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It should be quite a session when the House Judiciary I Committee gathers this morning at 8:30 in the state Legislative Building. Among the four bills on the agenda for the one-hour meeting:

  • A proposal (sponsored by Rep. Jacqueline Schaffer — the sponsor of last week’s anti-abortion legislation) that would further relax the state’s already minimal gun laws to repeal handgun background checks, force private businesses to allow guns in parking lots, allow concealed carry permits for misdemeanants, and allow guns at the State Fair (click here for more info), and
  • A proposal to speed up executions in the state.

Meanwhile, just to add a little icing to the cake, the committee is also scheduled to take up a bill that would facilitate the hiring of private companies to provide police services in counties and municipalities.

Got it? More guns, more executions and more for-proft police. In other words, the nation’s gradual transformation into a banana republic on steroids continues apace.

Commentary, Justice for McCollum and Brown
Henry McCollum listening to evidence of his innocence. Photo by Jenny Warburg / Courtesy of North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Henry McCollum listening to evidence of his innocence. Photo by Jenny Warburg / Courtesy of North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Monday marks the 228th day that Governor Pat McCrory has refused to grant a pardon of innocence to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, the two Robeson County men who both spent 31 years in prison for a rape and murder they did not commit.

McCollum and Brown, both mentally disabled, were freed September 4 of last year after the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission found DNA evidence that proved another man had committed the crimes.

The two men need the pardon from McCrory to be eligible for financial compensation from the state for the years they were wrongly incarcerated. McCrory received the petition September 11 of last year, 228 days ago.

The Red Springs Citizen reported Friday that the local prosecutor’s office and the SBI are conducting further investigations into the case before McCrory grants the pardon, despite the in-depth investigation by the Innocence Inquiry Commission that resulted in the exoneration of McCollum and Brown.

So after spending 31 years behind bars for a crime they did not commit, the two men find themselves again waiting for justice.

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Commentary, Justice for McCollum and Brown
Henry McCollum listening to evidence of his innocence. Photo by Jenny Warburg / Courtesy of North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Henry McCollum listening to evidence of his innocence. Photo by Jenny Warburg / Courtesy of North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Thursday marks the 224th day that Governor Pat McCrory has refused to grant a pardon of innocence to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, the two Robeson County men who both spent 31 years in prison for a rape and murder they did not commit.

McCollum and Brown need the pardon to receive the financial compensation available from the state for the years of their lives that were taken from them.

There’s still no explanation from McCrory about why he hasn’t granted the pardon. He received the application for it from McCollum and Brown last September 11—224 days ago.

Today instead of granting the pardon McCrory was near Charlotte for the dedication of a visitor center at Lake Norman State Park.

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Commentary, Justice for McCollum and Brown
Henry McCollum listening to evidence of his innocence. Photo by Jenny Warburg / Courtesy of North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Henry McCollum listening to evidence of his innocence. Photo by Jenny Warburg / Courtesy of North Carolina Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Another day, another decision by Gov. Pat McCrory to deny justice to Henry McCollum and Leon Brown, two Robeson County men who both spent 31 years behind bars for a rape and murder they did not commit.

Brown and McCollum were freed last September after the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission found DNA evidence that proved another man had committed the crimes.

McCrory promised then he was ready to receive their applications for pardons of innocence that they need to receive financial compensation from the state for the years they were wrongly incarcerated.

McCrory received the pardon applications 223 days ago and Brown and McCollum are still waiting for an answer.

Instead of reviewing the pardon applications, McCrory spent this morning at a “golf day proclamation” in the old Senate chambers in the Capitol, an event that was closed to the media.

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Commentary

The following post appeared earlier today on the N.C. Coalition for Alternatives to the Death Penalty blog.

Reasonable doubt: N.C. says 900 convictions based on bad evidence

By Kristin Collins

This week, buried in a Charlotte Observer editorial, was a surprising admission: The N.C. Commission on Actual Innocence is reexamining 900 convictions in which the State Bureau of Investigation may have used unreliable forensic evidence.

In all these cases, the SBI used hair analysis to prove the defendant’s guilt. In most cases, that means analysts used a microscope to compare hairs found at the crime scene with the defendant’s hair, and said they matched up. This technique was used in North Carolina until DNA testing of hair became available, around 2003. We don’t know how many of the 900 are death penalty cases.

We now know that this kind of forensic “science” is junk. Subjective forensic evidence, such as hair comparisons and bite mark comparisons, have been a contributing factor in more than a quarter of the 329 DNA-exoneration cases in the U.S. since 1989.

Last week, the FBI admitted that it has overstated the reliability of hair analysis in virtually every case where hair evidence was presented, including 36 cases where defendants were sentenced to death.

Only three of the cases the FBI identified were in North Carolina, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a big problem.

Guess where North Carolina’s SBI learned its hair analysis techniques? From the FBI.

We already know bad hair analysis has contributed to one wrongful conviction in North Carolina: that of Joseph Sledge, who was recently exonerated after 36 years in prison. Read More