|A Resolution Of
The Vietnam Veterans Of America
|In a breaking story, I have learned that Chapter 10 of
the Vietnam Veterans of America, the largest local Chapter in this nation
which is located in Cincinnati, Ohio, will be presented with a RESOLUTION
at their next meeting which advocates the creation of "Fail-Safe" Laws,
Statutes and Rules of Court by Congress, state Legislatures and state Supreme
Courts, allowing wrongfully convicted Veterans and citizens access to mandatory
court forums or independent commissions empowered to review claims and
proof of innocence and grant relief.
In the summer of 2002, a representative of Chapter 10, and minister of the Vietnam Veterans for Christ Ministries, Mr. Boggess of Cincinnati, attended a meeting of Chapter 592 of the Vietnam Veterans of America at Lebanon Correctional Institution in Lebanon, Ohio, as a guest speaker to the incarcerated veteran members of Chapter 592. During the meeting I had the opportunity to discuss not only my personal case and the proof I have obtained showing my innocence, about the problem of wrongful convictions nationwide. Our time was limited due to other members wanting to discuss different veteran issues with Mr. Boggess, however he invited me k write to him.
At that time, the Innocent Inmates Association of Ohio, Inc., had my case under review and had not accepted my case for posting on their website at www.innocentinmates.org. I did not have all the documents necessary to prove my innocence available to photocopy and send to him at that time. Further, when I wrote to him the next day, I never received an answer, and my "plate" was full with assisting other men in their legal work, so I simply kept his address for a later time.
Last week I ran across his address and wrote him a six-page letter explaining in detail my situation and how the statistics generated by the 5% of Death Row prisoners exonerated by DNA evidence on Illinois' Death Row, prior to Governor Ryan's commutation of all 167 Death Sentences, indicates a larger problem of wrongful convictions among non-Death Penalty convictions exists nationwide.
I explained that 12.5% of all state prisoners, 14.7% of all Federal prisoners, and 11.7% of all jail prisoners in the United States are Veterans, and that the 5% wrongful conviction statistics applied to them as well, and indicated as many as 10,000 incarcerated Veterans may be innocent, and like me, without a court forum or remedy where they can present their proof of innocence and obtain relief. I referred Mr. Boggess to both my website at PrisonerLife.com and at innocentinmates.org.
Two days ago I called Mr. Rod Kee, founder of the Innocent Inmates Association of Ohio, and he told me I had a lengthy email from Mr. Boggess on my website. He read it to me over the phone, in part.
Mr. Boggess and I had discussed the fact that the National Vietnam Veterans of America has already adopted a RESOLUTION opposing the Death Penalty. I suggested they consider a RESOLUTION concerning wrongful convictions and the lack of laws to address them in the United States. In his email, Mr. Boggess stated that in light of what I had presented at innocentinmates.org showing my innocence, and the statistics I had provide, that he had decided to present the following RESOLUTION to Chapter 10, and at the National Vietnam Veterans of America Convention to be held shortly.
The RESOLUTION I have proposed is:
A RESOLUTION OF THE VIETNAM VETERANS OF AMERICA
The Vietnam Veterans of America recognizes all of the following as true:
1) That twelve and one-half percent (12.5%) of the prisoners being held in the prisons and jails of the several States and of the United States are Veterans;
2) That several of our incarcerated brothers-in-arms maintain they are innocent of the crimes for which, in some cases, they are sentenced to life in prison;
3) That several of our brothers-in-arms assert they have evidence of either a non-DNA nature, or of a DNA nature, obtained by them after their trials and after the complete exhaustion of all available State and Federal appeals and court remedies, or after the expiration of the time limits imposed by law in which they were allowed to present this discovered evidence of their innocence;
4) That the recent surge of the exoneration and release of wrongfully convicted citizens due to advances in DNA technology has been accomplished more through media exposure and publicity of the individual cases that pressured local courts to grant otherwise totally discretionary hearings in these cases than through the existence of laws, court rules or independent commissions or panels established by law to review claims by prisoners of newly discovered evidence proving their innocence as a matter of right;
5) That the United States Supreme Court does not recognize a freestanding claim of actual innocence advance by a prisoner in a Federal Petition for a Writ of Habeas Corpus as a Constitutional claim or violation of the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution, even when that claim is supported by overwhelming proof evidencing the prisoner is actually innocent of the crimes for which they are imprisoned;
6) That the several States have failed to enact or adopt laws creating any forum for the review as of right of newly discovered evidence proving the innocence of prisoners, obtained by the prisoner after the expiration of the time limits imposed in which the prisoner was allowed to file a Motion For New Trial, a time limit as short as ten (10) days in some states;
7) That in the State of Illinois, five percent (5%) of Death Row prisoners were proven innocent by DNA evidence, some within hours of being executed, prior to Governor Ryan issuing a blanket commutation of the sentences of all 167 Death Row prisoners;
8) That the Governor of the State of Illinois stated as his reasons for granting a blanket commutation to all Death Row prisoners in that State, his belief after a review of all 167 convictions that a system-wide breakdown in the determination of guilt or innocence, and the appeal process had occurred;
9) That in December 2002, in Report NCJ-197020, the United States Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, reported that between the years 1973 and 2001, ten percent (10%) of all Death Penalty convictions were reversed on appeal, sixteen percent (16%) of all Death Sentences were reversed, two percent (2%) of all Death Sentences were commuted to life sentences by Governors finding irregularities, and point four percent (.4%) of Death Row prisoners were removed from Death Row for unknown or undisclosed reasons, resulting in a total of 2060 of 7096 Death Sentences, or twenty-nine percent (29%) being found to be so unreliable as to be set aside;
10) That Death Penalty cases receive the highest level of scrutiny by the courts, and the highest level of due process protections of all criminal convictions;
11) That as of December 31st, 2001, there were 1,962,220 U.S. citizens being held in the prisons and jails of the several States and of the United States, and another 4,663,898 U.S. citizens under the supervisory control of either the several States or the United States on probation or parole, for a total of 6,594,000 citizens, when adjusted for prisoners with multiple statuses;
12) That even using the lowest error rate of the five percent (5%) exonerated by new DNA evidence on the State of Illinois? Death Row prior to the Governor of Illinois commuting all Death Row sentences, and applying that percentage to all non-Death Penalty convictions, while recognizing that non-Death Penalty convictions receive a lower standard of scrutiny and review for error on appeal, at a minimum, there are approximately 100,000 undiscovered and as yet non-exonerated innocent United States citizens being presently held in the jails and prisons of the several States and of the United States;
13) That of the approximately two hundred thousand (200,000) of our brothers-in-arms presently incarcerated in the prisons and jails of the several States and of the United States, statistically at least 10,000 of them are innocent of the crimes for which they are imprisoned;
14) That our innocent brother-in-arms, and other innocent prisoners of the several States and of the United States, have no laws, courts rules, independent commissions or panels, which constitute a forum in which they may present any new evidence they may have proving their innocence and obtain either a review of that evidence, or relief from their wrongful convictions, as a matter of right;
15) That Article 14, paragraph 6, of the
International Covenant on Civil And Political Rights, enacted on December
16, 1966 by the United Nations, establishes under International Law the
right for persons convicted of criminal offences by Member States to be
entitled to a forum as of right in which to present new or newly discovered
evidence proving a manifest miscarriage of justice has occurred by their
conviction, and for that person to be able to obtain relief from a wrongful
conviction and compensation, therefore,
16) WHEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED: That the Vietnam Veterans of America do hereby support and strongly advocate the creation and enactment, by the Congress of the United States, the Legislatures of the several States, and the Supreme Courts of the several States, of New Laws, Statutes and Rules of Court, which provide for, as a matter of right, a means by which citizens who have been convicted of criminal offences shall have mandatory access to a court forum or independent commission in which they may present new or newly discovered evidence proving by clear and convincing proof that a manifest miscarriage of justice has occurred by their conviction, and from which those citizens may obtain relief from wrongful imprisonment and compensation of a substantial nature therefore.
Mr. Boggess further explained he had lost the address to PrisonerLife.com I had given him at our meeting, and never received the letter I sent to him last summer. (Prison mail has an above average rate of ?loss? for some unexplained reason.)
The deadline for submitting Resolutions to the National Convention of the VVA is March 31st, 2003. So we are operating on a tight time schedule that may or may not be met.
After years of quoting statistics to various organizations and attempting to gain support of a nationally recognized organization, I may well be on the brink of a major break-through with an organization that maintains a powerful lobby in Congress and which has the respect of the American people.
I have proposed that any new laws addressing the problem of wrongful convictions in the United States be called "FAIL-SAFE ACTS." They take affect when all the normal procedures of our court system have failed to correct a wrongful conviction. Like the high standard of documentary proof required by the Innocent Inmates Association of Ohio these new laws will protect the truly innocent. Further, unlike some proposals that have been made to Congress, these laws will not be limited to solely DNA evidence.
To allow non-DNA evidence to be used to prove a wrongful conviction is most important because among the wrongful convictions are a percentage of convictions obtained by false allegations and false testimony, where in fact no crime ever occurred. If no crime occurred, there can never be any DNA evidence proving guilt or innocence.
The laws of all States allow convictions upon allegations of rape to be upheld based solely on the testimony of the alleged victim, without any physical proof or corroborating witnesses. Although few men accused of rape in these types of cases can prove, for example, as I have proven, that I was living over 4,000 miles removed from Cincinnati on the dates the rapes I am serving four life sentences for were testified to as having occurred, those prisoners with such proof should have a court forum or remedy available to them in which they can present that proof.
To say the above developments have made my week is an understatement. To say the above developments may turn a few judge's and prosecutor's hair grey, is also an understatement. Pandora's Box is opening, and in this instance, it is going to be a good thing once the dust settles.
If this Resolution passes, and the laws needed are passed, no longer will a judge be able to tell a prisoner, as I was told, that my proof of my innocence is IRRELEVANT. No longer will motions filed by prisoners for new trials based on new or newly discovered evidence proving the prisoner is innocent, be dismissed in one-line orders finding the motion is "untimely." No longer will proof of innocence not obtained until after the trial be held as not admissible in a State prisoners Federal Habeas Corpus actions.
No longer will innocent citizens sit on prison bunks holding proof of their innocence in their hand, with no place to send it to have it heard.
If Chapter 10 votes to adopt the Resolution, and National adopts it as well, hopefully The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars and Disabled Americans Veterans will see the value also, and the need for, FAIL-SAFE ACTS, and climb on the bandwagon.
All wrongfully convicted citizens are not fortunate enough to be able to actually prove their convictions are false. We will never be able to achieve perfection in our system of justice. But the FAIL-SAFE ACTS advocated above are a giant step towards a more fair society. The right to Liberty of the individual is a relatively new social experiment in relation to the thousands of years in the history of mankind when the individual counted for little more than another piece of property to be exploited by the Emperors, Kings and Lords of the world. Yet in every nation that has adopted the Democratic form of government, and issued a Bill of Rights to its? common citizens, peace and prosperity has followed, and unlike some other forms of government experimented with, none have retreated to the old repressive governments of the past.
Yet that doesn't mean that what we have cannot be improved upon. In fact, our whole way of life assumes our government will evolve with each generation into something better.
As much as I sometimes criticize what I see, hear and experience concerning our government, and our system of justice, I want you, my readers, to understand my beef is with the people running the system, not the ideals that underlie the system itself. I love my country. But I will not quietly watch the fundamental ideals of liberty and justice upon which it was founded denigrated by people concerned only with either imposing their personal values upon others, or avoiding political scandal, to the point of relegating the rights of others below those ideals, while preaching these very same ideals publicly. Such hypocrisy is not acceptable by me, and I fear them not. After all, "they", people just like I described above, are who put me here serving four consecutive life sentences. What are they going to do to me now? Eat me? I doubt it. What could be worse than putting an innocent man in prison?
I've been told I have the tact and diplomacy of a Hydrogen Bomb. [The squeaky wheel gets the grease.] God willing, if the VVA adopts my resolution and begins lobbying for laws to free the wrongfully convicted, the flood of innocent citizens released by those laws will initiate a fundamental change in our court system to the benefit of all society. A change, in my opinion, that is long overdue.
Until next time, this is Jim Love reporting From The Front Line.
James Love. All Rights Reserved.
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