The Innocence Network Files Amicus Brief Urging Supreme Court to Reverse Crawford Conviction

The Innocence Network, the leading national advocate for the wrongfully convicted, has filed an amicus brief in the case of Rodricus Crawford, asserting that the victim’s death resulted not from suffocation, but from a fatal illness. The Innocence Network explains that the prosecution’s evidence was based on biased witnesses and junk science. In fact, the well-established medical literature strongly indicates that the victim died of sepsis as caused by pneumonia, and that simple tests could have proven that at trial. The Innocence Network urges the Supreme Court to reverse Mr. Crawford’s conviction and death sentence.

PJI Responds to The Atlantic’s Newest Piece on Angola

August 9, 2015

To the Editor:

The video and accompanying print piece from Jeffrey Goldberg and colleagues regarding Angola prison are striking not only for their flattering portrayal of Warden Burl Cain, but also – more troublingly – for their take on the thousands of men in custody there.  Mr. Goldberg seems to credit the “remarkable” Warden Cain singularly for the fact that many of the men at Angola now possess what Mr. Goldberg considers “morality.” 

If Mr. Goldberg had paused to consider, as only one example, the brutal regime of solitary confinement to which he makes only a passing mention (notably at Angola’s Camp J, where dozens of prisoners live in squalor and are ruled by abject terror), he might have observed that it is not Cain but the men incarcerated at Angola who are remarkable.  They are a testament to the loss of humanity that occurs as a result of our social experiment in mass incarceration – more acute in Louisiana than anywhere.  The ability of a band of men to persevere in a place governed by hostility to their humanity is what is remarkable. 

 To paint these remarkable men as incapable of knowing right from wrong but for the guiding hand of Warden Cain belies a serious lack of understanding people in prison.  The attitude smacks of prejudgment as to some sort of intrinsic criminality, and fails to contend with the significant social forces in Louisiana that drive crime and punishment. 

We are glad that Mr. Goldberg comes to the conclusion that life without parole is an unfair and excessive sentence.  But he and his readers might consider that the prisoners at Angola were, perhaps, never categorically amoral to begin with.


Kansas v. Carr

Below is the latest brief by our attorneys attacking yet another troublesome aspect of capital punishment in America.

Here, attorneys argue that the long-disfavored practice of trying capital co-defendants in a single proceeding prevents each defendant from receiving their own individualized sentencing determination, and only increases the arbitrariness of the punishment.

Ball v. Leblanc

In late July, Promise of Justice Initiative attorneys and co-counsel petitioned the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for rehearing in the death row excessive heat case Ball v. Leblanc.  

The petitions detail crucial misapprehensions and errors in the majority opinion that the Court issued in early July, including with regard to expert testimony and the extent of relief available to prisoners.  The petitions also explain why the district court’s originally ordered relief – implementing a plan that the prison officials developed themselves – was appropriate.  The petitions seek rehearing both by the panel that originally heard the case and by the full Fifth Circuit en banc.