Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Attorney General Holder calls sending an innocent person to jail 'the ultimate nightmare scenario'

Excerpt from a speech by Attorney General Eric Holder:

"An analysis conducted by the State Appellate Defender Office in Michigan found that the state's failure to invest resources at the trial court level has contributed to the costly imprisonment of defendants whose convictions were later reversed. The office reported that since 1996, there have been approximately 50 successful habeas corpus actions based on ineffective assistance of counsel claims in state court proceedings.

"Even assuming these defendants were guilty of the crimes for which they were originally convicted, the public still must bear the cost of appeals and retrials because the system didn't get it right the first time. And for those cases in which the defendants were not guilty, then obviously the price tag is much higher -- both in the ultimate nightmare scenario of sending an innocent person to jail, and in terms of letting the person who actually committed the crime remain free.

"Let me give you just one example of all of the losses associated with the crisis in representation. Eddie Joe Lloyd served nearly 17 years in a Michigan prison for the murder and rape of a young girl -- crimes that DNA evidence later proved he did not commit. Lloyd's appointed attorneys -- one replaced another a week before trial -- failed to conduct any investigation. No one ever cross-examined the police about Lloyd's false confession -- which Lloyd gave to the police while he was a non-voluntarily committed patient in a mental health hospital. No one ever interviewed Lloyd's family or his doctors. No one visited the crime scene, or challenged Lloyd's competence. The appeals and the 17 years of imprisonment cost Michigan nearly a million dollars, and that amount does not include the $4 million civil judgment Lloyd later obtained for his wrongful conviction. And of course there is the real danger to the community of having the actual murderer and rapist remain at large some 20 years later."