Monday, September 12, 2011
Governor's racist pardon policy denies compensation to wrongly incarcerated African Americans
Click the link below to view interactive flog:
Wake County prosecutor Tom Ford prosecuted Gregory Taylor for the 1991 murder of Jacquetta Thomas. Although he lacked evidence against Taylor in the death of the black woman, Ford maliciously pursued the case against Taylor because he would not implicate African American Johnny Beck, who Taylor knew to be innocent.
Ford used perjured testimony from compromised individuals, who faced their own criminal charges and jail time, along with hocus-pocus SBI lab work, to win a conviction against Taylor which carried a life sentence.
It was only after Taylor served seventeen years in prison that his case was brought before the Innocence Inquiry Commission by Attorney Christine Mumma and the NC Center on Actual Innocence, and he was unanimously declared innocent by a three judge panel. This ruling was enough to free Greg Taylor from confinement behind bars, but he required a pardon from the governor in order to receive the maximum compensation of $750,000 from the state for which he was entitled.
Governor Bev Perdue took her time, causing undo stress and anxiety for Taylor and his family, before finally issuing the pardon in May 2010.
Erick Daniels, an African American who spent more than seven years wrongfully incarcerated for an armed robbery he has adamantly and repeatedly said he did not commit, is equally deserving of a pardon so that he can receive compensation from the state as mandated by the General Assembly. In February 2011, the Office of Executive Clemency denied Erick Daniels’ request for a pardon. When I confronted the Governor’s Office about the denial, Mark A. Davis, the general counsel for the governor told me in a letter dated July 26, 2011, that they had conducted their own investigation. According to their findings, they did not definitively establish Mr. Daniels’ actual innocence, and due to “confidentiality concerns,” they could not share details of their investigation.
Mr. Davis lied in that letter, as the Governor’s Office conducted no investigation, and that is why he cannot share any details of it… and not because of “confidentiality concerns.” Furthermore, there was no forensic or scientific evidence to connect Daniels to the crime, he did not even fit the description of the armed masked perpetrator. The robbery victim fingered Erick Daniels based solely on the shape of his eyebrows in a middle school yearbook.
In addition, another man, Samuel Allen Strong, admitted to committing the crime for which Daniels served seven years. Strong not only fit the initial description of the robbery suspect, but had a past criminal record that included armed robbery, and at the time of his confession was in jail on a separate armed robbery incident.
Despite all of the above, and a declaration of innocence from Judge Orlando Hudson, Governor Bev Perdue expects the public to believe that Erick Daniels very likely was involved in the September 2000 crime.
A May 21, 2000 article in The News & Observer titled “Innocent Charlotte man spent 12 years in prison” tells of the wrongful conviction of Shawn Giovanni Massey on charges of a 1999 kidnapping and armed robbery. He served twelve years of a fourteen year sentence, convicted solely on eyewitness testimony. The only problem is that the victim went to the prosecutor with concerns that she had mistakenly identified Massey, because the perpetrator had cornrow braids and Massey did not.
A striking similarity between the cases of Massey and Daniels is that neither man fit the description of the armed robbery perpetrator, who in both instances was described as having cornrow braids. Erick Daniels and Shawn Massey each had closely cropped hair.
Mecklenburg County District Attorney Peter Gilchrist, in rare prosecutorial candor, admitted that his office botched the case by failing to disclose to the defense that the victim expressed doubt about her identification of the defendant… and eyewitness identification was all that the prosecution had with which to charge and convict Shawn Massey on the serious crimes of kidnapping and armed robbery. In other words, there was no forensic evidence tying Shawn Massey to the crime.
Gilchrist did not identify the prosecutor, and The Charlotte Observer writer Gary L. Wright, who was undoubtedly operating under the well-established media PAPEN (Protect All Prosecutors Except Nifong) policy, didn’t apparently make the effort to identify the prosecutor responsible for bringing an eyewitness case to trial and obtaining a conviction without disclosing exculpatory evidence to the defense about the victim’s own doubts about the accuracy of her identification. District Attorney Gilchrist also stated that he thought the prosecutor did not intend to withhold the information from the defense attorney, and that it was nothing more than a case of bad judgment.
It is interesting to note that The News & Observer glosses over such egregious missteps and malfeasances by prosecutors such as this that occur routinely throughout the state; yet use the least provocation to go after Tracey Cline, the African American Durham District Attorney, who worked under the former D.A., Mike Nifong, and has treated him with civility and respect. This has made her a target of Carpetbagger Jihadists… but that is another story.
On his release in May 2010, law professor James Coleman, a co-director of Duke’s Wrongful Convictions Clinic and Innocence Project, drove Massey from the state prison in Greenville to Charlotte where he was reunited with his family.
Although Professor Coleman and I are diametrically opposed in our positions regarding the Duke Lacrosse case and Mike Nifong, I consider him a good friend, and I credit him with preventing Duke University from arresting me on a trumped up charge for being a supporter of Mike Nifong… again, that is another story.
Since being freed, Massey has been unable to land a job, and earlier this year, the governor denied him a pardon. Upon learning that his pardon had been denied, Shawn spiraled downward into a deep depression.
Paul Stam, an Apex Republican, is unsympathetic to the plight of those whose lives have been destroyed by the state through wrongful incarceration, stating, “This is not a welfare issue. The last thing we need to do is to set up a new program just for people who’ve been exonerated.” I strongly disagree as money alone will not help the wrongfully imprisoned adjust once released and not help them emotionally heal from scars inflicted by the state.
The state has a duty to make things right for these innocents. Many experience painful flashbacks and some struggle with relationships. Most all have had difficulty finding employment. As a wrongly incarcerated man for 18 years, Darryl Hunt summed it up when he said about the state, “They put you out with no help as to how to adjust.”
A September 4, 2011, article in The News & Observer by Mandy Locke titled, “Freedom is sweet, but new problems set in,” described the extraordinary challenges which face those exonerated and released after many years of incarceration… a sampling of which follows.
Darryl Hunt at 46 is battling health issues including a stroke after he spent 18 years on death row. He referred to a misconception when he stated, “Everyone assumes we are okay because we are free. There is so much more to it.”
Dwayne Dail, now 43, spent nearly two decades in jail and finds life after prison overwhelming. He suffers from panic attacks and flashbacks to abuses he sustained while incarcerated.
Leo Waters is 62 but feels decades older. He served 21 years in prison for robbery and rape. A disabling back injury sustained in prison forced him out of a job after being released because he frequently called in sick. Since his experience he now keeps to himself and feels uncomfortable around people.
Shawn Massey, now 38, said about his life and situation, “I’m just trying to keep my head above water.”
Even the compensation of $50,000 per year of a wrongful incarceration with a $750,000 maximum is inadequate. Duke University, in a shakedown, shelled out $20 million to each of the Duke Lacrosse defendants even though they never spent a day in jail. Surely the state can do better than it has.
To an objective, rational, and reasonable individual it is evident that Gregory Taylor, Erick Daniels, and Shawn Massey were all unjustly convicted and wrongly served lengthy prison sentences. Of the three, only Taylor has received a pardon and the compensation that he is entitled to as mandated by the General Assembly… which is a pittance when one considers that they were deprived of a human’s most valuable possession… freedom.
The reason for the denial of a pardon for Erick Daniels and Shawn Massey is obvious. It is because of the color of their skin… the fact that they are African Americans. Race is the determining factor in the governor’s decision regarding pardons of innocence. The onus is on the governor to prove otherwise, but to date Governor Perdue who publicly advocates for transparency in government is shielding a racist policy behind a claim of “confidentiality concerns.”
The reason Governor Bev Perdue feels at ease denying pardons to deserving African Americans who have been wrongly incarcerated is because the NAACP, black politicians, black community leaders, black religious leaders, black businesses, black organizations, and black media have remained silent about the blatant and egregious mistreatment of these people of color who are being victimized again by a Democratic governor blocking their access to the compensation to which they are entitled. The African Americans throughout the Tar Heel state are enabling the governor to proceed with carrying out her policies based on race by remaining silent.
State NAACP President William Barber, to my knowledge, has not commented on the denial of a pardon for Durham resident Erick Daniels. Neither has Durham politicians Senator Floyd McKissick, Representatives Larry Hall and Mickey Michaux, or Democratic Congressman David Price.
Prospects do not look good for another request for a Pardon of Innocence that is pending before Governor Perdue, as the petitioner is an African American named Glen Edward Chapman.
An article in the April 3, 2008 News & Observer titled “Another innocent inmate leaves state’s death row” is about Glen Chapman who spent fourteen years on death row for two slayings he did not commit. Again, information that a key witness identified someone other than Chapman was withheld from his attorneys. Furthermore, a forensic report showed that one victim most likely died from a drug overdose rather than due to foul play.
According to the article, defense attorneys stated that the only physical evidence tying Chapman to the one homicide victim was the result of consensual sex with the victim. In addition, it was never reported to defense lawyers that eyewitnesses had last seen the murder victim alive with someone with a history of violence against her in the days after prosecutors claimed she had died.
On August 15, 2011, I hand-delivered a letter to the Capitol Building for Governor Perdue requesting that she give Glen Chapman the pardon he deserves, so that he can receive compensation for the state’s injustices against him.
Later, I received a letter dated August 23, 2011, from Pat Hansen, the Governor’s Clemency Administrator who stated that my comments regarding a possible Chapman pardon would be taken into consideration. The Office of Executive Clemency’s response was appreciated; however, what I found to be extremely disturbing is that the office is apparently under the auspices of the North Carolina Department of Corrections. This seems to represent a grave conflict of interest and one that does not bode well for the interests of justice.
Odds for Glen Edward Chapman receiving a pardon of innocence from Governor Perdue are a long shot when one considers past history and the fact that Mr. Chapman is a man of color.
Equal justice for all demands that Erick Daniels, Shawn Massey, and Glen Chapman receive a pardon from Governor Perdue. That will enable them to receive compensation from the state for their wrongful incarcerations in accordance with law set forth by the state’s legislature. Tar Heelians of good conscience rooted in the principle of “equal justice for all” will accept nothing less.