The Innocence Project

Police and prosecutors will tell us that every man in prison claims to be innocent. Such protestations carry little weight in the smug world of our justice system. But in fact there are men in jail who are innocent, and a few have been set free.

Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck founded the Innocence Project in 1992. That was in the early days of DNA evidence. Having had personal experience with Peter, and in my own life seeing an innocent man incarcerated for fifteen years and then exonerated, I tip my cap. To date they have won freedom for (if I read it correctly) 361 people.

We are all familiar with wrongful conviction, even if only via Dr. Richard Kimble. He was “The Fugitive” both on TV and in the movies. That story was based on Dr. Sam Sheppard, a man who spent time in prison for murdering his wife and who was later exonerated. The whole Sheppard affair is suspicious, but happened so long ago that researching it would be of little interest. There are, however, lessons to draw from both Sheppard and Kimble.

Kimble, as portrayed by Harrison Ford, repeatedly claimed “I did not kill my wife.” No one listened, no one cared, no one believed him. Once judged guilty by police, the media and the courts, a man stays guilty.

There are probably thousands of innocent (mostly) men in jail. Innocence Project has given some of them a voice. In the case I am familiar with, Jim Bromgard, I saw some of the worst law enforcement ever done.  I did not know it, of course, as my interface with the legal system was limited. Only over time have I come to understand that what I saw, selective prosecution and fabricated evidence, are not uncommon.

In books and on TV we find detectives to be dogged, smart and intuitive – Columbo, Holmes, Rockford, and a host of others. They work one case at a time, and solve it. They have sharp eyes for evidence, and nothing escapes their notice.

If a case has to go to court, it does so within days. Justice is point-on and swift. Television judges (mostly women these days), are objective and hard to fool.

In the real world, police detectives are burdened with too many cases and overwhelmed by too much evidence. Courts do not have time for justice, only process.  If by chance police solve a case, luck usually plays a role. But if a case is complicated, if it takes more than the obvious evidence to solve, subjective reasoning steps in. This was the case with Bromgard. A horrible crime had happened, and appeared to be random.

Police selected Bromgard, and then went searching for evidence. They had no witnesses, no fingerprints, no motive. They had nothing, and so manufactured evidence. They then gave the kid the lowliest public defender money could buy. When he was not in court, he was in a bar. They framed him, and Jim after his release was awarded $3.5 million for malicious prosecution. That part, the monetary award, is rare.

Part of the rationalization behind a case like Jim’s is this: “Well, the kid may not have done this crime, but he’s done others.” Putting him in jail for the wrong crime is not a big deal if he deserves to be in jail anyway.

In Dante’s Inferno, Satan is encased in ice. His anger has no outlet. I cannot imagine a worse fate than to be judged guilty by the smug,  and to be without hope for justice.

By happenstance I was linked to the Innocence Project in real life. These are good people doing the right thing for the right reason.

27 thoughts on “The Innocence Project

  1. The police were created to protect 19th-century wage-labor capitalism from the threat posed by the emerging “working class.” It has become more “militarized” as the threat to the .01% only increases as the wealth gap widens between the haves and have-nots. The “judicial caste” system is thus divided by wealth. 361 have been set free only after huge suffering and trauma. Kudos to the lawyers dedicated to setting things right — albeit, after the fact. Not nearly enough, however, is being done to prevent routine police state policies from repeating known patterns of police/judicial abuse of working class and poor victims. Quite the opposite, I’m afraid.

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    1. I agree. Although I have not taken time to verify the numbers, there was a time when a disproportional percentage of the US prison population was black. In my way of thinking, this was due to blacks not yet having been housebroken. If there was a rebellious sector of society, it was them. So they used the Rockefeller drug laws to imprison the leaders. No leaders, no rebellion.

      White people … subdued and controlled, and worse yet imagining they are free.

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  2. Yes, it is amazing how quickly crimes are solved, tried in court and “justice” served in a 45 minute (without commercials) TV “program”…real justice isn’t nearly a swift and corruption is rampant!! Thanks, Mark

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  3. Police and Prosecutors making that innocence statement is fake news. Like you say the powers that pp control the media so don’t believe everythong you read. Plus neither of them are hardly ever incarcerated and if they are it’s in a special Wing or location. In addition if they were with the general population while incarcerated that’s not what you would be hearing at all that’s strictly from the movies dude. Barry Sheck? Wow credibility right there. Not. So not sure if you’re getting your411 thru mchacked phone or steroid pest controlled gym rat but you sir are wrong to assume that and one other thing. And that is your statement that perhaps due to past transgressions incarcerating an innocent person for a separate crime or matter is acceptable or understandable. For example let’s say that you were guilty of harassing someone but never prosecuted yet down the road you get 7 days for jaywalking across Candy Cane Lane when in fact you are innocent yet previously you also faked a disability in order to get a disability placard and finally the guilt got the best of you so you did away with that. You still think that you should be punished in this way for jaywalking even though you’re innocent you honestly believe that? Well then sir I believe that makes you God’s most mindful right hand man being the end-all-be-all of judge and jury don’t you think? Not.

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    1. I had to run this comment through Google translate, and at first just deleted it. But I think it has some merit. I’ve been accused on occasion in belonging to the “everything is fake” school. Everything is not fake, but it is kind of boring writing about things that are real. For instance, there is an assumption stated on occasion that these families we deal with don’t pay taxes or even file returns. I worked for them, carried their tax returns to the post office, reconciled the bank statements wherein the money really left their accounts. I heard their complaints “…confiscatory!” That flies in thr face of assumptions, and indicates that we don’t really understand the nature of our top-down society very well. It is far more complex than we know. We have laws, and everyone on some level must follow them or we are in constant chaos. Ergo, even the very wealthy must follow them. That oversimplifies, but states reality to a degree.

      Jim Bromgard really went to prison. He and I are now friends (Facebook, but nonetheless having some mutual reapect). I spoke to his mother years back, and got Christmas cards from them in his wife’s handwriting. She met him while he was in prison, where she worked, and believed in his innocence. If the Innocence Project is fake, then Jim is not real an this whole scene is an elaborate hoax whose only purpose is to fool just a few people. Nonsense.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Very well stated. The often quoted “Give me control of a nation’s money and I care not who makes it’s laws” is another lie. They do all of this legally and go to great efforts to do so.

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  4. they paid him $3.5 million for 15 years? It’s $20.000 per month. It’s a top job to be innocently incarcerated, don’t you think? I don’t believe a word of it, sorry. The story stinks like hell. I’m not calling you a liar Mark. You’re just not willing to see through it.

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    1. You do not understand the nature of punitive rewards. The case was based on malicious proecution, and so the limit on compensatory damages is lifted. It was done to punish thr State for not only negligence, but also for malicious intent. That is how the law works.

      Do not f****** sit there in Germany and tell me that I am not aware of what I lived and breathed. That is offensive.

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      1. Mark, I learnt a new word last night on a popular UK quiz, might come it handy, ecc. —
        Noun
        Besserwisser m. (genitive Besserwissers, plural Besserwisser, feminine Besserwisserin)
        (derogatory) know-it-all, wiseguy, wiseacre, smart aleck

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        1. It’s weird that Group Think is so prevelant here when it comes to having too different of an opinion. U were watching TV and someone else was researching and learning. U call them names so you feel better about how you spend your leisure time. Seriously…

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          1. The list of people banned here is very short, one who insisted that my late brother, a Catholic priest, was a pedophile, and BM, whose issues I won’t recite. Rather than “groupthink” maybe I am just thin-skinned about deep personal insults.

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  5. Mark, you deleted my last comment, therefore I assume you’re going to ban me. Feel free to do it. Maybe the Besserwisser really knows it better and that’s why. It’s not that anybody here really answers to my arguments. Sad to see it happen though.

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  6. Me too. I went to an event where the authors were in attendance and one of the guys profiled in the book was also there. He spoke about his story and having read the book, I was expecting him to be more emotional than he was. PTSD, stage fright, boredom, or hunger could have played a part in his lackluster story telling but I was suddenly not believing that the Innocence Project was about righting the wrongs.
    It seems to me that as more and more Prisons for Profits were springing up around the country there was a growing sense of outrage making itself heard around the nation. These Privately or a combination of Public /Private prisons get contracts with Manufacturers where they provide what amounts to slave labor to produce goods for various industries. These Prisons are always the lowest bid for the contracts and with out having to provide a living wage. With a work force that has no control over their time, productivity is incredibly high, overages or off contract production creates black market goods to be sold by prison staff on the streets or thru Amazon.
    As the prisons are making record profits the factories that are unable to compete with prisons lay off their workers. Workers who have had to sacrifice benefits or work 6 days no OT and seen their workplaces become danger zones due to no money to keep things up to code. No job means the beginning of the slow slide into desperation for many people. Fear makes people do things that they normally wouldn’t do and in the states with these Private prisons crimes that were once tickets are now jail time offenses. So instead of making crap for 20 bucks an hour, they are making the same shit for 10 cents an hour.
    The disproportionate amount of people of color, poor, and under 40 years old has had people upset for a while. The Prisons inhumane conditions added more fuel to the rising anger. Then the Private Prison growth explosion may have had TPTB scared. So the Innocence Project was born. It says we are correcting these wrongs, keep looking at our corrections. All 400 of them. 400 corrected mistakes. Out of thousands and thousands. We are fighting the good fight. What’s a little cash here and there coupled with feel good headlines? U remember the Innocence Project and Smile. Why think about all the other issues that aren’t going anywhere. 400 lives is wonderful. It’s also a puny amount in the big picture.

    Mark, this banning because of a different point of view is becoming so tedious. Barbara’s views aren’t the sames as everyone else’s. She is in the minority and may be correct about some of them. We as readers and commenter are the minority in the rest of the world. We are right and they will use their power to make our lives difficult if need be. Remember your post about the Montana man that disappeared from your computer? U were saying some truths that were not popular with them and they didn’t like it. U are acting just as rotten as them. Work harder at proving someone wrong rather than using your ability to ban them as a cover for sour grapes at not being the popular kid with the best idea. You are retired. U have time and U could research your opinions or find contradiction to Barbara’s ideas. Don’t let laziness and a closed mind allow you to stop the lively ness of the blog. Instead of defending yourself in a comment to my post, put that energy to proving that one of B Muller’s ideas are wrong.

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    1. I lived and breathed this deeply emotional matter for decades. Jim Bromgard really was released, Ronald Tipton really did live but one block from us at that time, something I only discovered by having a friend look at old phone books in the Billings library. To be told in such a smug fashion that it was all fake was too much. She pissed me off … only one other person can pull that off. DNA is fake, Bromgard never went to prison, there was no punitive award, the Attorney General of Montana really did not say I had done the crime, the media did not print it, Tipton was merely a hired actor … there was no Montana Supreme Court ruling, there was no US Supreme Court ruling … are you kidding me? All a charade? Anyway, BM had managed to piss off every other writer here, and I held on to her right up until that outbust. She got me where I lived, the smugness being most off-putting, not an ounce of listen in her. She’s done, like it or not.

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      1. Mark, I agree wholeheartedly with your decision! Charlie, I sincerely enjoy your comments and the comments of others…but Barbara was a time-wasting, waste of energy, no amount of information satisfied her desire to continue any argument. She was extremely exasperating and I, for one, am glad Mark made the decision to ban her….he defended her to the max and she turned on him to….I say good riddance!

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        1. Thank you Annette. I failed to think of it in terms of deliberate machinist tactics, as Steve describes below. Maartin warned me long ago about her in this sense, that she was subtly manipulative.

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  7. It’s one thing to have an opposing viewpoint. But those who habitually use logical fallacies as weapons fall into a special category, IMO: “Mean people suck.” From this small subset of practitioners of twisted logic and personal insults comes a seemingly endless attack against those who have the temerity to point out fallacious rhetoric.

    Repeating un-provable, positive accusations are no accident, they are intended to demean the opposition’s character, and poison the well for everyone, whether directly involved in the “discussion” or not. It always degenerates away from the argument, and facts. It’s about attacking the messenger as a distraction used to hide the primary source.

    And the ultimate weapon used in all this personal-attack bullshit is the reality that once arguing in the negative, one cannot prove a negative. Advantage to the accuser, sans facts. No one can prove something is untrue, only that it is true.

    I, for one, am happy always to be free from the nastiness of any and all who hurl insults and personal venom under the cover of logical fallacies. Bye Bye.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Here are two podcasts that I enjoy that regularly work closely with the Innocence Project: Truth and Justice and Undisclosed.

    These are well- produced podcasts, and well worth a listen. The Innocence Project impresses me with their dedication and persistence. Best of luck to those fine folks

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