Apr 8, 2021
| Read Time: 4 minutes
When the criminal justice system accuses or convicts a person of a crime they did not commit, it is a horrible miscarriage of justice. These famous wrongful conviction cases are horrific and cause an innocent person and their loved ones immense harm, psychologically, financially, and physically. Most importantly, they may strip the innocent of their freedom, sometimes forever. Here are five situations involving the wrongfully convicted—cases that demonstrate the worst of these situations. The Central Park 5 The Central Park jogger case, also known as the Central Park Five case, resulted in the wrongful convictions of five young men of color from underprivileged backgrounds. Their alleged crime was attacking and sexually assaulting a white woman who was jogging in New York City’s Central Park. The nature and location of the crime catapulted this case into the headlines. The media and city leaders placed immense pressure on the judicial system to hold someone accountable. The police soon arrested five young men and charged them with the crime despite a lack of concrete evidence. Scared and, at times, threatened, most confessed. One young man later said he never spoke to his father again as his father told him to confess so the police could help him, even though he told him he was innocent. Ultimately the scenarios turned to wrongfully convicted cases. The boys served sentences of many years before the judicial system finally exonerated them after someone else confessed to the crimes. In later years, the men spoke of their harrowing ordeals, the trauma and abuse they suffered during the process and in prison, and the toll being part of famous wrongful conviction cases still takes on them. Henry and Leon McCollum Henry McCollum was 19 years old, and his brother Leon 15 when law enforcement wrongfully charged them with a gruesome crime ending in the death of an 11-year-old. The police interrogated them with no lawyer present for hours on end. The case never received the notoriety of some others, but many in the legal community consider it one of the worst wrongful conviction cases because it: Contained apparent police misconduct; Involved two young brothers; Failed to find the true killer of a child at the time; and Took three decades of life away from two very young men. In 2014, after nearly 31 years in prison, the court exonerated the two brothers based on DNA evidence. Duke University Lacrosse Team The third spot on this troubling list goes to the Duke University Lacrosse Team. Duke University is an elite private institution know for a student body filled with students who are: Academically strong, From well-off families, and Great athletes. In the early 2000s, members of the men’s lacrosse team at the university were riding high. The team had been incredibly successful. But the 2006 season was cut short when several Duke players were falsely accused of rape. Like the Central Park 5, the Duke students were all teens or young men. The media coverage of the case was massive, and the public early on turned against the Duke athletes. But the similarities between the cases ends there. The Duke players were primarily members of well-connected families, and all immediately denied the allegations. Their families hired strong defense attorneys right away and fought back in the media. While there clearly was evidence that a crime took place in the Central Park 5 case, there was no immediate definitive evidence of an assault in the Duke case. As a result of solid legal representation and eventual scrutiny of the cases’ validity, the prosecutor dropped all charges against the young men. But the players had already been convicted in the court of public opinion, and the loss of their lacrosse season was the least of the impacts of these wrongfully accused cases. The Duke accused suffered ongoing public censure and doubt, emotional trauma, notoriety they did not ask for or deserve, and, for some, the inability to continue with their education at Duke. The trauma to them remains. Wrongful Conviction Cases in California With nearly 40 million residents, the most populated state in the United States is California. It is also a popular state for tourists with wonderful beaches, movie stars, the golden gate bridge, and beautiful cities such as San Diego. However, like all states, California has its dark moments, including wrongful conviction cases. Our 4th and 5th famous wrongful conviction cases perpetrated by the US justice system occurred in California. Kimberly Long It really does happen. A person can know the victim, find them injured or dead, report the crime, and then become the suspect of a murder investigation. In Kimberly Long’s story, things then got even worse. In 2003, Kimberly arrived home and discovered her boyfriend bludgeoned to death in the living room of the home they shared. She immediately called 911. Then, the police charged her with the crime. She pleaded that the police were wrongfully accusing her. The police did not believe her. They had a witness putting her at the scene, they said, and the case went to a California court. The first jury hung, and nine jurors were in favor of acquittal. The second jury, after allowed a break from deliberations to celebrate Christmas, returned a guilty verdict. Fast forward 11 years. The justice system found that testimony from the prosecution’s star witness was unreliable. And thanks to forensic pathology evidence, the corrections system released her from prison after a wrongful conviction. Kimberly lost her partner and a decade of her life before justice was served. Suzanne Johnson Our fifth case involves a child who died while in the San Diego home daycare of Suzanne Johnson. The law did not believe Suzanne’s version of an accidental fall causing the death or her calls for help. Instead, the police turned the home into a crime scene, and the justice system wrongfully accused and then convicted Suzzane of killing the baby. The court sentenced her to 25 years to life. She served 21 years before Governor Newsom...
Apr 8, 2021
| Read Time: 3 minutes
Our criminal justice system is well known for requiring that it presumes someone innocent until proven guilty. However, every year people unfortunately file false criminal accusations, the justice system treats the accused as guilty, and sometimes people who have done nothing wrong face judicial proceedings. In the most upsetting situations, judges and juries convict innocent people. Why does this happen? What should an innocent person in this situation do? An accomplished criminal defense firm can address these questions. More importantly, it can defend those wrongfully accused. Understanding the Process Our judicial system is intended to be fair and never take away the rights of an innocent person. There are many safeguards that you have probably heard of, including: You have the right to remain silent, You have the right to an attorney, and You have the right to a jury. Also, there are ample procedures, policies, and laws police officers must follow to ensure, among other things, that police investigate accusations fully and fairly. For instance, they cannot interrogate a person who is in custody without first reading them their rights, and they usually need a warrant or consent to search a person’s body and/or belongings. Prosecutorial agencies should never charge a person without great cause. The judicial system, ideally, should never convict an innocent person. However, even these significant protections do not always ensure that there will never be false accusations against a person. Causes of False Criminal Accusations and False Criminal Charges No law can make a person honest. Therefore, people at times, unfortunately, make false criminal accusations against others on purpose. Sometimes a spiteful neighbor, ex-spouse, or even someone’s family member will make a false allegation. Other times the false allegation is a mistake. A victim may misidentify the person whom they believe was a perpetrator. While the vast majority of law-enforcement officers are diligent and honest, some are neither. Untrustworthy officers may file false charges. Investigators who are not conscientious may make missteps and accept the word of those making false criminal accusations. The result of the missteps in the judicial process? An innocent person must combat false criminal charges. In these cases, they will immediately need an experienced, highly rated legal defense team. Combating False Accusations If a person faces a wrongful criminal charge, they may want to sue for false accusations. However, the immediate focus needs to be on protecting yourself from the allegations. Remember, no matter how absurd, untrue, maddening, or unfair the accusations may be, they still pose a grave risk to the individual facing them. Hiring a defense firm that gets results is the best way to combat false criminal charges. Whether the individual fears false criminal accusations may come or law enforcement has already charged them with false criminal charges, they need a good lawyer. Based on where in the process the case is, the attorney may: Address the person threatening to file the false charges and notify the police of this threat (which is illegal conduct); Work with police to see the whole picture and not file charges; Negotiate with the prosecutor to drop the false charges; Fight vigorously in court for a not-guilty verdict regarding the false accusations; and Seek to overturn a wrongful conviction based on false criminal charges. To be clear, a person’s freedom is at stake when dealing with false criminal charges. A lawsuit for wrongful accusation is a civil case that certainly may warrant consideration. But the priority must be avoiding any possibility of a criminal record and punishment based on false criminal accusations. Step one: always reach out to a criminal defense lawyer for a free, confidential consultation and begin the process of protecting your rights if you are facing false criminal accusations. Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC, is a top-notch San Diego County criminal defense firm. Having tried well over 100 jury trials, the firm is well-respected in the judicial community and receives ongoing praise from clients and the media. Compassion and experience are the trademarks of The Law Offices of Kerry L. Armstrong, APLC. The firm will stand up for you and enable you to rest assured that your case is being handled with the utmost care by attentive veteran legal professionals. Call 619-234-2300 today if you need a criminal defense attorney, or reach out online for a free consultation.
Jan 22, 2021
| Read Time: 2 minutes
A charge of robbery in the second degree is addressed by California Penal Code § 212.5 as being all robberies that are not listed in first-degree robberies, which are listed on this page. First-degree robbery is defined as those that take place on any mode of transportation, such as a bus, taxicab, cable car, trackless trolley, vehicles on tracks, as well as any building used for habitation purposes. This includes houseboats and trailer coaches. Carjacking is also a first-degree robbery. Additionally, first-degree robberies are conducted by more than one person. Included in the first-degree robbery is the robbery of persons at an ATM or a person who has just left an ATM but is still near the ATM. All second-degree robberies are those that take place anywhere else not listed above. These are conducted by one person. Penalties for Second-Degree Robbery Both first degree and second-degree robberies are considered felonies in California. Enhancement charges can be added on if a firearm, assault weapon, or machine gun is used, adding up to another 10 years to the sentence. If the weapon was discharged during the robbery, then another 10 years could be added on. Second-degree robbery charges bring a sentence of two, three, to five years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines. A formal or felony probation is an alternative sentence that requires a convicted person of the felony to spend time in the community under supervision. This is an alternative to spending a sentence in jail. A probation term can be three to five years. Under probation terms, the person must complete the following: Commit no other crimes (other than simple traffic infractions), Commit to regularly scheduled visits to a probation officer, as set by the court, Perform community services, and Pay restitution (typically, financial) to the victim. The judge can impose other terms, but whatever is set in place, must be observed fully by the convicted person, or a full-sentence will be imposed as determined by a judge. In most cases, probation terms are not offered in first-degree robbery convictions. Three Strikes Law in California If you conduct another robbery, you will receive a doubled sentence from what you received the first time. In a third robbery, the sentence is automatically raised to a minimum of 25 years to life in prison. Neither situation will be eligible for a formal or felony probation term. The amendment for the enactment of the Three Strikes Sentencing Law occurred in 1994 and was modified after the November election in 2012. The changes consisted of two major points. The first point: only those convictions of the third felony had to be a serious or violent felony to qualify for the 25 years to life in a prison sentence. The second point: allowed those currently serving a third strike sentence, to petition the court for a sentence reduction down to a second-strike level. In any case of robbery, the prosecutor must prove beyond a question of doubt, that you were the perpetrator in the robbery. Contact a San Diego Defense Attorney Today Witnesses are known to have faulty memories, and each can tell their own story as they saw it. These stories can widely differ from one person to the next. If you have been charged with a robbery, call us at once for a consultation. 619-234-2300