a motorcycle.
  • He will be living with his new girlfriend - The two met through a pen-pal program about a year ago, began writing every day.
  • Robert has to re-integrate into a society that has left him behind
In Colorado there is no compensation program in place for those wrongfully convicted men and women who are later released. There is no re-integration program into society.   Colorado, like 23 other states basically says, “Sorry” and calls it a wash.

The Innocence Project is working to change that.

The organization works to create programs and laws nationwide that help wrongly convicted men and women to get back on their feet after release.

The Project also works in conjunction with The Innocence Network - the affiliation of organizations dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted and working to redress the causes of wrongful convictions

In Colorado, The Innocence Project assisted in the exoneration of Timothy Masters, a victim of prosecutorial misconduct, who served 9 years for a murder he has always maintained he didn't commit. On January 22, 2008, he was released from prison after a judge approved a motion from prosecutors to vacate his conviction based on DNA evidence that pointed to an ex-boyfriend of the victim.

After the Masters exoneration, The Innocence Project worked with Colorado officials on legislation aimed at improving evidence preservation in the state. If evidence from the crime scene in Masters’ case had not preserved, he would still be in prison. In dozens of other Colorado cases, potentially exculpatory evidence has already been destroyed.

The then Governor Ritter, created the Task Force on the Preservation of Evidence, working with the Innocence Project, to craft legislation and procedures for preservation of evidence.

The Project is also working to pass fair compensation laws in every state – currently there are 27 states and the District of Columbia that have compensation of some form, but even many of these are inadequate.

As part of their work, the Project seeks to provide direct services such as after care and counseling assistance to victims wrongly incarcerated after their release. They are providing Robert Dewey with counseling to assist with re-integration (something the state does not provide and he could not pay for on his own)

As of July 7, Prosecutors in Colorado are already calling for the State government to craft legislation that would compensate Dewey and others who might be wrongly incarcerated in the future. The Colorado District Attorneys' Council is expected to back legislation.

For more information on specific compensation ideas proposed visit:

July 7, 2012, "Prosecutors: Colorado must compensate prisoners freed by DNA evidence", reported by Nancy Lofholm, The Denver Post

Those who would like to assist Mr. Dewey, donations are accepted on his behalf through  

The Joffe Law Firm 
1626 Washington St
Denver, CO  80203 
Tel: (303) 757-6572  
 Cross-posted on FreakOut Nation

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