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tv   [untitled]    December 3, 2013 1:30am-2:01am PST

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a courtroom. i needed somebody with that authority. my family paid a lawyer to fight my case and throughout my whole case this lawyer didn't investigate, he didn't go to the crime scene, he didn't subpoena witnesses. none of that. even with the homicide inspectors knew about the crime, they knew somebody else committed the crime but due to my character and my uprising, i was the one to take the fall for it. >> once you are convicted of a crime. it's almost impossible to get it reversed. how did you do that? >> hope. you know in society you don't know what hope is until you are in a critical situation and you are saying i
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hope this and wish that. my hope was just fail, you know everyday i was hoping and praying that i would get out. my story would be not just heard because the story was heard, somebody would believe me and not look at where i come from and my bad character and understand that i didn't commit the crime. so hope to me was like it was overwhelming and every time i got in contact with somebody that i thought could help me or even interest in my case there was hope. if i can write a letter to a person and they can listen and read my letter that was hope to me that maybe they can react and even write me back. so in prison, it was like, without hope in prison, and without, i wanted to say something. i jumped around. i want to say, jeff,
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the public defenders office was something that really helped me because it was jeff that opened the door to my investigation and to the office in san francisco for innocent project. i was one of the persons that was able to get lawyer from that innocent project but then not having a lawyer for a time, the project and his office had to let it go because they had too many cases. so they referred my case to the santa clara innocent project with linda star and from then off that's where fate came in. i didn't have anymore hope. hope died out. now i'm here. [ applause ] you know, now i'm here. i'm
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blessed. i'm honored to see that there is so many people that are interested in the system that it's clear as day is broke. you know can't one person in society to say the system is not broken. for everyone who could feel the same, it should be shouldn't be hard. gideon's promise. i never heard about it. now i just listen and looking at the movie, that's something i did because many times i sat in my cell and i just wrote somebody to try to hear my cry for help and i finally got it. like i say, fate brought me here. now my hope has been restored to this innocent project. you know what i'm saying? [ applause ] >> thank you. linda, you have seen story after story similar
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to maurice's, what are common thread do you see and what can be done to reduce wrongful convictions? >> there are several causes of wrongful convictions and almost always in every case it's a constant variety of causes, that would be that case and in maurice's case as ll. he had an effective attorney. he was not a public defender and has since been disbarred. it was his only criminal case. he shouldn't have taken the case to begin with. it's with the help of the public defenders office that initial help with jeff's office that we were able to get the case over turned ultimately. but as maurice said about his case, i wouldn't have needed an attorney if the police and prosecutors had done their job to begin with. he's
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right. i don't want to lose track of that. his attorney was inadequate but he wouldn't have been in the position if everyone else had done their job in the first place. that is pervasive in our system and people working in the trenches is hard to overcome that complacency and their client issen entitled to that. that doesn't provide the information that they need to challenge the prosecution. where we know many of our experts on arson and the
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fire wasn't arson. when you have evidence that isn't disclosed you have experts that are challenged because there are no resources and you have a system that has burden the public with too many cases and it's impossible for them not to be complacent. we have to remember to be vigilant and challenge a system that doesn't give a person representation are entitled to. >> i wanted to ask you what is it about the culture of prosecution or prosecutors that allows wrongful convictions. i know there have been stories of prosecutors who have been responsible for exonerating individuals who they believe are wrongfully convicted but that's the exception, not the rule. i know in a documentary central park 5 and after 5
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young men were imprisoned and later exxon rated them. what do you think has to change in terms of the actuality cult you are culture of the criminal justice system that will prevent this in the future? >> the win it all mentality has to go. i think there is this tunnel vision and that is colloquial that is for a human being to not come up with a conclusion first and look at the facts that go to support and look at that conclusion and we all suffer from it one way or another. prosecutors suffer greatly. they commit a lot of
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resources to that prosecution. i'm not talking about the evil plays who don't care whether somebody is innocent or guilty. i think most of them think they are going after the correct person and they think that's what they have done and it's difficult for them to back out of that to take a hard look and step back and take a hard look at it. you are right, it's been really difficult for us to get any tracks to do that and let the judge decide. but to step up and say i'm not going to let a judge decide this. i'm going to own this and say we made a mistake. when we have prosecutors that do that, we have to honor that and recognize it what it did take inform are them to be able to step forward and do it. also our attorney general's have to be able to step back and say, okay, court's have an approved
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this conviction, they haven't reversed it but i'm convinced that it's wrong. i don't know how else but to point out to them to plead with them and meet with them and those that know them, respect them and ask them and those that have an audience, tell them that that's the right course for them to take. >> innocent projects, most of them are privately funded and they rely on local fund raising. they are not funding at government entities. it's very difficult to do the work you do and i commend you for it. what kind of demand do you have for the services that you provide? >> an unmeetable demand. you are right. we are privately funded and we scrounge for funds to keep working. we not
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only get to use students to work on our cases but we also get to teach them and get them to understand those things that john was talking about, how they need to question, don't go into court when a judge says, oh, well, yes the statute for post conviction dna says that you are entitled to counsel but i'm suspending that because there is no money to pay for an attorney. don't walk out and say a judge says we can't do it. teach them. then because we have no money, we reach out to the local bar. law firms like jim's law firm or chris's law firm help us in situations where we are trying to establish counsel and
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reinforce. we get over a thousand cases a year. from that first request we are usually able to take it down to about half. many of them who are writing to us are not claiming to be innocent. they are probably claiming that their prison conditions are inadequate and they are probably right. they might be claiming that they haven't received their medication, they are probably right. they are probably -- they often complaining that they were overcharged and over sentence. they probably right. we refer them as much as we can to those that might be able to help them. from then we begin the triage process to see if there is any kind of assistance once we investigate and if we are able to litigate it.
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>> thank you. next i would like to ask jim, poor people who are accused of a crime have a right to a public defender but most of the cases are in civil court, child custody, workers right, compensation for catastrophic injuries. where is the combid gideon for this? >> it's not there. when you start caring about these issues, they expand. that's okay. the question that i will address and i have been interested in it since 1962. i'm quite mature. and been working on it my own little way. it has to do with the right to counsel in civil case. i will tell you 3 stories. if i give you the statistics, if i sit here and tell you 6 out of
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10 middle class people who go to court do not have a lawyer or 8 out of 10 do not have a lawyer. i have diminished those people and in this culture that's one way to take care of the problem because it's almost gone when you hear it. i will tell you 3 stories. a us citizen born and raised in hawthorne california with a limited mental capacity, having lived in the united states, living with his mother and 3 other kids. got arrested on a small trespass. he entered what i can call a criminal factory known as the main jail in los angeles where they process and you can almost feel bad for them but not quite. they process thousands of people. people with hispanic names are
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called out to be interviewed. he did not have the capacity to explain what i just told you was his background. he was on a bus. he went to immigration service. he was on a bus. he was taken to tijuana and released. no lawyer in that process. every religion that i'm familiar with teaches that things like that are not the right way to go and we do have public officials who are happy to mention their own religion and i get a kick out of it and check their voting record because on this issue and on your issue, they are part of the problem. who are they? they are your friends. they are the people you like. they like environmental things, other things. these things i tried to talk to them and so have others much more powerful than i am. he was in mexico for 3 months.
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he had a mental breakdown. he thought he was dead. to check if he was dead he stepped out in front of a trick and the truck missed him. and his mother went day in and day out to check the bodies in tijuana and finally he wondered back and finally the lawyers at a c l u, made a case t . the government was unrepent ant. the best way to do is go to the place and look at the people and be a voice coming out as best you can and say this is what i saw and on the 5th floor, some of them
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well-dressed people i mentioned in my statistics go into a room to get advice as to how to handle their particular matter to question their connection to their children. and there is a woman there in the line and she thinks that her former husband molested her oldest child and he now wants custody and he has a lawyer and she doesn't. now i know what lawyers do. i do pro bono. i do money bono too. i go into ceo's offices. we have arguments and we try to bring
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that to our pro bono. another woman who fell down, disabled, social security. she's independent liver and she's, you talk to her. i'm going to see her on friday. she's okay. she goes to court, her husband has a lawyer. she doesn't have a lawyer. and her husband is accused by her 14-year-old daughter of molesting her. when the hearing is over and she has no idea how to appeal. knows nothing about the hear say rule, nothing about the law. she wonders the halls like their dead. i have seen it. it's out there and it's not
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right. it's unacceptable. when the hearing is over, she's denied all connection to her daughter. that is what we are talking about. >> what do you think it's going to take to make society in government to take the step towards gideon and it's what we've talked about. you have worked on this for many years? >> and the bar association that is represented today. i think we are proud of our city, whatever city might be here today. we are all proud of our city. i like this city because we get ideas here that nobody else gets. some of them are really bad. we are all friends here. right? so, our little committee, we are powerless in this culture. forget about it. we have no cloud. so our slogan
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is, we don't think, we do. because we don't want to study things. there are people out there studying things. so we want to a supervisor. david chu, in this city, we said here is the problem and he said that is terrible. he's a practicing lawyer and we went for the finances committee for 13
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unlawful detainer actions had been moved because of the cuts in the budget done by our legislators. they have been moved out of the county to santa monica. 9 out of 10 who are defending trying to keep their house, 9 out of 10 have no lawyers. on the landlord's side, 9 out of 10 have lawyers. so after you drive all the way to santa monica and after you try to figure out what it is, what the real property laws is in california and what defenses you might have or what
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arguments you might have, you are faced with a trained lawyer and someone who has been to law school for 3 years, someone whose practiced for some period of time. what we need here to answer your question is a playwright. this is mccobb. this is weird. we are not on anyone's calendar to speak of. that for some of us, that's what makes it fun. >> thank you. jum. [ applause ] we are now going to take audience questions and answers. no cards. so please pass them in so we can ask questions. you'll let me again ask karen, you spent the last year-and-a-half studying and observing how gideon's promise
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have been broken. what do you think is an obstacle to closing the gap between rich and poor people's justice. what have we learned about the solution? >> well, i think the biggest obstacle to closing this gap is the political desire to do so which is kind of -- i talked about that a little bit in my talk. but i think that, you know, and you can learn this lesson in many ways. i don't know when you go to work, i have to learn the same lessons over and over and they are a big epiphany for me each time t epiphany i had while i was working on this book i'm a journalist and i'm a generalist. i was really drowning in it for the first
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six months when i was reporting. i didn't know what was going on in court, i didn't know the language, i didn't know the process. it was all very complicated. and then i had my little epiphany which was that actually i shaolin to that little voice and realize what the clients were experienced going through this system and it was disorienting and they don't know. how do you convey that, for me if there was a way to convey that sense of complete to disorientation, then you really understand the need for an attorney. it's so clear. and so, i think for me, it was really a way of understanding what this process was like for clients who are going through the system and
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conveying that for people and letting them walk in the clients shoes for a while and there are lots of other complicated systemic problems that need to be addressed that you are probably well aware of, financial, cultural and other problems that john talked about. and yet, all of them i think hinge on this larger issue of public pressure and understanding and really pushing applications legislators, everyone that you have an opportunity to talk to so that they understand what's at stake here because i do think that really, i really believe that americans are interested in fairness. i admit i'm a glass half full person. i believe in fairness and it's so primary of the way we think.
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you think of little kids arguing. it's one of the first arguments they have. wait, she got more chocolate milk than me. that's not fair. there is this primary interest that we believe in fairness. the challenge for us is how do we bring the public inside this world and make them understand that this is not fair and it has to change. >> here is our first question from the audience and it's a question i will put to the panel and any of you can respond. it's a great question. is gideon's promise does it extend to our nations immigrants when they are told to plead guilty and they are deported? >> i will start with that because i filmed in georgia. i will tell you about really i think about it like still a
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lot. a man who was accused of drug trafficking. although the police report as the police officer testified on the stand did not mention drugs. magically the amount of drugs that were not in the police report exceeded the threshold of 45 to life. the man on trial, his story and the story of a man who had pleaded guilty with him was that he was a roofer in georgia. his friends said do you want to go to lunch, i have to make a stop. he's a passengerer in a car and unaware there were drugs in the car. after a day-and-a-half on trial he's convicted alone. he doesn't speak any english. so there is a translator who is trying her best to keep up with everything that's happening but you can tell he has no idea of
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what's happening. a day-and-a-half after being convicted with no evidence against him, nothing to point to the fact that this man was in anyway involved in trafficking, of course crystal meth, he was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison. so when they said guilty i had never seen a person's face like that. he did understand that word and he was taken in handcuffs and incredulous that this could have happened to him. what happened is he goes to prison and now deportation proceedings begin. i can't remember your original question. i think that immigration and how we are in criminalizing in an effort to deport people is one of the more disgusting and shocking things i saw repeatedly in the course of filming. >> i think briefly that those
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of you in the i immigration area understand what it's like. i tried a sanctuary case, i hope there is no other place in america where the authorities create the people that they process the way they do that there may be some jails where they do that. unless you have seen it, you cannot imagine what goes on and they separate families, they separate families, this is a nation of family values. and so i thought in my youth that someone would come along and reform the immigration status. i may not see it myself the way it's going. >> just moving to the next question for maurice. did you feel discouraged in your fight for innocence when you were
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incarcerated and did you feel like it was you against the system? >> yes. i felt that, you know from day one. because it's like, even going through trial, it was like i felt that i had no way, story, even if my story was true, there was no way. my character, from where i was from, it was like, i'm already guilty. so for intimidation, i didn't feel intimidated. i always like i said, the hope i had from one end, it deteriorated from me even losing faith from the system and the police arresting me. the lawyers were the ones that helped me get out and the same people that i needed to help me get out were the ones that i
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was like mad at. so mad, my madness made me fight. so i stayed fighting but i never felt like it was going to be over. i got a niece that is 23 years old right now, even in 2011 when my case got over turned and i called her and i said i will be home. she said you say that all the time. so i never felt like i was giving up. no matter how much time i got because i knew the facts behind it and it was like the principle facts behind it refused to let me give you no matter what. even coming home, when my case got accepted. it was like, i'm going home. it still didn't happen. i'm thinking in 60 days the court will, i'm telling everybody i'm going home and there is people all the time up in there