Saturday, October 20, 2012

We Kill Innocent people in the name of justice: Reported by Jack Ferm

On July 4, 2001, associate Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, in a speech before the Minnesota Women's Lawyers Group, stated:

"If statistics are any indication, the system may well be allowing some innocent defendants to be executed."

          Justice O'Connor was more correct than she knew!

The truth- twenty-two (22) innocent people have been executed in America between 1950 and 2000 our system of Justice not only failed them, but it failed us as well. Our criminal Justice system is a system that for the most part, simply does not work.

The miscarriages of justice have occurred in several forms, from witness fabrication for a reward, to government officials who know the truth but fail to come forward.  Prior to 1963, it is hard to determine how many inmates were truly innocent, as the law did not require that the accused had a right to counsel.  Then, in a landmark decision in 1963, the United States Supreme Court mandated that an accused must have the right to counsel and that if he could not afford one, the state would provide counsel free of charge.  Even after this landmark decision, innocent men and women have been convicted and sentenced for crimes they had not committed, all in the interest of justice.  The sad part is, the real criminal got away with a crime and remained free to commit more.

          As of December 2000, there were two million prison inmates throughout the United States.  3,711 of these inmates were on death row.

The Innocence Project, which is doing a superb job in attempting to even the playing field, consists of a loosely knit association of criminal defense lawyers across America.  They search for the truth when justice has failed.  Through DNA testing and reinvestigation of death row cases and major felonies, they have been able to exonerate many inmates, but at what cost?  In some cases, these people have been imprisoned from 10 to 34 years before their innocence was proven, and some never get out.
          Why does this happen?
            People are wrongfully convicted for many reasons, stemming from:
            1.  Simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time;
            2. “ Ineffective” assistance of counsel;
            3.  Perjured testimony of witnesses, usually for a reward;
            4.  Evidence tampering and concealment by police and FBI;
5. Prosecutorial misconduct, withholding evidence of innocence, or manufacturing evidence of guilt, usually to further a personal career;
6.  Judicial incompetence -- judges who do not understand the application of the law; and
7.     Jury misconduct -- jurors who want to please, and forsake their
            duty and integrity.

          A perfect example of such a case is the story of Peter Limone.  His story should shock you:

In 1965, the Boston mob hit and killed Edward Deagan. Joseph Barboza; an FBI informant; testified at the trial of Peter Limone and four other defendants, and identified them as the hit men. Based on his testimony, Mr. Limone and the other four were convicted.  At the time of his conviction, Mr. Limone was 33 years old previously his only trouble with the law had come from running a dice game.

At the time the FBI were using informants to gather information about mob activity.  Information that the FBI had in their files pointed to suspects which included Joseph Barboza himself as the actual killer.  Since Barboza was an FBI informant, the agency concealed the list of suspects from the state of Boston.  Limone and three of the other four co-defendants were not on the list the FBI received from its sources.

Mr. Limone spent 33 years, two months and five days in prison before he was exonerated.  Four years of that time were on death row.  Olympia Limone, his wife, made a living for herself and their four children by sewing.  Believing in his innocence, she would visit him faithfully twice a week.

While in prison, Limone survived a heart attack his four children grew up, were married, and had children of their own. The prime of his life passed while he was in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Barboza, who was a mob hit man, and an FBI informant, framed Limone.  Mr. Barboza cooperated with prosecutors and framed Limone while the FBI sat back did nothing and watched. They stood by, knowing of his innocence and the innocence of the other defendants, but did nothing.  They would have allowed Limone and the others to be executed to protect their source.

Limone was exonerated as a side event of a major federal trial in Boston involving Stephen Flemmi and James Bulger, two Boston mob leaders.  In proceedings that took place in Boston over a period of years, the presiding federal judge, Mark L. Wolf, turned up instances of FBI misconduct so disturbing that he ordered an investigation by the Department of Justice's Task Force.  He further ordered the establishment of guidelines on how agents should interact with informants, and what they must tell prosecutors about those relationships.

Testimony uncovered corruption within the FBI and their relationship with top-echelon informants that allowed them to literally get away with murder.  Barboza was just one of many.

Limone and four other people were convicted of Deagan's murder.  Two of them died while in prison in or about 1995.  Barboza later admitted he had fabricated the story convicting the five defendants.

The attorney for Mr. Limone, John Cavicchi, discovered through documents that he was able to obtain with the cooperation of Judge Wolf, that Barboza was given inducements by the authorities to testify as he did, and yet the trial judge gave the jury the impression that Barboza was a non-interested party.

The Justice Department Task Force, during their investigation of the FBI, released documents that it had uncovered, which showed that FBI informants had told the FBI beforehand that Mr. Deagan would be killed and who would kill him.  The list did not include Mr. Limone or three of the other co-defendants.

The FBI knew that four of the defendants were innocent, yet they did nothing. Why? To protect their own informants and, they did nothing to prevent the killing of Deagan.

Joseph Salvati, Lewis Greco, Henry Tameleo and Peter Limone were all cleared by the FBI files.  Greco and Tameleo died while in prison.

Mr. Limone was 66 when he was finally exonerated and released from prison he died a short while afterward.  After his release in January 2001 he filed a civil rights lawsuit seeking some 60 million dollars in damages but died before he could see the recovery. 

Where are the investigative reporters, why haven’t the media taken a more active role in investigating these events? I suppose it’s not financially prudent in this corporate air of blending news with entertainment, but certainly this has the flair to generate shock journalism and sensationalism that is how the media reports the news today.