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    IPNO - Current News

    Innocence Project New Orleans Jun 22, 2010

    Current Press Coverage of IPNO and our Clients

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            1974 rape conviction tossed over evidence issues; attorneys seek man's immediate release | Courts |

            Emily Maw Wilbert Jones Richard Davis Kia Hayes
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            Innocence Project New Orleans on Nov 7, 2017

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            Judge tosses Louisiana man’s decades-old rape conviction - The Washington Post

            Emily Maw Wilbert Jones Richard Davis Jee Park Kia Hayes
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            John Thompson, legal reform activist and exonerated death row inmate, dies at 55 |

            John Thompson Emily Maw
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            Innocence Project New Orleans on Oct 9, 2017

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            Do non-unanimous verdicts discriminate? Louisiana needs to know | Opinion |

            Emily Maw 10-2 Jury Verdicts Jee Park
            Cyted by
            Innocence Project New Orleans on Oct 5, 2017

            That something has been law in Louisiana since 1898 is not a reason for it to be law today. Today's Louisiana should no longer want a law made to silence Louisiana's black citizens without knowing its impact on the accuracy of our trials or on the voices of all of our citizens who give their time to jury service. Data is not much to ask for.

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            Guest column: It’s time to end our discriminatory jury rule in Louisiana | Opinion |

            non-unanimous juries Kia Stewart
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            Innocence Project New Orleans on Sep 25, 2017

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            Baton Rouge man serving life sentence in 1971 kidnap, rape seeks new trial - BVT NEWS

            Emily Maw Wilbert Jones
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            Innocence Project New Orleans on Sep 6, 2017

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            Angola 3 News: Plantations Were Prisons: Mobilizing for the Aug. 19 Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March in Washington DC --Part one of an interview with Law Professor Angela A. Allen-Bell

            10-2 Jury Verdicts
            Cyted by
            Innocence Project New Orleans on Aug 11, 2017

            (PHOTO: Professor Angela A. Allen-Bell)

            Angola 3 News: 
            Your recent article published by the Mercer Law Review, entitled "How The Narrative About Louisiana's Non-Unanimous
            Criminal Jury System Became a Person of Interest in the Case Against Justice in
            the Deep South" examines “instances where twelve-person juries
            are allowed to cast judgement with fewer than twelve individuals voting in
            favor of a finding of guilt in non-capital, criminal cases involving hard labor

            Can you please explain what your critique of this policy is,
            and how it relates to your broader critique of institutionalized white
            supremacy in the US criminal justice system?

            Angela A. Allen-Bell: 
            In felony cases that are not death penalty cases, Louisiana seats twelve
            jurors, but allows a conviction upon the vote of only ten of those jurors.

            In 1803, when Louisiana became a territory, unanimous
            verdicts were required. Non-unanimous verdicts were introduced in Louisiana
            after slavery ended. This Jim Crow era law made its way to the Constitution of
            1898 after a convention of all white males expressed that their:  “mission
            was…to establish the supremacy of the white race.”

            The change from unanimity was to: (1) obtain quick
            convictions that would facilitate the use of free prisoner labor (vis-à-vis
            Louisiana’s convict leasing system) as a replacement for the recent loss of
            free slave labor;  and (2) ensure African American jurors would not use
            their voting power to block convictions of other African Americans. In my view,
            this law:

            •    Creates an arbitrary system whereby
            defendants of 48 states are afforded greater 6th Amendment protections than
            defendants in Louisiana and Oregon, the only two states that allow the use of
            criminal, non-unanimous juries.

            •     Establishes an illogical disparity
            in 6th Amendment protections between state courts and federal courts since all
            federal courts require unanimous juries (even federal courts in Louisiana and

            •    Contributes to wrongful convictions.

            •    Ignores the credible research on group
            thinking, which suggests that unanimous verdicts are more reliable, more
            careful and more thorough.

            •    Creates a legal means for prosecutors to
            discriminate when it comes to jury practices by allowing them to circumvent the
            US Supreme Court's 1986 Batson v. Kentucky decision, which prohibits
            prosecutors from using race as a reason not to select someone for jury

            •    Contributes to the creation of an
            automated justice system whose aim is speed as opposed to justice and genuine
            concern for public safety.

            •    Ignores longstanding 6th Amendment
            tenants calling for unanimity dating back to the enactment of the 6th Amendment
            and the time of the Framers.

            •    Allows different standards between the
            states and the federal government for the protection of fundamental rights in
            defiance of the Bill of Rights, which mandates otherwise. 

            •    Undermines public trust in the judicial

            •    Contributes to the oppression of classes
            of people.

            •    Contributes to mass incarceration.

            We often think of slavery in racial terms. The scale of
            slavery is often overlooked. When slavery was abolished, it was the largest
            financial asset in the American economy. This is significant because it speaks
            to the coveted nature of the system and hints to the veraciousness of the
            appetite that would have existed to maintain it.

            Laws such as the 13th Amendment and Louisiana’s
            non-unanimous jury law create the appearance of legitimacy in government while
            simultaneously serving as legal blueprints for the oppression of certain
            people. They were written to ensure that African Americans could not achieve
            social or political equality. These laws represent the legislation of
            oppression and white supremacy. Justice and oppression can’t coexist. Therein
            lies the problem.   

            The historical record is replete with examples of this
            taking form under the cover of law, policy and/or practice. For example,
            following the end of segregation in Louisiana, the legislature created a
            Segregation Committee and an Association of Citizens Councils. These bodies
            were to work in close cooperation with the legislature to preserve white
            supremacy. One of the things they did was set up programs for parish voting
            registrars where registrars were trained on how to promote white political

            Mississippi’s legislature created a Sovereignty Commission
            for using legislation to maintain white supremacy. Alabama added language to
            its constitution that prevented people from voting if they were convicted of
            certain enumerated crimes. The crimes that they included in the legislation
            came from conviction statistics. They used those statistics to select crimes
            that African Americans were mostly convicted of and then those crimes were put
            into the constitutional enumeration with the intent of disenfranchising African

            I encourage people to stop viewing these injustices as
            solitary wrongs. They are so much more than bad laws or bad policies. Justice
            seekers must view these laws within the context of the system they were
            designed in. Fixing these laws will accomplish a very narrow goal:  one
            bad law gone. I discourage a fix. I encourage a solution.

            The real issue is the system that plays host to such
            injustices and human rights abuses. The focus of this generation has to be on
            systemic change. This is the only way to finally confront the complex layers of
            institutionalized racism and supremacy in the criminal justice system.

            Since the late 1980s, Congressman John Conyers has
            repeatedly introduced H.R. 40, which calls for the establishment of a
            “Commission to Study the Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act.”
            What’s important about this legislation is the aspect that would create a
            federal commission to review the institution of slavery, the resulting racial
            and economic discrimination against African Americans, and the impact of these
            forces on African Americans who are living today. Studies are routinely done in
            this country concerning lesser matters. It makes logical sense for the
            government to devote its resources to fully acknowledging the far-reaching
            impact that slavery has had on us―all of us.

            Since slavery ended, there have been too many instances of
            law and policy being used as an agent of repression. And it is law and policy
            that has defined our economic, political and social existence. At what point
            have we collectively confronted this reality and what it has done to the
            infrastructure of our government and our legal system? The upcoming march
            wisely seeks to confront this void.

            A3N:  What
            is the current status of the non-unanimous jury rule in Louisiana? Are there
            currently any challenges to it in the courts or elsewhere?

            AB:  The
            law remains in the criminal code and in the state constitution. It continues to
            be championed and used by many prosecutors on a regular basis. At the same
            time, there are continuous defense challenges in Louisiana (and Oregon) state
            courts. Louisiana courts render predictable and ritualistic rulings that
            maintain the status quo.

            On rare occasions when Louisiana courts have agreed to
            review the merits of non-unanimous jury challenges, they harmoniously declare
            that the solution to this injustice is to place a toilsome burden of proof on
            criminal defendants. Notably, on February 9, 2017, in the case of State v.
            Lee, Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Arthur Hunter ruled that
            proof of disproportionate impact requires the testimony of a statistician or
            social scientist who has:


            "[P]reformed a peer-reviewed study which looked at raw
            data concerning jury verdicts. This data would have been divided based on
            unanimous and non-unanimous juries. The data then would have been analyzed for
            guilty, not guilty, hung juries, and overturned verdicts. The data would also
            be teased apart based on race, gender, and even religion…To show disparate
            impact, the court needs to see a full-scale study which looks at the numbers to
            provide conclusive demographic data…"

            There are ongoing efforts by Oregon and Louisiana defense
            attorneys to have this issue reviewed by the US Supreme Court (who last spoke
            on this issue in its flawed, 1972 Apodaca v. Oregon plurality opinion).
            A mounting grassroots advocacy effort led by the ACLU of Louisiana, the Innocence
            Project New Orleans, myself and a few other local lawyers and exonerees devoted
            to the dismantling of this law has also formed.

            A3N:  In
            your Mercer Law Review article and earlier in this interview, you present the
            historical context for the non-unanimous jury rule by citing how the 13th
            Amendment abolished slavery, except for prisoners. The 13th Amendment is a
            central focus of the upcoming Millions for Prisoners Human Rights March in
            Washington DC August 19.

            In your opinion, in order to understand our present
            circumstances, how significant are these historical origins of the US prison
            system? What is the legacy of the laws criminalizing former slaves, known as the Black Codes and the convict lease system that
            accompanied the 13th Amendment’s legalization of slavery for prisoners?

            AB:  After
            Abraham Lincoln was elected, Southern states started to secede from the
            Union.  The Civil War ended in May 1865. The 13th Amendment was ratified
            in December 1865. The 13th Amendment was an attempt by Congress to get those
            Southern states back. Thus, the exceptions clause. The primary architect of the
            legislation was a slaveholder. In his recent book, Slaves of the State, Dennis Childs
            poignantly describes this legislative charade. He writes:

            "The grandest emancipatory gesture in U.S. history
            contained a rhetorical trapdoor, a loophole of state repression, allowing for
            the continued cohabitation of liberal bourgeois law and racial capitalist
            terror; the interested invasion of ‘objective,’ ‘color-blind,’ and ‘duly’
            processed legality by summary justice and white supremacist custom; and the
            constitutional sanctioning of state-borne prison-industrial

            The legacy is that they all contributed to the continuation
            of the conditions of slavery.  They collectively ensured that slavery
            never ended, but merely changed forms. These historical origins help us
            understand the current state of affairs as much as they underscore the
            significance of the upcoming march, which seeks to eradicate these structural
            defects in our “injustice” system.

            A3N:  You
            write that your Mercer Law Review article “advocates against impersonal,
            mechanized systems of justice that are built upon defendants, dockets, cases,
            quotas, formulas and rapidity. This article calls for the justice community to
            see cases in a highly personal way—to see cases as stories written about

            In this same vein, even human rights activists can perhaps
            get so caught up in the statistics of injustice (like mass incarceration and
            the racially discriminatory so-called “war on drugs.”) that we can downplay or
            even forget the human story behind the statistics. What is that story? What do
            you think is the US prison system’s impact on prisoners, prisoners’ families,
            and the broader human community?

            Nothing about who we are as a mass incarcerator should be viewed as a current
            event.  When it comes to African Americans, we have been incarcerated from
            the time we arrived in this country. Plantations were prisons. The change from
            incarceration on a plantation, to incarceration in custodial institutions, to
            incarceration where there are no physical limitations, but where one exists in
            a state of civic and political oppression, in my view, is nothing more than
            semantics. Mass incarceration started when slavery started. And, since that
            time, African Americans have experienced some form of imprisonment―the
            differences are in the degrees.

            The notion of incarcerating people as a form of individual
            punishment did not always exist. The practice was to convict then punish, not
            to confine. Death and corporal punishment were used extensively before
            opposition to the death penalty formed. The practice of using physical
            structures to separate people from society came as an alternative to this.

            These institutions (along with immigrant detention centers)
            have transcended the Southern racist and exploitative agenda and morphed into
            incubators for capitalist contrivances. At this moment in America, there are
            over 2.2 million incarcerated people. Incarceration has increased by more than
            500% in the last forty years. My research does not offer justification for such
            sweeping efforts to lock people up. What it does show is that laws, policies,
            racism, bias, unjust practices, abuses and a nearly automated judicial system
            has led to the creation of what I liken to an organized human trafficking
            system where poor people are ushered through courts on virtual conveyor belts
            and funneled into the unyielding grip of custodial detention and state

            As people understand this, they will approach conversations
            about prisons and convictions with caution and begin to develop the capacity to
            see inmates as something more than just “defendants” or “criminals.” This
            matters because perception and characterization shapes our level of empathy.

            In no way am I suggesting that every prisoner is free of
            culpability and is undeservingly in custody. I don’t feel that way at all. I am
            suggesting that the system is so inherently flawed and so riddled with bias
            (both implicit and explicit) that it often treats the innocent and the guilty
            the same and, once in it, the system engulfs a person and often fast-tracks
            them to becoming their worse self.

            Prisons are breeding grounds for sickness, recidivism,
            exploitation, cruelty and destruction. In their current form, they are not a
            good use of public dollars. With this appreciation, we can no longer dismiss
            conversations about prisoners. We can’t rest on the notion that inmates put
            themselves there.

            In this same vein, we must fight the overuse and abuse of
            solitary confinement, both in the general population and on death row. This
            system affords too much unchecked authority to prison officials. The harms far
            outweigh the benefits. The situation has been too well studied to be refuted at
            this point. Prolonged solitary confinement causes anxiety, depression, anger,
            cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, obsessive thoughts, paranoia,
            psychosis and a host of other medical and emotional challenges. It costs more.
            It is disproportionately used on minorities and vulnerable populations, such as
            the mentally ill and members of the LGBT community.

            The march organizers are correct when they refer to solitary
            confinement as torture and torture as a human rights violation.  The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture has
            declared it to be so. 

            This march represents a moment for people to see what
            prisons are as much as what they are not. Certainly, they are needed for public
            safety in some instances. But the scale of the situation in the United States
            far exceeds what is necessary for public safety.

            Prisons create and ensure an underclass. Prisons provide a
            free labor base. Prisons destroy families and kill potential in people. Prisons
            provide profits to those who have a stake in them.

            --Angola 3 News is a project of the International Coalition
            to Free the Angola 3. Our website is, where we provide the
            latest news about the Angola 3. Additionally we are also creating our own media
            projects, which spotlight the issues central to the story of the Angola 3, like
            racism, repression, prisons, human rights, solitary confinement as torture, and

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            Angola inmate wrongfully convicted of murder freed — for now — after 36 years in prison | WGNO

            John Floyd Emily Maw Richard Davis
            Cyted by
            Innocence Project New Orleans on Jun 22, 2017

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            Angola inmate John Floyd set free after 36 years pending appeal of tossed conviction |

            John Floyd Emily Maw Richard Davis
            Cyted by
            Innocence Project New Orleans on Jun 22, 2017

            "This is awesome," Floyd said, smiling outside the courthouse on Poydras Avenue. "It felt like a weight's been lifted off my shoulders."

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            New Orleans man walks free after judge axes murder conviction 36 years later | Fox News

            John Floyd Emily Maw Richard Davis
            Cyted by
            Innocence Project New Orleans on Jun 22, 2017

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            State Supreme Court orders hearing for Baton Rouge man convicted in 1971 rape | Courts |

            Wilbert Jones
            Cyted by
            Innocence Project New Orleans on Jun 19, 2017

            The Louisiana Supreme Court, in a 4-3 decision handed down on Friday, ordered a Baton Rouge state district judge to hold a hearing to consider evidence from Innocence Project New Orleans attorneys representing Wilbert Jones. In recent years, Jones' lawyers have obtained Baton Rouge Police reports that named another man as the suspect in two other kidnappings and rapes of young women in Baton Rouge around the time of the crime Jones was convicted of committing.

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            Hearing ordered for man serving life sentence for 1971 rape - The Washington Post

            Wilbert Jones
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            Innocence Project New Orleans on Jun 19, 2017

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            Wrongfully convicted men dissect criminal justice, race |

            Robert Jones Jerome Morgan
            Cyted by
            Innocence Project New Orleans on May 30, 2017

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            Former Angola warden Burl Cain backs petition seeking inmate John Floyd's release |

            John Floyd Emily Maw Richard Davis Burl Cain
            Cyted by
            Innocence Project New Orleans on May 25, 2017

            "To justify continuing to incarcerate Mr. Floyd, the warden must either show a 'strong likelihood of success on appeal' or 'a substantial case on the merits,'" the motion says. "It can do neither of those things, which -- in itself -- prevents it rebutting the presumption of release."

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            Photos: Innocence Project | Nell Nolan |

            Gala 2017
            Cyted by
            Innocence Project New Orleans on May 24, 2017