Innocent Americans spent at least 10,000 years in jail

There are innocent Americans being convicted here in San Diego too. Many defendants are scared and have very little money so they are easy to convince to take a plea deal for less time and this leads to more convictions too. The DA’s office has a habit of over charging people in order to manipulate them into plea deals even if they are not guilty. This is another good reason why you need an attorney that is experienced, competent and is not afraid of a trial.

The US Constitution guarantees a fair trial, but the number of Americans that will argue otherwise is incredible. At least 2,000 people have been sentenced to prison for crimes in the last 23 years, only to eventually be exonerated by the court.

As shocking as it may be, until now there has been no official database of information pertaining to Americans wrongfully convicted of crimes only to be exonerated down the road. As a result, researchers at the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law took it upon themselves to change all that and have just now rolled out a database that examines exonerations in America and the findings are astounding. Taking into account as much information as obtainable dating back to 1989, more than 2,000 people have been sentenced to time behind bars for crimes that the court would later say they did not commit.

Scanning barely two decades of available info, researchers have found a trove of information detailing 873 well-documented exoneration cases. Of just those, the time spent behind bars totals to more than 10,000 years in prison. The creators of the database have found proof of roughly 1,200 separate exonerations during the same time span, although less information at this point is available.

So far the results offer an uncensored look at the falsities of the US justice system, and, sadly, the researchers feel like they are only just beginning to dive into the data.

“We know there are many more that we haven’t found,” University of Michigan law professor Samuel Gross tell the Associated Press of his findings.

Although the database only contains a limited amount of information for now, Gross says that it is a critical starting point for reexamining the mistakes that mare the justice system in the United States.


Read the rest here

More Problems at DEA: Agent Implicated in Theft of Attorney Client Records in State Medical Marijuana Trial

San Diego Marijuana Criminal Defense

By: Eugene Davidovich, San Diego Americans for Safe Access 

San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis presses on with trial of medical marijuana patient in full compliance with state law even after feds refuse to prosecute and court records show DEA’s involvement in theft of attorney-client records. Press conference scheduled for Friday morning. 

SAN DIEGO – Twelve jurors and two alternates were selected on Wednesday in Department 27 of San Diego Superior Court, officially starting the criminal trial of District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis v. Dexter Padilla a navy veteran, medical marijuana patient and president of Therapeutic Healing, a San Diego based non profit medical marijuana coop.

According to court records, it all started on June 17, 2010 when DEA agent Beau Bilek led a raid on the offices of the Redwood Law Group after his requests for a search warrant were denied by the Mendocino County Superior Court. Attorney and President of the firm raided that day was Mark Wuerfel, the business attorney representing Therapeutic Healing of which Padilla is President.

The trial brief submitted by defense attorney Michael J. McCabe this week states that on June 17, 2010 Agent Bilek “looted privileged attorney-client files”, as well as data from the law firm’s computers including information about the different medical marijuana patients and coops the firm represented.

After the raid, the Mendocino County Court actually intervened and ordered the DEA to return the stolen property as well as instructed the Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office to help retrieve the records from the DEA. Still, the agency refused and only returned two of the original four stolen boxes.

Privileged information obtained from the unlawful raid on the attorney’s office, including the fact that Mr. Wuerfel represented a collective named Therapeutic Healing in San Diego, was distributed to various DEA offices throughout the state. In San Diego, cross sworn DEA Agent Paxton picked up the case and began shopping it around for prosecution.

On January 27, 2011, six months after Bilek stole the records, Padilla was arrested by Paxton.

The investigation leading up to Padilla’s arrest yielded zero evidence of criminal activity and proved quite the opposite. It showed Therapeutic Healing was operating in strict and unambiguous compliance with all state laws.

Padilla hired Mr. Wuerful as the coop’s general counsel, paid all the required taxes, and hired a tax attorney and CPA to ensure the coop’s financial records were all properly kept and in compliance with the law.

After Paxton failed to convince the US Attorney’s office to prosecute Padilla in federal court he appealed to Dumanis’ office which has a long standing record of chipping away at the State’s medical marijuana program through prosecutions of legitimate patients. Dumanis’ office happily picked up the case.

When Padilla was originally notified of the charges against him, his attorney’s immediately scheduled a time and sat down with the DA and opened up all the coop’s records for examination. They showed all the taxes paid, the board meeting notes, sales receipts, business records, etc.

According to the defense, every single request made by the prosecution for information, documents and evidence about Therapeutic Healing and Padilla was voluntarily provided by the defense.

The law requires that prosecutors prior to filing charges evaluate whether a defendant should be charged with the crimes at all. In the case of Padilla, the DA refused to consider all the evidence of compliance and along with the DEA failed to provide any explanation for the continuing prosecution of Padilla, even after overwhelming evidence was provided by the defense establishing immunity from prosecution.

The DEA’s behavior in this case as well as the refusal of the San Diego DA’s office to review all the evidence proves that this prosecution is nothing more than a thinly veiled agenda of the DEA to promote its federal goals of undermining the State law and sanctioned medical marijuana programs.

As a result of this bias driven effort to eradicate medical marijuana from California and continued effort to chip away at patient’s rights, it is now necessary for the court and a jury to do what should have been done previously by the prosecution in finding that Padilla is not guilty of committing the alleged criminal acts being asserted by them.

The trial is being held in Department 27 of San Diego Superior Court.

The attorneys have called a press conference for Friday, May 18, 2012 at 8:15am in front of the Hall of Justice – 330 W Broadway, San Diego CA

Further Information: Click Here


Prelim Victory

My client was involved in a fight with an off-duty San Diego Police Officer on a Sunday afternoon. Both my client and the cop were drunk. According to the cop and his girlfriend, who were residents of the condo complex where the fight occurred, after an exchange of obscenities, my client spit in his face and “sucker punched” him in the condo pool area, after which the cop subdued him to await the arrival of back up.

At the preliminary hearing on the charges (PC 245(a), PC 243(d), PC 243 (c)(2) and a GBI enhancement) the neighbors, who Alan Stevens had interviewed and subpoenaed, told a different story. While all 5 of them agreed my client initiated the conflict by spitting in the cop’s face, they all testified that the cop punched my client in the neck, after which my client punched him in the face, knocking out 2 of his teeth.

Judge Einhorn, sitting as the Magistrate, found the neighbor’s version of events to be credible and the cop and his girlfriend’s version not credible. Accordingly, he ruled that the punch which caused the injuries was self-defense. Einhorn then dismissed all the felony charges and the GBI enhancements, but held my client to answer on one misdemeanor assault count (PC 240) and one misdemeanor battery count (PC 242).

How sweet it is!

– Mike McCabe

San Diego Criminal Defense Attorney Michael J. McCabe

When law enforcement officers cross the line

I am telling you…. The cops are not always the good guys. This is just one of many stories like this.

This is the exact reason you need the help of a well qualified attorney like Michael McCabe to defend you vigorously. 

Geoffrey Asher just returned home from buying auto parts, and after coming out of a shed where he stored the parts, a sheriff’s deputy was pointing a gun at him.

He didn’t know the deputy had followed him for speeding, and officers didn’t have the right to arrest him, then break into his home to search for evidence of crimes they had no reason to believe he even committed.

That’s what a federal jury decided this month when they awarded the Lumpkin County man $58,000 in a civil rights lawsuit.

“The damages included $45,000 in punitive awards, which is almost unheard of in a civil rights case involving law enforcement officers,” said Athens attorney Matt Karzen, who represented Asher.

“It was a loud and clear message from the jury that what happened to my client was a gross violation of his rights,” he said.

Judges routinely dismiss cases or suppress evidence because officers didn’t follow the law, mostly because they made honest mistakes, Karzen said. Authorities who trampled over Asher’s rights were exceptions, he said.

“It is heartbreaking to me, especially as a former prosecutor, when law enforcement officers break the law the way these defendants did,” Karzen said. “In addition to attacking the foundations of our personal liberties, that kind of behavior makes it difficult for the vast majority of law enforcement officers who follow the rules to do their jobs effectively.”

Karzen served nearly a dozen years as a prosecutor in Colorado and in Clarke and Oconee counties, and has been a criminal defense attorney the past five years.

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees “the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,” and states that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

There are exceptions, however, and police can search without warrants if they believe a crime is actively being committed, fear for someone’s safety, or get consent from the property owner.

But Asher never agreed to a search, and the Lumpkin County sheriff and his deputies spent seven hours rummaging though his home before they got a judge to sign a warrant, according to documents filed in U.S. District Court in Gainesville.

Asher, a former U.S. Army Ranger and military police officer wasn’t defiant, but held his ground even at the point of a gun because he knew his rights, Karzen said; his steadfastness made deputies think Asher was “anti-government.”

He told the deputy to holster his gun if all he wanted was to write a speeding ticket, and when the deputy threatened to shoot him in the head, Asher told him to calm down and “wait for adult supervision,” according to Karzen.

Deputies searched Asher’s pickup and found handguns, all legally owned and which he used for target shooting, the attorney said.

Lumpkin County Sheriff Mark McLure soon arrived and used a credit card to slip the lock of Asher’s front door, according to court documents.

McLure and several deputies found things inside — like drugs Asher retained from when he was a medical intern, and the sizeable collection of a firearms enthusiast — and concluded that he might be a “militia nut,” according to documents.

He was arrested and charged with several felonies, including possession of an illegal firearm, but that charge stemmed from a deputy removing a barrel extension from a rifle, making the barrel shorter than what the law allows, Karzen said.

A judge later dismissed all charges.

“Never in the thousands of criminal cases I’ve handled as a prosecutor and a defense attorney have I ever seen violations of someone’s rights this egregious,” Karzen said.

“Most of what I’ve seen were reasonable, honest mistakes by good cops,” he said. “This was the first time I was involved in a situation where law enforcement officers knowingly violated someone’s rights and lied about it in court.”

Officers sometimes conduct searches without consent or warrants, and judges often rule the searches were legal if the constitutional violation was a “reasonable mistake,” Karzen said.

But judges also cite such mistakes as grounds for dismissing cases or suppressing evidence.

For example, Karzen said, an officer might stop a car with a broken tag light then smell alcohol while speaking with the driver.

“He might have had just one beer an hour ago, and gets arrested for having the odor of beer,” Karzen said. “The judge later drops the charge because of a typical, innocuous Fourth Amendment violation.”

Anyone who has been stopped by a traffic cop or questioned by an officer was in a Fourth Amendment situation, University of Georgia law professor Donald E. Wilkes Jr. said.

“The primary purpose of the Fourth Amendment is to preserve a healthy balance between the individual and the state, to prevent the government from engaging in activities which might catch more criminals but nonetheless are unacceptable in a free society,” Wilkes said.

“At the most basic levels, the police are the most coercive force in America,” Wilkes said. “They carry guns, they have the power to arrest and to conduct searches and seizures, and the purpose behind the Fourth Amendment is to prevent police from over-awing the citizenry.

 “The Fourth Amendment is there so we don’t end up with a police state.”

Athens attorney Jeff Rothman, who specializes in DUI cases, looks for Fourth Amendment violations in every case he handles.

“With the ever-increasing use of roadblocks, it’s very difficult to drive anywhere in Athens without the possibility of being stopped by police without some suspicion of wrongdoing,” Rothman said.

“We battle the Fourth Amendment war every day, arguing whether it’s reasonable to stop people without suspicion of criminal activity,” he said.

State and local police conducted a massive DUI crackdown on St. Patrick’s Day in 2009, arresting more than 140 people at checkpoints in Clarke and Oconee counties.

Rothman convinced a judge to drop charges against a couple of clients who were arrested that night because police had no legal basis for stopping their cars, he said.

“The reason they were stopped was because the officers told them they thought they were trying to avoid the roadblock, but they made legal, proper U-turns, and that does not count as sufficient reason to believe a crime was committed,” he said.

 “People don’t realize how important their Fourth Amendment protections are until they are intruded upon.”

Read the origins of the story here.