Monday, January 24, 2005

Pro Bono

This morning, I went down to the Rocky Mountain Innocence Project to begin volunteering . This place is dedicated to helping truly wrongfully convicted inmates in Nevada, Idaho, and Utah get out of prison. Two of my classmates also had stopped in and it seems like it will be an interesting and worthwhile use of my Monday mornings. For about 2 hours each week, we will read through letters that inmates and their relatives send us, and decide whether their case is worth investigating further.

The center is not in the habbit of defending "innocent" people or ones who write enough letters, but only actually innocent people who we can prove that they are not guilty-- i.e. convicted rapists whose DNA doesn't match the rape kit or the like.

We spent most of the time this morning discussing a case involving a man who was visiting a convience store/gas station at early in the morning out on the Westside of the Valley somewhere. Appearantly one guy saw him, and other guy saw the perpetrator, and the two witnesses agreed that this was the same guy. The victim's head was appearantly stomped to death, yet there was no blood found on the clothing or shoes the inmate claims he was wearing that night (moreover, his shoes don't match the bloody footprints found on the scene, both in size and type).

The timeline via the survielence camera gives the inmate 5 minutes to knock the victim down to ground and beat him to death with his feet (his middle finger of his right hand was broken a week prior to the incident and he was right handed). In letters and interviews he claims was waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up. No blood or trace evidence was found in her car or his car afterwards.

Sounds like he is innocent right? No real evidence other than two witnesses collaporating to describe what they saw early in the morning in the dark 75-232 feet away. But since our inmate wasn't picked up until a few days later, this gives the prosecutor a chance to argue that he threw away the murder clothes. My guess is that a gang of thugs with bats and the like (who were spotted in the area earlier in the evening by residents and by the suspect himself upon reflection) were the ones who did the horrific deed, either by group or group pressure on one.

Personally I don't see how he could have knocked down and then beaten to death a man in five minutes yet have no blood on him when he came back into the store nor be out of breath. Just goes to show you, don't hang out at the gas station in a "bad neighborhood" late at night.

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