Lawmatics-and-The-Innocence-Center-Partner-Up-to-Improve-Access-to-Justice_BLOG-3

Lawmatics and The Innocence Center Partner Up to Improve Access to Justice

Published on December 6, 2023
46 minute read
<a href='https://www.lawmatics.com/blog/author/patrick/'>Patrick Grieve</a>
Written by Patrick Grieve

Last week, our friends at The Innocence Center stopped by our San Diego office to share their mission and educate us on advocating for the innocent. We were joined by:

  • Michael Semanchik, Executive Director of The Innocence Center
  • Jasmin Harris, Director of Public Education and Development at The Innocence Center
  • Kimberly Long, an exoneree who spent over 7 years in prison for a crime she did not commit

Here are some important takeaways from our conversation:

What is The Innocence Center?

The Innocence Center is a non-profit based in San Diego with the mission of freeing innocent people from prison, educating the public on the causes of wrongful convictions, and assisting exonerated individuals with their reentry into society.

At the core of The Innocence Center's approach is a tireless commitment to advocating for justice. They work diligently to investigate claims of wrongful conviction, meticulously examining every detail of a case to uncover evidence that could prove an individual's innocence. With a strong network of legal professionals, volunteers, and experts, The Innocence Center brings together a diverse range of resources and expertise to bolster their effort to right the wrongs of the criminal justice system.

Furthermore, The Innocence Center plays a vital role in educating the public about the causes and consequences of wrongful convictions through various initiatives. By raising awareness and fostering understanding, they aim to create meaningful change in the legal system and ensure that innocent individuals are not unfairly imprisoned.

Each year, The Innocence Center receives 1,500 new requests for services from people who believe they were wrongfully convicted

How many innocent people are in prison?

For many, it may come as a shock to learn that approximately 5% of the people incarcerated in the United States are actually innocent of the crimes they were convicted for. This staggering statistic translates to about 90,000 innocent individuals who are wrongfully incarcerated. The human toll is immeasurable, with over 30,250 years of precious life lost behind bars, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.

How do innocent people end up incarcerated?

Wrongful convictions stem from a variety of factors including:

  • Government misconduct - This refers to instances where law enforcement or other government officials engage in unethical or illegal behavior, such as fabricating evidence, coercing confessions, or withholding exculpatory evidence. Such misconduct can lead to wrongful convictions, as innocent individuals may be wrongfully implicated in crimes they did not commit.
  • Lack of DNA technology - DNA technology has been instrumental in exonerating many wrongfully convicted individuals. However, not all cases have access to DNA evidence. In cases where DNA evidence is unavailable or insufficient, innocent individuals may struggle to prove their innocence, resulting in wrongful convictions.
  • Ineffective assistance of counsel - Adequate legal representation is crucial in ensuring a fair trial. However, some individuals may receive inadequate or incompetent legal representation, leading to wrongful convictions. In such cases, defense attorneys may fail to present crucial evidence, improperly advise their clients, or neglect to conduct thorough investigations.
  • False evidence - False evidence, such as planted or fabricated evidence, can significantly impact the outcome of a trial. This can include false eyewitness testimonies, unreliable forensic evidence, or manipulated crime scene evidence. Innocent individuals may be wrongfully convicted based on such false evidence, further contributing to the miscarriage of justice.
  • Bad eye-witness identifications - Eye-witness identifications can be subjective and prone to error. Factors such as stress, trauma, and racial bias can influence the accuracy of identifications. Innocent individuals may be mistakenly identified as perpetrators, leading to wrongful convictions.
  • Junk science used at trial - In some cases, discredited or flawed scientific methods, such as bite-mark evidence, hair analysis, or arson investigation techniques, have been used as evidence at trial. These unreliable methods have contributed to the wrongful conviction of innocent individuals.

It is important to note that these pressures and factors do not affect everyone equally. The criminal justice system has been found to disproportionately impact certain communities, with wrongful convictions being more prevalent among black Americans. According to the Registry of Exonerations, African-Americans are:

  • 7x more likely to be falsely convicted of serious crimes
  • 7.5x more likely to be falsely convicted of murder
  • 8x more likely to be falsely convicted of sexual assault
  • 19x more likely to be falsely convicted of drug crimes

How can I help?

To help address the issue of wrongful convictions and support the work of The Innocence Center, you can learn more about their mission and contribute to their cause by visiting their website at theinnocencecenter.org. Your support can help free innocent individuals from prison, educate the public on the causes of wrongful convictions, and assist exonerated individuals with their reentry into society.

Presentation Transcript

Michael Semanchik:

Hi everyone. Mike Semanchik. I'm the executive director of the Innocence Center. Thank you all so much for having us today, and thank you to Matt and everybody for giving us access to Lawmatics. So we are in the process of building out our intake process and we're going to be using your products in order to help us streamline how we get to the point where we contribute our resources to cases we think deserve additional investigation and review. And so we're thrilled to have this partnership with you all and we're looking forward to building that out. Today is mostly going to be about education. So the Innocent Center, we have a three part mission. It's free innocent people from prison. It's educating the public on the causes of wrongful convictions and it's assisting our exonerated individuals with their reentry back into society In most cases. I think the average in the United States is an exonerated person spends 16 years in prison for a crime they didn't commit.

And that's quite a long time to be behind bars and in a situation that doesn't allow you to really flourish. And often what happens is when you come home, you're set back quite a way. You haven't had access to friends, family, technology, you've missed out on a lot. That's the reentry aspect for us is really trying to make sure that when we get somebody out that they can flourish on the outside. Jasmine is our director of Public Education and Policy, so she's going to be leading the presentation today. And we have Kimberly Long who spent seven years in prison for a murder she didn't commit. She's here to give her story as well. And so after we make sure we're recording, I think we are, I think got the Zoom notes.

So without further ado, I'll have Jasmine take it away and give the presentation.

Jasmin Harris:

Hi everyone. It's so nice to see you all again. Oh, the dog's excited. Love it. Love it. Yeah. My goal today is really just to ensure that you all know the causes of wrongful convictions, how they happen in our country, so that when you are called to jury duty, you say, yes, I can't wait to go to jury duty and hopefully Matt pays you to go to jury duty and the causes of wrongful conviction. So when you're sitting in that jury box, you can analyze the case with that lens on, right? So I'm going to give you a little background today on that and so you all can understand our process as well, the types of cases we take and the incredible people we get to bring home. Kim actually spent seven years in three months. She'll never let any of us forget that, which is important, and that was after eight years of two different trials.

So we'll get into her case at the end and she'll get to share about her experience. But I'm just going to give you a little background first, just so you have some basic statistics. The current percentage right now that we're all operating off of is 5% of people who are incarcerated in the United States are innocent. That sounds like a low number, but it actually means that there are 90,000 people in this country who don't belong in prison. And this isn't for technicalities, this isn't for sentencing issues. This is a truly innocent person that did not commit this crime is serving time. The way we know these numbers is because of a study that was done on death row of incarcerated people on death row. The interesting thing about this study and what it showed essentially is that there's over a hundred people on death row who are innocent and should not be there. The reason we use this study is because actually death row incarcerated people have attorneys that follow them throughout their entire case until they're exonerated or executed or until their sentence is commuted to a lower sentence. And so as you can imagine, these folks have a much more robust legal team that follows them. And so we know that if only if 4% of these folks are wrongfully incarcerated, the folks who don't have attorneys that follow them throughout their incarceration, there's a much higher rate of wrongful incarceration.

Let's see. This is a resource that we use all the time. This number is actually what I pulled from this morning to make sure it's updated. There have been over 3,400 exonerations in the country and those exonerations equal 30,000 years loss those people have spent in prison. This is a really interesting resource. They gather all the data on wrongful convictions, how they happen, which states have how many they track compensation for exonerated people, things like that. So if you're ever interested, this is a great one to jump into, just the kind of root of where all this started. So the Centurion Ministries is actually the first organization that started doing this work. They were a faith-based organization. They've had 51 exonerations in their time. Shortly after their start was the New York Innocence Project came along. The New York Innocence Project was founded by Barry Check of the OJ Simpson trial and Peter Neufeld, they only started with DNA cases and they trademarked the Innocence Project name. So if you're ever in another state or you hear of other innocence organizations that are called the Innocence Project, they just licensed that name from the New York Innocence Project. We are the Innocence Center. We are part of the Innocence Network, which is essentially all the innocence organizations that do this work in the country. So that's just the distinction. So next slide, Mike are even over our missions, but of course to exonerate innocent people like Kim to educate everybody on the causes of wrongful convictions and then to empower exonerated people once they come home.

Our cases come from all over the place. So of course incarcerated people in California and all over the country know about the work that innocence projects do and innocence organizations do. So those folks write us directly. Family members send us letters. We've had cases where defense investigators, law enforcement agencies, we had a case here in San Diego actually where a law enforcement agent in Oceanside I think was a part of the investigation of the case and said, I don't think we got the right person and I want to help free the person who was wrongfully convicted. So we do work with law enforcement occasionally, and then I have prosecutors on here because oftentimes you see conviction integrity units or conviction review units that pop up in district attorney offices. There's a spectrum as far as the work that they get done. Sometimes it's just a cool electable platform that elected officials will say that they're doing some actually work really well and work with US innocence organizations in trying to get these convictions reversed. Next slide.

This is, I'm sure Kim will understand what this is all about. This is a picture of all of the mail that comes in. This was probably a couple weeks worth of mail at our peak. We were getting 1500 new requests for services a year, which looks like the 6,000 pieces of mail a year. So just a lot to go through and weed through. But when we are waiting through that, we're looking for this certain criteria for us. Right now at the Innocence Center, we're focused on California. We have plans to roll out to other states across the country. We have a lot of California cases right now. That's why we're kind of sticking with that for now. When somebody goes to trial and they are convicted, they're actually afforded a natural appeal. An appellate lawyer will look at your case and make sure that your constitutional rights weren't violated during your case.

And so that appellate attorney is not looking for evidence of innocence. They're not trying to prove your innocence. They're just trying to make sure you had a fair trial. But your appeal, that appeal could make it so that your conviction is reversed. So oftentimes we don't want to get involved in a case until that appeal is finished. There been some occasions where we've gotten involved in a case before the appeal was finished if there was so much compelling evidence of innocence. When we talk about Kim's case, you'll learn her appellate attorney when reading her case was so impacted by what she had read, that she was essentially knocking down our door to take Kim's case. So we'll get involved earlier on if we need to. And then oftentimes there has to be a legal avenue of relief. So in California, there are certain standards we have to use to get somebody's conviction reversed. We have created many of those standards. Legislatively, we will hit roadblocks in our case, and when that happens, we'll then go and change the law and I'll give you some examples down the road to get that person to come home. Next slide.

We get this question all the time. Of course. How do our clients end up in prison? This is America. This is the best criminal legal system in the world, and there are actually a lot of reasons why people end up in incarcerated wrongfully. This is just some of the causes we're going to talk about today. I just want to point out a couple things in here before we move on. So government misconduct is now the leading cause of wrongful convictions in the country. There was a new report that came out by the Registry of Exonerations incredible report that I can share if anybody wants it, but essentially says, government misconduct, meaning law enforcement and prosecutor misconduct is the leading cause of wrongful convictions. We'll go through some of these other causes when we look at some of the cases we've had. I just want to point out at the bottom there, I'm not being flippant about being black.

There was an incredible report that came out last year by the Registry of Exonerations. Mike, if you go to the next slide that identified all of these facts, which to me are just appalling. Black Americans are seven times more likely than white Americans to be falsely convicted of serious crimes, seven and a half times more likely in murder, eight times in sexual assault cases, and 19 times more in drug cases. So there are a lot of reasons why people get wrongfully convicted. Bad eyewitness identifications is also one of 'em. I'm going to give you a couple examples as to how this happens so easily when we think about the way that we see things and then are able to call and remember them later. I want to think that I'm giving this speech right now, and I'm going to remember that you're wearing a matic hat and you're sitting next to this woman here with the turtleneck.

It just doesn't work like that as much as we want it to. And in fact, our brains play tricks on us all the time. Here's a couple tricks to see. Do you all see a pink dot moving in a circle on this? So if you can see from the PowerPoint, this is just an image. So that's your eyes doing that, your eyes and your brain doing that to you. Next one, Mike. This one probably looks like the circles are moving in circles. This is just an image, so it's not a video. And then the next one is my favorite. Actually, this one just shows you how innocuous, how easy. No way, no way. I will never not see gold and white. I'll never not see gold and white

Crazy. But to use this as an example, right? So we're all here in this wonderful room. We feel safe. We're in UTC. It's well lit if somebody, a well-dressed woman runs in here and steals Mike's laptop off the table and runs out, and law enforcement comes immediately in and says, you all are witnesses. Tell me what you saw. Half of us are going to say, go get a woman in a white and gold dress, and half of us are going to be crazy and say, go get a black and blue dress girl, or whatever it is that other people see. So you can see just how this is innocuous. We're safe. We don't have a weapon in our face. There's nothing that would really distract us from that, but we're already giving conflicting reports. Right? Next slide, Mike.

So I want to get into some of the cases so you can see how these causes of wrongful convictions actually happen. We're going to talk about a case. Uriah Courtney. He's a wonderful guy. San Diego guy, spent nine years in for a sexual assault. He didn't commit. His case is kind of the perfect storm of wrongful convictions. We like to say he had a bunch of factors worked into his case. To give you a little bit of background, there was a sexual assault that occurred. This is Spring Valley, that's the 94 freeway and that's Spring Valley there. That Home Depot is right there. There was a young woman walking home from her friend's house. She remembers as she's walking down the street, she remembers that there is a white pickup truck with a camper shell. It's kind of dirty. That drives by her, and the person kind of gave her a dirty look.

A few minutes later, she is attacked and pulled off of the sidewalk and into the bushes. This person attempts to sexually assault her. She actually gets away from the person. He grabs her again, attempts to sexually assault her. She gets away again, gets into essentially oncoming traffic, flags down a passerby, goes right to law enforcement and said, here's what happened to me. There was no actual sexual penetration that happened. The person tried to penetrate her with his fingers. So just keep that in mind for later. So our victim goes to law enforcement and says, essentially all I know, all I saw was that the person had light hair and a goatee. He didn't have earrings. And I remember this truck, this white truck with the camper shell. And so these are the drawings that are done. These are done by the victim. Of course, she's trying to do the best that she can. This information was used to try to catch the perpetrator. So if you can go back, one slide, Mike, sorry.

So this white pickup truck that you see in the picture here belongs to our client's stepdad. His stepdad's name is Rick. He's a wonderful man. They live in Imperial Beach. That's where this truck lives for the most part. A neighbor calls and says, I saw this truck drawing on the news. I think it's you want to go check out my neighbor? They go talk to Rick. Rick's an older guy, doesn't match the description at all, and they just say, do you have another person that lives in this house with you? Who else is here who has access to this truck? He says, oh yes, I have a stepson. They see Uriah, he looks similar to the suspect. And so they pull him in on this charge. He had a previous drug charge, so they pull him in on this sexual assault. He has an alibi.

He worked with his stepdad and he was working at the post office in Point Loma at the time. But prosecution said he must've gotten away from work, did the sexual assault came back, dad's covering for him, obviously, and that's how he was able to pull this off. So when law enforcement has a suspect that they believe is involved in a crime, they'll put together what used to be a six pack lineup. If you want to go two more, Mike, we since have changed the law. I'll tell you a little bit about that. But at the time, we were still doing six pack lineups in this way where essentially law enforcement would put their suspect with other folks in a lineup and ask the victim to choose who they think did this crime. So if all you can remember from your assault is the person had light hair and a goatee, who do you think you would choose from this lineup?

You could see obviously, right? You could see 1, 2, 5, no goatee, no anything like that. So you can automatically take those people out and then you're kind of stuck with three, six, and four, but obviously it's not as close. So at the time of the identification, the victim said that she was 40% sure of her identification of our client, Uriah Courtney. By the time she got to trial, she said she was a hundred percent sure. This makes complete sense when you think about what happens after this identification. So we weren't in the room with this victim, with these law enforcement agents. We don't know if there was any kind of encouragement as to it could even be very subtle if a law enforcement agent knows who the suspect is and that suspect is then chosen, A law enforcement agent might even do something like this, and immediately that person is confirmed, I picked the right person.

Then this face goes out into the news. It's in the newspaper, it's on tv. This person is now this suspect that is going to trial on this sexual assault. And so every time that victim sees this image, and that's being confirmed for her. So by the time she gets to trial, she says she's a hundred percent sure, go ahead. When we got the case, we have many brilliant lawyers in our office, but one of our brilliant lawyers, Alyssa, who's actually off to be a judge in about three days, she read in the police report that as the person was trying to sexually assault her, that he had arrested his face on her chest and had grabbed at her skirt at the time of the actual assault. Law enforcement did a rape kit. But like I said, there wasn't actual that kind of sexual assault that happened, but Alyssa thought it would be smart for us to do skin cell DNA testing on both the shirt here and the skirt.

So we did DNA testing in the case. Next slide, Mike, just one little caveat about DNA testing. So I think most people see in on tv, right? You have a really great investigator who gets ahold of the exhibits and the evidence box and pulls out a cigarette butt that's never been tested, runs it down to the lab, and they get results. In California, that's not how it happens at all. In fact, you have to petition the courts to see, you have to petition the other side to see if the information or exhibits even still exist. And then you then have to petition the courts to see if you can do any kind of biological testing on those materials, depending on the county, some counties will work with us directly and will allow us to figure out what exists and then actually do the testing. Some counties do not, and so it can be years to get access to DNA testing.

The other thing you have to petition for is to ask essentially if that DNA that you've from these results can be uploaded into the national database, which is called codis. And in your I case, we got a in CODIS for this guy, we do one more click who looks a lot like our guy, unfortunately. So in your IAS case, you can see the victim wasn't too far off. They look incredibly similar to each other, especially if you didn't get a good look at the person. The difficult part in this case is that person is still out in the world doing God only knows what I think the last we heard he was in Washington, was never prosecuted for this crime after Uriah was exonerated. I think we have a picture of him hugging his parents when he came home. You can't even tell, but they released him without a shirt on.

That's how they treat incarcerated people in this state. That's his stepdad wreck and his mom, Mary, who stood by him the whole time. Of course, one thing I'd just like to highlight for folks is when we talk about these legislative changes that we make, it also goes to preventing wrongful convictions from happening in the first place. So we know that bad eyewitness identification is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions. We see it in a lot of our cases. And so here in California, we took that information, we took all those client stories to the capitol, and we put it together with research and data and methodology, and we changed a law to make it that all law enforcement agents in California have to do their eyewitness identification procedures based on scientific methods, not just, Hey, are you sure it's not this guy? Are you sure it's not?

Number four, the whole procedure has to be blinded. So like I said, none of those subtle cues could even happen. You have to use proper fillers. So like with Uriah case, if they say they have light hair and a goatee, everyone should have light hair and a goatee. The witness has to be told that the person might not be in the lineup. And if you don't pick somebody that doesn't end the investigation, because you can imagine they have pressure on them to do that. And then you have to get a confident statement from people in their own words, and the whole procedure has to be recorded, which was crazy. It's crazy that we got that, but so now they're all recorded. So defense attorneys can see how this procedure went down just to do a little tangent about policy work. So we do all of our policy work, our legislative work as a coalition with the other innocence organizations in the state. Next slide. And I really just wanted to show this picture of Kim testifying in the Senate, but like I said, we work to prevent wrongful convictions. We create avenues of relief to bring people home. And then of course, we want to support our exonerated people once they come home. That was Kim testifying on Senate Bill 97. She killed it. Bill got signed by the governor just two months ago.

So ineffective assistance and counsel, another cause that we see in our cases. Essentially this means your lawyer didn't do a proper job. They were ineffective. An example of that is the Raphael Madrigal case. He spent nine years in for a drive-by shooting. He had nothing to do with, he was at work at the time. He had an alibi. His managers testified for him saying he was at work. What we were able to uncover in this case, first of all, was the actual perpetrators, which tends to be where a lot of these cases are going. Unfortunately, prosecutors are relying on us to solve the crime, which really it should just be us proving our person didn't do it. It's your job to figure out who did actually do it. Mike had a case. Horace Roberts spent 20 years in. Mike solved the freaking murder. He had to give that information to the prosecutor to even get them to release his guy after 20 years.

Raphael, similar case. We found the actual perpetrators, and then in Raphael's case, we were able to prove, because he still works, works now again, back at a factory that makes boxes. And he was the only guy on the factory line that could use this certain piece of machinery. And so we were able to look at production logs to show that the product had been made. And the only way that could have happened is because Raphael was there at the time of the shooting. So we raised that plus the actual perpetrators in his case, and were able to bring him home.

Government misconduct, like we talked about now, a leading cause of wrongful convictions. One of the cases out of our office where although we did next slide, although we did DNA testing in this case, it was after Mr. Handline had spent 36 years for a murder he didn't commit. We did DNA testing in the case. It exonerated him. At the time. As we were doing all this investigation, we found an incredible amount of government misconduct. This, of course, was in the seventies. He got out in 2015. I think it was 2014. So things were a little different. But one of our attorneys found information of sealed reports, essentially other people calling law enforcement saying, I know who did this murder. It was this person. But those reports were all sealed because they wanted to protect a confidential informant. And so what was discovered was that there were these meetings between the detective on the case, the prosecutor and the judge, not including the defense at all, and all of that was sealed, but we were able to get access to that. But again, we got his conviction reversed with DNA. But just to show you how crazy it can get.

I hope this video works.

Speaker 4:

Today is the day we are finally getting the first of the California 12 out of prison.

Speaker 5:

All

Speaker 6:

Right, here we go. Walk out these doors now. There. It's outside. What are you feeling? Just keep walking.

Speaker 7:

Oh my. It's kind of hard. It, this feels like I'm on the front of a rocket ship going through

Speaker 6:

Space. Yeah, unchartered territory.

Speaker 7:

Yeah, just an incredible rush. It doesn't seem, I guess actually real yet.

Speaker 6:

They showed on tv.

Speaker 7:

They had the bacon on it. What'd they call

Speaker 6:

It? The mile high. The mile high. Right there. Where? Mile high. The mile high Bacon cheeseburger. Okay. Yeah, I want one there, please. You want to make it to a combo today? Yeah, make it a combo. Medium, large fries and drink. You want fries and drink? Sure. You want to make that to a medium 'em a large or you want small? Make it a large, a third or half pound. Half pound. Half pound. Just go as big as they go. Okay. Enjoy your first day. You can do a Carl's Junior commercial. He could.

Speaker 8:

That's what meat tastes, huh? The commercial does it justice.

Jasmin Harris:

But that was Mr. Hanlin coming home after 36 years, I think watching that video. Oh, no. I think watching that video brings up a couple of things for all of us, right? You can see how bewildered he is by the choices that he has to make because when you're incarcerated, they tell you what to wear. They tell you when to go to sleep, they tell you what you're going to eat. And so even just deciding what kind of burger he should have or if he should get a soda or fries or whatever, he's just completely overwhelmed. And I just think that video kind of captures that. Although it's incredible, beautiful video. I think it just captures that first moment of people coming home and really that being the start of their journey. And Kim will get to share a little bit more about that. Just a couple other causes of wrongful convictions before we get into Kim's story.

So we call it junk science in our office, but essentially it's forensic sciences that have been used over the last few decades that we now know are totally debunk or aren't sciences at all. Sadly, a few of these sciences are shaken baby syndrome. It's actually called abusive head trauma now. And the idea behind this was there was this theory that was going around in the nineties that somebody said, if parents get so frustrated with their children, they will shake them to death. And if a child shows up in an emergency room or a doctor's office that has this triad of symptoms, that that must have been what happened, and there's no other explanation. A parent must have gotten frustrated, shaken their child, and they either passed away or they get very ill from it. This theory was used as to prosecute thousands of caretakers, parents, aunts, uncles, all over the world.

And what we know now is that that triad of symptoms comes from the most innocuous things. Most prevalent is shortfall a child on a playground equipment or a high chair and falling out and hitting their head. Then they get that triad of symptoms. So you can imagine if you're a parent, your child is at the playground, they fall off playground equipment, then they're not feeling well. You take 'em to the doctors and you say, oh my gosh, my child, I feel so bad. They fell off playground equipment, or They hurt themselves. You're halfway to a conviction because pediatricians have been trained that if a child shows up with any kind of bruising like that, that the parents should be looked into immediately. This was the case with Mr. Allen Jimenez. He spent 24 years in for the murder of his own daughter. His daughter, Priscilla, was born very ill.

She was sick from the day she was born. She was having an episode, she was vomiting. He took her to the hospital. She passed away the next day, and they prosecuted her for her murder saying that he had shaken her to death with Mr. Jimenez's case. One of the things I like to point out, once we decide that somebody is innocent and we bring them on as a client, we never abandon them, and we lose a lot in the course. It happens. Sometimes we have to go change the law, sometimes we just lose. But with our clients, we stick by them. So with Mr. Jimenez, we helped him with his parole. He actually came out on parole. We helped them get through all the hoops you have to jump through for parole, and now he's actually free. And there's a statute now in California law that says you can try to get your conviction reversed after you've been released from prison. So some of our clients will actually go back and then help them get their name finally cleared, even if they're released on parole. Next slide.

Forensic odontology or bite mark evidence is another junk science. For a long time, people thought that dentists would be able to look at someone's body or look at a picture of somebody's body and compare a teeth mark impression on their skin to the dentition of someone's teeth. An example of how one of these cases goes haywire is Mr. Bill Richards. He spent 23 years in for the murder of his own wife. Let's do the next slide. I have a couple slides like this where it's kind of like, oh, no, yay. Oh no, yay. Oh no, yay. Because this is the life that our exonerated people have to go through. Mr. Bill Richards is not any different. So he had four different trials before he was convicted. In his fourth trial, the prosecution called a bite mark evidence expert, essentially a dentist who said that by looking at a picture of his wife's hand, thinking that that was a bite mark and looking at bill's teeth that it matched bill to this ridiculous data 0.1 in 3 million or whatever he was convicted, went to prison.

In 2009, we found the actual expert. That expert not only recanted his own testimony in the case, but said Biomark evidence should not be used in criminal courts. And as a forensic science, we took all that to the court, said, here's all this information. Court said, great, bill, you're innocent. But he wasn't released. The prosecutors found a loophole in California law that said, expert witnesses can't recant their testimony, but like a lay witness could. So if I said, I think Bill did this and I'm a credible witness, and then I come back 23 years later and say, Ooh, it wasn't Bill, it was Matt, and I'm credible. That could be grounds for reversal in a retrial. But what the DA found is that because of the way the law was written, that that didn't apply to expert witnesses. So then first we went and appealed to the court. Of course, we went all the way to the Supreme Court. We lost. So six years later, we went and got to change the law. We finally did that. And then Bill was released in 2016. So you can just see, I mean, he had already been in for 17 years, and then he gets a little bit of hope here, lost have to change the freaking law to get this person out. And then he is finally released in 2016.

And then the last cause of wrongful convictions that we're talking about today is false evidence. This issue was highlighted in a movie called the Brian Banks movie. I hope you all watch it. Mike and I are in it.

You can see our little cameos as law students. But the film is based on our client Brian Banks. He was a rising football star. He was a high school student, and he was wrongfully convicted of sexually assaulting another student. He spent five years in prison. He was then released, but had to register as a sex offender. So he came to us and essentially said, I assault a register. I'm under supervision. And also the alleged victim, he had to register as a sex offender. And also the alleged victim had reached out to him and said, I think my slides are out of order. Will you go one more? Yeah. The alleged victim reached out to him and said to him on Facebook like, Hey, let's just be friends. Let's let bygones be bygones. I got $2 million because she was able to sue the school district for it being an unsafe educational environment.

And he, of course was like, what the hell? What are you talking about? He did a recording. Unfortunately, we couldn't actually use it. He can't record people in California without their permission. And she admits that he did not rape her. He did not kidnap her. So Mike was the investigator on this case, did a lot on this case, but was able to take all that information to the prosecutor and worked with them to get the conviction reversed. That's the movie. Please go see it. That's the day. That's the moment. They said he was exonerated. I'm going to come back to this. If we have time, go to Kim's, which is probably like, so I'm just going to set up a little bit of Kim's case. This is Kim in the middle. This is Kim right here. Why don't you come up here? This is Kim. Really long. She spent seven years in three months.

Jasmin Harris:

A little disclosure. Kim and I are very good friends, so we do get a little emotional in these things, but I was just a baby intern and she was in prison, and she would call, and we became friends that way, and we just have a very close relationship. So I'm going to tell you a little bit about Kim's case, and then I'm going to go over some of the details. Mike, do you want to go to the next slide just to have it up? So Kim was wrongfully convicted of the murder of her partner. They lived in the same home. They had been out together all day. It was kind of like a Sunday fun day thing. He had gone home. She stayed out. When she came home, he had been brutally murdered in their home. It was incredibly bloody crime scene. When she came home, she called law enforcement right away. They came right away. She thought that she did everything that she was supposed to do. Little did she know at that time that they were beginning to suspect her for this murder.

Ozzy unfortunately was killed in a way. Like I said, it was a very brutal crime scene. There was blood everywhere in the room. The person who did this crime had to have blood on them somewhere. When Kim was taken to the police station, she had no blood on her. Obviously. She was still wearing the same clothes that she had been wearing throughout the whole day. The prosecution cobbled together this insane theory. In the first trial, she actually got a hung jury, nine to three. In the second trial, she was convicted. The prosecution's theory was that Kim must have come home, murdered Ozzy got rid of the murder weapon by driving it away because it's never been found. Cleaned herself off by dipping herself in a jacuzzi and drying herself off with toilet paper, staged a robbery all in a 50 minute window, not even an hour.

They didn't call a time of death. Her attorney didn't call a time of death expert. It was just a total mess. And the jury convicted her. The judge said at the time of trial, when the jury came back that had I been able to decide this case, I would've found you not guilty. And this is a tough ass judge in Riverside County that was not pulling any punches. That judge let her stay out on bail while she appealed her case, also unheard of on a lower bail. She spent eight years, essentially of trials and appeals. And in 20, when did you have to turn yourself in? 2009. 2009. She had to turn herself in.

When we got her case, we did DNA testing. In this case, we were able to prove. So the information about her wearing the same clothes the whole day and being able to show that. Of course, if she was wearing those clothes, she wouldn't have been able to clean herself off in that way that clothes had. The clothes hadn't actually been confirmed. There was a witness who testified at the preliminary hearing saying that she was wearing this certain outfit. That person then got hit by a trash truck weeks later and couldn't actually testify. So when we got copies of the pictures of the clothes that she was wearing, we were able to raise that as well. Honestly, people, there's no way she could have done this and cleaned herself off and all this crazy stuff. So we packaged all that up a habeas. We had an evidentiary hearing in her case.

It was a whole week. It was the same judge that heard her original trial, essentially came out of retirement to do her evidentiary hearing and said, your conviction is reversed. You should be a free person. The DA stood up immediately and said, I'm appealing this decision. They took it to the Court of appeal. She lost in the Court of appeal. She could have gone back to prison at that time. The judge let her stay out during that time. She's, of course trying to put her life back together and get her nurse. She was a nurse before she went away. She has two children. She's very close with her parents. We went in front of the nursing board and they said that she had not been rehabilitated from a crime. She didn't commit to get her nursing license back. We finally won in the Supreme Court in 2021, but the DA then said, I'm going to prosecute you.

They reinvestigated her for six months or so into 2022, and they finally dropped the charges in 2022. The good news is she did return to school and reinvented herself. She became an EMT just a little while ago. And then as part of the Innocence Center work, we try to help people get back on their feet in ways that are meaningful to them. She wanted to get her nursing license back. We partnered with a large firm, Cooley, who's right around here in this area. Thank you, Cooley. And she just recently was reinstated to be a nurse again.

So now I'm hoping Kim will share a little bit about her experience.

Kimberly Long:

Okay. So hello, my name is Kimberly Long. I did spend close to eight years in prison for a crime I didn't commit, and I always try to figure out what my audience looks like. It just really depends on where we're giving presentations to. And I'm just really excited that you guys allowed me to come here, that you guys are willing to just listen for just a tadd bit longer. I'm a quick speaker. I have a DD. So my attention span goes really quick. I don't know how you guys are, but I'll make this super fast in a way. So thank you for your attention. And I am grateful for the Innocence projects that helped to get me home. I think the procedure would've been a little bit quicker if we had the technology that I think we have now. Everything is pen and paper back then, which as a nurse I really liked though.

I have to tell you, technology now for me is a little bit difficult. I'm not used to it. Even my iPhone, I have to hand to my 25-year-old son and say, fix it. But I think the procedure would've been a lot quicker. I think I would've been able to come home maybe a little bit quicker if the process was a little bit more quicker. So I did spend a lot of time trying to reinvent myself. Once I came home, it was definitely difficult to try to figure out which direction I was supposed to go in when the nursing board didn't want to give me my license back. And it took a lot of just persevering through every little step I took, there was always an issue. There was always an uphill battle there. And I was grateful that I was able to go to school and become an EMT to try to help, to suffice the board, to allow me to continue with my nursing education, which is kind of cool. I actually work down the street over, I take patients to the Stimu lab over there when they have stim, so a cath lab. So I'm hoping to come by here actually in the ambulance and hit up your coffee

If you don't mind, because that's really impressive. So if I go by, I'll just boop boop and come in. But I am grateful that the project has definitely helped me to get these extra things going in my life. If it wasn't for Jasmine helping me through all these other little steps that I just can't put one foot in front of the other sometimes because sometimes it's just very overwhelming for me. I don't think I would've gotten as far as what I did. And when I look out, I just see everybody as potential jurors. And I remember before this happened to me, me and my dad would be talking, and honestly, we felt if you got arrested, then you must've did something wrong. And I really didn't have a lot of sympathy whatsoever. And then all of a sudden I got arrested for something I didn't do, and my mind is just completely changed at this point.

It can happen. It can happen to anybody in here. You can be wrongfully convicted and you can spend time in prison for something that you didn't do. It happens. And I'm a perfect example of that happening. I was 27 years old when it happened. My kids were five and 10. And when it was finally over, I was 46 and my kids were graduated from high school and college. So I missed out on all of that. So I'm really hoping that you guys hear a little bit today, something that sits with you, and that you become just as passionate as I am, and we are about this project and help out in any way that you can and know that if you do get that jury summons, go to it. Go do your duty. And if you don't want you, just use my name. They'll kick you right out.

Just go. Just go. Because you know what? You will make a big difference. You will make a difference. They actually summoned me. I got kicked out. I got kicked out. I thought I was going to go to jail. I had to call my lawyers. But anyways, I don't have much else to give you guys. If you guys have questions, please ask. But I just really hope that you guys hear something today that will sit with you. And that's all I got. That's it.

Jasmin Harris:

She loves questions though. We both love questions. I think that's what's next. Mike, just this question. So if anybody has questions for me or Kim or Mike,

Question:

Do people who are exonerated get their rights back?

Jasmin Harris:

They get 'em back. But it's a battle, just like Kim was referring to. It's really interesting in California. So your conviction can be reversed. Two things. When your conviction is reversed, you aren't acquitted of that crime, so you can always be prosecuted, right? That's really difficult. So Kim knows this isn't a surprise, should it be prosecuted at any time? There's no statute of limitations on murder. So first of all, that holds over people's heads for their lives. Of course, when your conviction is reversed, you don't automatically get your entire record cleared. So there are times where if you want to register to vote, if you want to buy a gun, if you want to do anything, really reestablish your credit. There's so many things like that that we just kind of take for granted every day that are a battle for people who are wrongfully convicted. There is a way in California that you can get your record cleared. It's just a really, really high standard, and it's another process of litigation. And so oftentimes if clients, especially clients who aren't represented by an organization that do this work, if it's a single practitioner or if they do it on their own, they have no help. And so we do try to help folks when we learn about their cases and things like that to do it. But it's tough. It's a battle.

Kimberly Long:

I did have to fight for it all, but I did. The first thing I did is I registered to vote and I got my gun rights back. But that was a battle. I have to go to a private seller. What else was it? I'm just getting my nursing license back. So first it was, have you ever been convicted of a felony? And I don't want to lie, but once I got that cleared up, then it was, have you ever had a professional license revoked? I was all damnit. I got one. So then now I have to check that box. And so everything I do is a process. I graduated from EMT school, but then I had to wait seven months to test because I had to get a lawyer to help me out with it. And same thing with the nursing board, but I'm getting ready to test. So whatever.

Question:

What other junk sciences are you hoping get debunked?

Jasmin Harris:

I mean, there are so much more than that as well. So arson is a big one. The way that we understood, we understand intentional fires and accidental fires is completely different than the way we did 20 years ago. There's a book by Ed Hues, it's called Burn. It's about one of our clients named Joanne Parks. Incredible read touches on all that science. So we do see a lot of arson cases coming up. One of the attorneys in our office, Raquel, is an arson expert lawyer. So she helps on arson cases specifically, and she has an incredible grasp of the science and the way that it's changed. So that's one of the things that we do at the Innocence Center as well. We have expert attorneys that then will go help other attorneys across the country on these types, cases that they know their stuff about. The newest thing, that's not really junk science, but that's been an emerging thing that we've been using in criminal cases, is the genetic genealogy stuff. So if you learned about the Golden State Killer and how they caught him, it was like they had the DNA of his uncle or something, and then they were able to figure out it was him. So that's becoming pretty prevalent in our cases as well.

Michael Semanchik:

Comparative sciences. So the ballistics where you look at the, I'll see you guys see me. So when somebody fires a bullet, the hammer comes down and hits the back of the bullet, leaves an imprint on the back of it. And for the longest time they've said, oh, well gun the same, gun fired two different bullets. So you can go and pull a bullet from one crime scene and from another and make the claim that it came from the same gun. And we know now that guns don't always leave the same imprint, number one. And so if it's shifting over time, then there's a problem there. But also we know that we don't have a database of all of the imprints that every gun in the world could leave behind. So there's no way to build statistics to say that this is for sure a badge.

Same is true for fingerprints. Actually. There's a famous case out of Spain from 2004, Spanish train bombing where the FBI was absolutely sure that this guy out of Seattle had done the Spanish train bombing. They said, look, we've got this fingerprint. It's a match. Here's your guy. Spanish authorities kept investigating and actually found the true perpetrator who was not the American out of Seattle. It was a guy I believe out of Egypt who had committed the crime. And so even fingerprints, which is I think the first forensic science discipline ever used in a criminal case is under a lot of fire. So all of those sciences are really a thing that we're kind of battling back on right now. They used to think too microscopic hair comparison was an option they would use in cases. So they'd take a hair from a scene of a crime and from a suspect look under a microscope and say, these are the same. But the truth is different. If you pull hair from the front of your head and from the back, it might look entirely different than our microscope. So there's a lot of problems that when you're watching CSI and you see them do these fiber comparisons from a sweater, that was it. And then I'm sorry, but that is just complete bs. So when you know that going into your jury service that you're going to have experts up there that are going to be saying things that maybe you shouldn't be trusting.

Question:

When they're doing the lineup, you're saying that the law is changed to videotape that?

Jasmin Harris:

Oh yeah. Yeah. Big one. I know with camera phones and body cams and all that stuff, it seems like it's kind of a No. I mean, it took us eight years to get it passed in California, and California is supposed to be kind of a more progressive when it comes to criminal legal reform. Yeah, I would guess that maybe like 10 other states have a law like that. Ours was essentially model policy, and ours was enacted. Well, it passed in 2018, and then it was implemented in 2020. And so since then, we've seen some states adopt it, but not many.

Michael Semanchik:

The interesting thing on that though is the law says that law enforcement shall follow these procedures, and they're still not. So there's a report coming out soon from the California agencies that are not following the law of the past. So you can tell 'em and you can just pass a law that tells them exactly what to do, but they're still doing it. Yeah.

Question:

If they don't follow it, does that mean that that might be inadmissible?

Jasmin Harris:

It's not inadmissible, but the defense attorney could use it against them in court essentially. Here's how you're supposed to do it. Why didn't you do it this way? Why don't we have a recording, right? And kind of degrade that testimony in front of the jury. It's hard in California to get stuff, get a law passed that makes something admissible because that was passed by a proposition. And in order to do that, you have to get a two thirds vote. And we haven't had, the criminal legal reform hasn't had the two thirds vote for about 10 years

Question:

Do you also go and file things against people who put them in there for that wrong cause?

Jasmin Harris:

That is a great question. So in about a third of the cases, these individuals will have civil rights claims. And so what it all comes down to is prosecutors have absolute immunity, which means no matter what they do, that's wrong. They can never be sued civilly, ever. And that's just the law of the land. That's the US Supreme Court saying that I don't know of another profession where you're not held accountable for wrongdoing. And the problem really is that if the police do something wrong and the prosecution finds out about it, then they're basically covered. The prosecution gives them cover, so there's no civil rights claim. So what you need is a very special case where a cop does something very wrong and doesn't tell the DA that they did something very wrong, and then you have a chance at a civil rights plan. So it's very strange.

We go to an annual innocence conference every year, and I think at this point there's several hundred exonerated and free people that are there. Some of them are very lucky because maybe about a quarter to a third of them have the ability to sue the government for the wrongdoing, but three quarters probably don't and will at best get a state compensation claim, which in California is about 50 KA year. But that's the extent of what they might get back for everything that we've done to take away from their life. So in our office, what we're doing is, so we're a nonprofit and we're going to form a for-profit entity to go after the cops and really try to change this system. What's really unfortunate is a law review article came out in May of this year that the entire absolute immunity was a clerk's error in the 18 hundreds, and the Supreme Courts just hung their hat on it.

So we need to make a change there, and we want to hold prosecutors accountable for what they're doing wrong. We think that the best way to do that is to find some really qualified civil lawyers and go after them. So that's the plan.

Question:

Kim, just curious, kind of the mentality. Seven years is a long time and you're in there and only you at that point know for sure that you didn't do it. Were you of that mentality that you know didn't do it and you were going to go through the steps you need to, this will get resolved? Or do you ever get to that point where you're just like, I'm screwed?

Kimberly Long:

No, I knew I was going to get out once I got in there. I was like, oh my God. I remember calling my mom and I'm like, does the Innocence Project know I'm here? Are they coming to get me right now? It happened. I'm in prison. Somebody come get me. Literally, it was a conversation, are they coming? And reality sudden that it wasn't that easy. But I was there in oh nine and then they took my case in 2010, so just about a year later, and I woke up every day knowing that I had somebody out there fighting for me. Even though we heard no for so many years, I still knew I was coming home. I just didn't know how long it was going to take me to get there. But I don't know where that comes from. I have a higher power or what it is, but I'm just super tough and resilient like that. I wasn't going to die there because they gave me life, which means forever. And when I went to prison, they weren't letting people out on parole that had life. So I was going to dead and a pine box is what I always say. So I really had uphill climb.

Question:

Were you life without parole?

Kimberly Long:

No, I was 15 to life. But even people that had five to life weren't going home and they'd been there for 30 something years. So now they do. Now that they have another governor in there that's letting people out, it's a lot easier. People have done 30 years. They have changed for the most part. I mean, they let Leslie out, the Manson girl, so now it happens. But when I was in, they weren't letting anybody out, but I knew I was coming home. If I didn't have them, I don't know how I would've felt, but that wasn't my case. I did have them, and I'm grateful.

Jasmin Harris:

She's being very modest too, because while she was in, she led AA meetings. She was an AA sponsor. She trained all the women in the fire camp who got to go out and then fight fires, leave prison and fight fires. She couldn't leave prison and fight fires. She just trained them all –

Kimberly Long:

And we were mean.

Jasmin Harris:

She did so much while she was in to not just improve her own life, but to improve other people's lives. And if you're stuck there forever and you really don't know when and if you're coming home, why would you even be that gracious? And most of our clients, clients describe to us that there's kind of this moment where you have to let go of that anger and that fight to survive and to move forward. Yeah.

Question:

While you were in prison, did you get to see your kids often?

Kimberly Long:

I didn't see them for the first three years. Yeah, I didn't see 'em for a long time, and then I did, and then they transferred me to a closer to my folks. There was only two prisons, so I could either go to this one or that one. So I finally was able to go down to, I call it down south, but this is down south, I guess. And I was able to see them a lot more, but it didn't make it any easier. It didn't make it any easier whatsoever. I fought for 20 years. I fought for 20 years from 27 to, well, I'm 48 and I'm still in a civil suit.

Question:

What's your experience in prison like day to day?

Kimberly Long:

That's a good question. Yeah. Well, I’d never been to prison. I've never been to jail, so I didn't have any friends there. Everybody else had friends in a gang or whatever. Sounds kind of funny, right? But I didn't have that, so I just kind of moseyed on in and just tried to figure it out along the way. Honestly. I mean, they sent me to a level five prison, which is death row. And so I was a minority going in and stuff, but you just wake up every day and you try to figure out, they call it how to program. And I try to figure out how to program and how to stay busy and keep busy and how to get out of there. To be quite honest, I'm like, how do I get out of here? And that was just my whole mindset. But Chowchilla was a tough prison, but once I was able to go down south, I got to be a firefighter trainer.

So I was teaching the girls how to work out for six hours a day, which gave us a lot of privileges being trainers on the yard, which was cool. Actually, I made the best I could out of prison, to be honest. You find a good group of women in there, which is possible, and you make it the best you can. You make the holidays like you would on the outside. We all got up in the morning. They have a fake fireplace in prison, and we would go over there and stuff, and we would exchange gifts and have hot cocoa, and we'd do the best we could. We'd go out to the yard, we would have picnics. We did the best we could. I did find a good group of women in there that I still talk to today. We were just up in Joshua Tree doing a hike.

I got some solid women, solid friendships, loyalty out of that prison. And I'm very grateful for that. I stay close to those women, but not a lot of people are trying to get out of there. I was trying to get sober. I was trying to figure out my life. I was trying to figure out, once you get sat down in a prison, you really start to self-reflect whether you're an alcoholic or not an alcoholic or whatever your issue is. You have time to really self-reflect. And so I took that time to work on myself and I did. So I hope that answers your question, but not all days are good. But I would feel guilty if I laughed. I would feel guilty if I had a good moment because I knew my family was suffering. My family and my kids suffered more than I did. They were the ones with their family member inside their daughter, inside a prison. So I would feel guilty if I had good moments, but I allowed myself to take a deep breath and try to laugh a couple times.

Question:

How did you process the grief after the initial incident?

Kimberly Long:

My boyfriend's name was Oswaldo, so I knew him. We called him Ozzy. So I knew him since I was 11 or 12 years old. He was the first love of my life, that little kitty love. That was him. So even after years passed, we got back together again. And then after he was murdered, only six and a half months into us reuniting and then being charged immediately. There was no grieving period. It wasn't until I got to prison and I started going through therapy there. My choice did. I really start to grieve and heal. And then once I came home, I did the same thing. I got out and I'm like, I don't think I'm okay. I need to make sure I'm okay. I just did all this time. I need to make sure I'm all right. So the project, thank God, they pro bono therapy, and I took advantage of it for five years, but I did grieve. But they're still those moments that'll get me when I'm in my car. I travel a lot. Once again, when you sit with yourself and you're on a long trip somewhere, you only reflect, man. I have those moments of just self-reflection. Again, kind of seeing how far I've come, but then having those moments that I miss him still. This is very therapeutic for me. Again. Thank you. This is very therapeutic.
Jasmin Harris: Can you tell people what travel you’re doing and where you're going when you're traveling?

Kimberly Long:

Oh my gosh. So when I was in prison, I used to read a lot of magazines. Somebody has a rolling stone hat on. Is that the Rolling Stone? Is that a Rolling Stone hat? No, I lied. I can't see. I can't see. She's pretty black. I don't have glasses.

Speaker 13:

It's the same lettering. It's the Rolling Stone font.

Kimberly Long:

Oh my gosh. So I read a lot of Rolling Stone magazines and read a lot of magazines, period. And then I realized, my gosh, all these years I've never sat and really realized what I like to do. So all this Van Life stuff's coming up. I'm like, this is ridiculous. All these hiking places. I'm like, what have I been doing all these years? And so when I got out, thank goodness Jasmine Harris was able to fix the compensation law, which we have tattooed all over our bodies, by the way. She's passed so many laws in legislation. We just tattooed them everywhere. And we just got done getting tattoos, but I bought a travel ban. I was like, I want some of that. So I went and I bought myself a Dodge Pro master of 3,500 high rise, extended in the back with solar. Did you catch all that? That's what I bought. And so I just travel around everywhere. But my son decided that he wanted to travel, so he figured out how to put the Harley in the back of the van, and I haven't seen him since. It's been, yeah, so he's in it right now. I came to San Diego, he's in the van. I hope to see it again. So yeah.

Question:

Are there other women in prison that you knew were also innocent?

Kimberly Long:

Yes. Yeah. So at one point, the innocence, I don't know the Innocence Project or how you want me to call it sometimes, but the project that they're in, there was seven men and five women, and we were called the California 12. And a bunch of lawyers, this guy here, all decided to walk all the way up to Sacramento from San Diego to Sacramento to deliver clemency to the governor at the time. And so where was I going with this? The other end of Sacramento? Yes, thank you. It happens like that. Do you see that? Just gone. So there was five of the women that were in there, and we were all in the same prison. And I went and I found every single one of 'em. And I still keep in contact with four of 'em. Yeah. Yes. All but one. All but one. Yeah.

But she just got parole. Yeah. Yeah. I think everybody's out besides just two of them. Just two people. That was it. But yeah, everybody came home. So I do know a lot of the women still, and I still keep in contact with them. The older gentleman you saw on there, Mr. Handline, he's my best friend. He is my best friend. Him and his wife waited for him for 36 years to come home, and so I go up and see them all the time. In fact, he made these rings when he was in prison, and I always switch him out when I go there, he has a box of 'em. I'm like, I need a new ring. We switch 'em out. I call 'em my dad. They're family to me. And so I go up there and I hang out with them all the time and just kind of keep them busy as well. So I text everybody in the morning, exonerees and girlfriends. Yeah.

Question:

In terms of your partner's case, now that you're out, have they reopened that all or is it closed forever?

Kimberly Long:

They'll always think it's me. They're going to always think it's me. So they're never going to, so you could be living next door to that person. Just so you know, right? Yeah. Yeah. You could be pumping gas and they're right there, just so you know.

Jasmin Harris:

Yeah. That's the tough part about some of these cases is you imagine prosecutors, law enforcement, they focus in on one person, and so their investigation starts to line up against this one person. And so you're not paying attention to anything else. And so when this conviction is finally reversed 15 years later now, what are you going to do? You don't have any leads from before. You're certainly not going to find anything new now it's been 15 years. And so we like to think that prosecutors feel accountable to family members. Ozzy has parents and had family that were incredibly devastated when they lost him. And so we hope that the prosecutor's drive is essentially to be accountable to that family. But like Kim said, that means that the actual perpetrator is out there and we have no idea what they're doing.

Question:

How many convictions have been turned over to be like, ‘Hey, you're convicting more people that are innocent rather than guilty’?

Jasmin Harris:

No checks and analysis.

Michael Semanchik:

No. I mean, there's certain counties that are worse than others. There's certain prosecutors that we know that are worse than others, and certainly cops that we know that are responsible for many. There's a cop in Chicago, our former director actually when he moved to California and started in innocence work, had a case Detective Guevara, who I think at this point is now, it's been documented. He is responsible for something like 35 wrongful convictions in Chicago. And so I think we're just starting to kind of unpack that and follow it. And one of the things we're really hoping to do is use AI to look through all of these cases to identify similarities and commonalities between them. So not just like, let's look at all of the Detective Guevara's cases, but who did he train with? Who were his partners? And try to connect that web and go from there, because he probably worked with a couple of other bad cops, or maybe he had influence on some other cops that became bad cops now. And so it's probably a lot more there to unpack. So yeah, it's crazy.

Question:

Kim, how did your kids deal with it?

Kimberly Long:

My son doesn't really talk about it too much, and they arrested me in front of my son when he was five. So I, there's a lot of issues with that. I'm very close with my son. We talk. We're just very close. We talk about everything. We've had the conversation, how it affected him and all that. He's a man of few words, but it affects him still to this day, I feel. I always ask him, are you running from something? And he says, no, I'm chasing something. He's still smart with his words. So cute, right? No, I'm chasing something. I'm like, all right. But I feel like he's just still struggles. And my daughter, she's 30 and we don't have really a relationship anymore. So her and her husband are in law enforcement and I don't know, I'm suing law enforcement. So I think there's a little bit of confusion. She doesn't know who to be mad at. Is she mad at the cops? Is she mad at mom? So I don't really know. So it's been a struggle. Yeah, definitely been a struggle. But I'm glad you asked that question. It's good to ask.

Michael Semanchik:

That's not uncommon either. It's like a lot of our clients who have been away for so long have struggles, and even just feeling like there's this level of guilt that you weren't there to help raise Horace Roberts feels immense amount of guilt that he wasn't there to raise his kids for seven and 27, and he's trying to make up for that lost time now. And they also moved for him. They moved across the country and lived a totally different life, and without him, didn't see him for those 20 years, talked to only on the phone. So yeah, I think watching and trying to assist him with those relationships, a real challenge, something that I think initially was something that we we're trying to take on. And it's not our specialty. I'm not a therapist. I don't know the first thing about navigating these complications. And so we're thankful to have a couple of partnerships with therapists, and really that's what we're going to try and do is grow a network nationwide so that everybody has access to the support they need for that exact thing.

Matt Spiegel:

Guys. Thank you. I don't think that we can thank you guys enough for coming in. Like I said, we've been looking forward to you guys coming in for a while. And look, there's going to be, I think everyone heard, but there's so many ways in which we can help. And this organization is like we have to understand too, is, like, this is now the Innocence Center. This is not the Innocence Project. This is a separate entity that Mike and Jasmine have set out the form. And so it's beginning, right? And there's so many different things. And one thing that Mike didn't touch on is in one way in that we might be able to help as a company is access to justice. It's a huge, huge topic. And people who are sitting in prison and have no way, you want to just communicate with your lawyer, it's not the easiest thing in the world.

You want to access a website to find information, good luck. You can't do that, right? You want to go on Lawmatics to submit stuff to your lawyer can't do that, right? Because they have that stuff restricted. So one thing that we might be able to do and help Mike and his endeavors Mike and Jasmine and trying to do this is like, get Clio, get Lawmatics available on prison computers in California so that people can submit forms, right? Submit data to them instead of having to see all that email that they got. Imagine if people could just go online and submit their information that way, and then it could maybe use some AI, use some tools to actually help decide whether this might be a case they want to take. Part of their problem is figuring out who to actually help because they're getting bombarded with communication. There's so many different ways that there'll be opportunities that for us as a company, for all of us as individuals that help and hopefully today was just kind of the start and the education for everybody. And yeah. Thank you guys so much.

Anything else?

Michael Semanchik:

Just that today also happens to be Giving Tuesday, so if you feel it's a global day of giving, go to theinnocencecenter.org. We got a PayPal link on there, and we have a match up to $5,000. So every dollar helps.

Thanks. Yeah, thanks for having us. Thank you guys. Great. Thank you very much for allowing us this opportunity. I appreciate it. Thank you.

Patrick Grieve

Patrick is the Content Marketing Specialist at Lawmatics. When he’s not writing (or reading) voraciously, you can probably find him in the stands of the nearest baseball or soccer game.
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