Sunday, April 19, 2015

Michael McAlister: Virginia: Dahlia Lithwick asks if Governor McAuliffe will exonerate an innocent man without DNA? "DNA testing has been used 329 times now to prove the innocence of people wrongly convicted of a crime," she observes. What happens when there is only his word, and the mounded doubts of the team that prosecuted and convicted him? And what happens when — despite growing certainty that it has imprisoned the wrong man for more than 20 years — the Commonwealth of Virginia stands poised to keep him locked up, possibly forever? (Must Must Read. HL);


POST: "This man deserves a pardon," by Dahlia Lithwick, published by Slate on April 13, 2104. (Dahlia Lithwick writes about the courts and the law for Slate.)

SUB-HEADING: "Virginia is still imprisoning an almost certainly innocent man—even after he did the time."

GIST: DNA testing has been used 329 times now to prove the innocence of people wrongly convicted of a crime. But what happens when there is no DNA evidence to prove someone’s innocence? What happens when there is only his word, and the mounded doubts of the team that prosecuted and convicted him? And what happens when—despite growing certainty that it has imprisoned the wrong man for more than 20 years—the Commonwealth of Virginia stands poised to keep him locked up, possibly forever? Of all the maddening stories of wrongful convictions, Michael McAlister’s may be one of the worst. For starters, he has been in prison for 29 years for an attempted rape he almost certainly did not commit. For much of that time, the lead prosecutor who secured his conviction, the original lead detective on the case, and more recently, the current Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney, Michael Herring, have argued that McAlister is innocent and that someone else—a notorious serial rapist with the same MO as the perpetrator of the crime for which McAlister was convicted—is in fact the real criminal. “I think our justice system is one of the best on the planet,” Herring told the Richmond Times-Dispatch last week. “But this case makes me ashamed of it.” Beyond the injustice of his wrongful conviction, McAlister, now 58, faces yet another legal nightmare: His release date of Jan. 15, 2015, has come and gone, and he is still locked up. He faces the possibility of almost indefinite commitment because Virginia plans to hold him as a sexually violent predator based largely on his 1986 conviction, a conviction that prosecutors long ago began to doubt. The indispensible Frank Green of the Richmond Times-Dispatch, who has been reporting on this case since 2002, has the whole story here. The short version is that McAlister may well continue to be imprisoned indefinitely by a justice system that operates along your basic “Hotel California” principles: You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave. In a last-ditch effort to end this march of the surreal, McAlister’s lawyers and Herring filed a petition Wednesday to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe for an absolute pardon. Absent that, the system will grind onward and an innocent man may be incarcerated for years for a crime nobody truly believes he committed. Here are the facts: In 1986, McAlister was convicted of attempted rape and abduction with the attempt to defile, after a 4½-hour bench trial. The only evidence presented was the victim’s identification based on her partial glimpse of her assailant’s face, much of which was covered with a mask. The photo array she was shown by the police did not include a picture of Norman Derr, a serial rapist who had already attempted to attack another woman in the same apartment complex. But it did include a photo of McAlister, and the two men looked astonishingly similar. Nobody believes he did the crime, but he will never, ever stop doing the time. Derr is currently serving three life sentences. He was caught after the brutal rape of a woman in 1988 and is now linked to six other violent offenses through DNA cold-case testing. (There was no biological evidence from the crime McAlister was convicted of, and thus nothing to implicate Derr and exonerate McAlister.) But the similarities between Derr’s crimes and the alleged McAlister assault are remarkable.......To summarize, he was jailed for a sexually violent act he maintains he didn’t commit, and in order to avoid prolonged civil commitment for that act, he needs to admit that he did it. A Catch-22 without the laugh line. Herring, the current Richmond Commonwealth’s attorney, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that, “McAlister’s case presents the nightmare scenario we all fear—overwhelming evidence of systemic failure at just about every juncture.” He added that although the prosecution team had contemporaneous doubts about his guilt, “the concerns were ignored. Roughly 29 years later, the commonwealth is poised to double down on its mistake by seeking to have him declared and held as a sexually violent predator for a crime he didn’t commit.”"

The entire post can be found at: 

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2015/04/michael_mcalister_wrongful_conviction_will_gov_mcauliffe_exonerate_an_innocent.html

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: 

Dear Reader. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog. We are following this case.
 
I have added a search box for content in this blog which now encompasses several thousand posts. The search box is located  near the bottom of the screen just above the list of links. I am confident that this powerful search tool provided by "Blogger" will help our readers and myself get more out of the site.

The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

http://www.thestar.com/topic/charlessmith

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:
 
http://smithforensic.blogspot.ca/2013/12/the-charles-smith-award-presented-to_28.html
 
I look forward to hearing from readers at:

hlevy15@gmail.com.
 
Harold Levy; Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;