KEN FELDMAN MEMORIAL
A memorial service honoring former St. Thomas Law School Professor Ken Feldman will be held Monday, June 11th at 6:00 PM at the St. Thomas Law School in Miami Lakes, Florida.
Here is part of the NY Times story we mentioned in a comment about an innocent man convicted. We would like prosecutors to comment on professor Scheck's statement that
ELIZABETH, N.J., May 15 — A man who served 19 years in prison for the sadistic murders of his companion’s two children walked out of the Union County Courthouse flanked by his family members after a judge vacated his convictions on Tuesday.
Prosecutors contended that DNA evidence in the case would probably change the mind of the jury that convicted the man, Byron Halsey, 46. They also said that the DNA evidence pointed instead to Cliff Hall, a neighbor who testified against Mr. Halsey at his 1988 trial and who is currently in prison for three sexual assaults.
Mr. Halsey, who was handcuffed, sat crying silently during the brief proceeding in Union County Superior Court before Judge Stuart L. Peim.
As he left the courthouse, Mr. Halsey said, “I thank my Lord and savior Jesus for keeping me.”
Asked about his emotional state, he smiled and said, “I don’t want to get in more trouble.” He added, What was done to me was criminal at best.”
Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, the Manhattan legal clinic that revived the case, said: “It’s a miracle that Byron is here with us, because if ever there was a case where there was a risk of executing an innocent man, it was this case. Because the facts of the case were so horrible.”
Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Mr. Halsey in the 1985 killings. The crimes were particularly chilling — Tina Urquhart, 7, was raped and strangled, and her brother, Tyrone Urquhart, 8, died after four nails were hammered into his skull with a brick. The children’s bodies were found in the basement of a rooming house in Plainfield where Mr. Halsey lived with their mother.
Mr. Halsey contacted the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University after exhausting his appeals. Advanced DNA techniques that were not available at the time of the trial showed that the evidence had no link to Mr. Halsey. It did, however, show a match with Mr. Hall, whose DNA samples were already in the state’s database because of his convictions in sex crimes that occurred after the Urquhart children were killed.
Mr. Scheck noted that in about a quarter of the 201 wrongful convictions that have been overturned with the use of DNA evidence, people had confessed or admitted to crimes they did not commit. Mr. Halsey signed a confession after 30 hours of interrogation, Mr. Scheck said. Mr. Halsey’s lawyers said he had a sixth-grade education and severe learning disabilities.
Rumpole says, the next time a prosecutor tells us that they will revoke all plea offers if we seek a bond hearing, or file any motions- because our client confessed and is clearly guilty- we will just attach a copy of this newspaper article to our letter to their supervisor complaining about their actions.
This business of "punishing" defendants for having attorneys who vigorously defend them has got to stop. We call on the State Attorney to either abandon this policy or defend it in public, and we call upon Judges to not let prosecutors get away with such bullying tactics in their courtrooms.
And before all the emails start flooding in- yes, we recognize that in certain limited cases- like where children are victims, or in the case of sexual assault, it is good policy to remind all parties that the prosecution may revoke a plea offer after all the other work is done, and the defense indicates it wishes to depose the victim.
How can we work in a legal system where we revere the Constitution, and then punish a defendant who seeks to use the rights afforded by the Constitution?
This merits serious discussion.
Have a good weekend.