The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has halted the execution of Melissa Lucio, who has long maintained her innocence in the death of her child.
In a three-page decision ordering a stay to the execution that had been set for Wednesday, April 27th, the Court found that several of the claims raised by her lawyers needed to be considered by a trial court, including that prosecutors may have used false testimony, that previously unavailable scientific evidence would have precluded her conviction, and that prosecutors suppressed other evidence.
The Guardian takes a deep dive into the field of junk science that SCHR client Charles McCrory’s wrongful conviction was based on — forensic odontology. Mr. McCrory was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of his wife on the basis of what a forensic odontologist claimed, wrongly, was a bitemark. He has served 37 years in prison, and continues to fight for his freedom.
A judge has denied the extraordinary motion for new trial for SCHR’s client Danyel Smith. Mr. Smith was wrongfully convicted in 2003 of murder and aggravated assault after his young infant child died, seemingly out of the blue. The baby’s injuries were almost immediately (erroneously) identified by doctors the result of shaking. Mr. Smith was arrested at the hospital, before the baby had even died, and is serving a life sentence. Now, 20 years later, with an increased scientific understanding of abusive head trauma and a shift in how doctors and scientists identify and diagnose head trauma, Mr. Smith seeks another chance to prove his innocence. An application to appeal the denial is pending at the Georgia Supreme Court with a decision expected in early May. Mr. Smith’s family is planning a rally in his support on May 5th.
After years of federal litigation, a final settlement has been reached in Georgia Advocacy Office, et al. v. Labat, et al., a lawsuit filed on behalf of a class of women with severe mental illness being held in prolonged solitary confinement at the South Fulton Jail. The finalized settlement builds upon a previously-entered preliminary injunction, and includes, among other things, a mandate of at least four hours of out-of-cell time, five days a week (one hour of which must be recreation time) with an hour of out-of-cell time offered on the other two days of the week for people with severe mental illness. Read more about the impact of the settlement from one of the named plaintiffs: https://www.schr.org/media-statement-from-jn-resident-of-the-south-fulton-jail/
The state of Georgia is refusing to give the U.S. Department of Justice – which is currently conducting a sweeping investigation of the state’s prison system – documents it subpoenaed for its investigation. According to the AJC, the state is withholding even a basic accounting of how many incarcerated people have been killed. The state’s stance drew criticism from Terrica Redfield Ganzy, executive director of SCHR: “Much of the information being withheld under the guise of ‘privacy’ is already publicly available to anyone who seeks it,” Ganzy said in an email to the AJC. “To stall, obstruct, and obfuscate the DOJ’s investigation into these failures — while people continue to die inside — is atrocious.”