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Clinic argues for man's innocence

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Justice in Question

A large number of the wrongful-conviction cases in recent years have involved DNA evidence that wasn’t available at the time of a crime. Once that testing technology became possible, those who’d been convicted started turning to the method to prove the innocence they’d maintained all along. In one Indiana man’s case, the DNA evidence excluded him, but a lesser caliber category of forensics was introduced as evidence. Now, convicted felon Roosevelt Glenn said that serology used at his trial was a contributing factor in his being wrongfully convicted and spending the past 16 years behind bars.

He is now being assisted by the wrongful-conviction clinic at Indiana University School of Law Indianapolis, and the Indiana Supreme Court is considering whether to accept his post-conviction case on an issue his attorneys and some nationally say is an important question of law relating to wrongful convictions.

Fran Watson“This case is the ideal vehicle to correct an erroneous determination and to set forth the appropriate test for granting a new trial under Indiana’s remedial DNA statute,” wrote Indianapolis attorney Stacy Uliana in an amicus curiae brief submitted by the pro bono Innocence Network, a group of organizations committed to investigating and advocating on wrongful conviction cases. “Sections 8 and 19 of the Indiana DNA statute affirm a petitioner’s statutory right to a new trial once he demonstrates a ‘reasonable probability’  not a certainty  that a jury considering the evidence as it stands today would fail to convict him. Glenn has amply surmounted that barrier, (and he) seeks the opportunity for a new, fair trial where the remaining evidence against him must stand alone, not false corroboration by discredited science.”

After a mistrial in 1992 resulting from a hung jury, Glenn was convicted in March 1993 on a Class A felony rape count arising from a series of Lake County gang rapes and robberies that happened between 1989 and 1990. Five people were allegedly involved and police ultimately looked at Glenn and some of his co-workers, though the state dismissed charges against some of them. He received a 36-year prison sentence, which was later upheld on appeal.

At the time of the trial, Glenn was a 27-year-old married father without a criminal history. His initial appeal failed, but after a decade in prison he filed a claim based on post-conviction DNA evidence allowed by Indiana’s new DNA statute that went into effect July 1, 2001.

His post-conviction appeal argued that he was entitled to a new trial based on newly discovered material evidence: that a hair strand the state had used to convict him at trial wasn’t his and that the serology shouldn’t have been used after post-conviction DNA testing excluded him from being a contributor in the crimes. He also argued his counsel wasn’t effective because those issues weren’t raised more forcefully at trial. However, Glenn’s post-conviction claims didn’t result in a reversal, and in its April 2009 unpublished decision the Court of Appeals wrote that the circumstantial evidence used in the case, considered as a whole, was sufficient and probably wouldn’t lead to a different result on retrial.
In the pending petition for transfer, attorney and law professor Fran Watson, who leads the law school’s wrongful conviction clinic, argues that the court has a chance to review this case and set a standard for how these issues are addressed in the face of growing exonerations and wrongful-conviction findings nationally.

The simple fact is“At their core, the three issues revolve around the State’s use of invalid science to secure a conviction,” Watson wrote, citing two recent U.S. Supreme Court cases that touched on science and wrongful convictions. “Both, highlight the fact that the State’s use of invalid science is a systematic problem from which unfortunately, as this case reflects, Indiana is not immune.”

Watson said the ultimate question in this case is whether DNA trumps serology, and it’s that on which she hopes to get the Supreme Court to accept transfer.

According to the New York-based Innocence Project, which accepts cases nationally and is affiliated with the Cardozo School of Law, serology was the only way prior to DNA testing to help identify the source of blood, semen, or other body fluids found at a crime scene. Forensic analysts were able to use serology to determine what blood type was present in fluids collected in a rape kit or on a crime victim. Wrongful-conviction cases and exonerations in the past decade show that analysts sometimes have failed to recognize nuances in the forensics that make it impossible to truly know the blood type of the perpetrator, or resulting in analysts providing inaccurate statistics for the percentage of the population who share the perpetrator’s blood type.

“The simple fact is that knowledge increases, and we’re going to find that more and more cases at the post-conviction relief level that need scrutiny because of this new knowledge,” Watson said. “It’s not a situation where anyone was falsifying evidence or misleading the court, it’s just what the experts believed was valid at the time. Now, we know that’s wrong.”

Responding to the Indianapolis law school’s transfer petition, Zachary Stock, Indiana deputy attorney general, contends the justices should deny transfer because the Court of Appeals applied existing law in its unpublished opinion to determine that newly discovered evidence probably wouldn’t produce a different result at a jury trial. The response also notes that the alleged due-process issue is procedurally defaulted and that Glenn hasn’t stated any reason why an ineffective assistance of counsel claim warrants transfer.

“The forensic science presented in a trial can be wrong, but it does not necessarily follow that the conviction following that presentation is also wrongful,” the brief states.

Whether Glenn, now 47, gets the ear of Indiana’s justices remains to be seen. The court started considering his request Aug. 27, but a decision hadn’t been made by deadline for this story.

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  1. This law is troubling in two respects: First, why wasn't the law reviewed "with the intention of getting all the facts surrounding the legislation and its actual impact on the marketplace" BEFORE it was passed and signed? Seems a bit backwards to me (even acknowledging that this is the Indiana state legislature we're talking about. Second, what is it with the laws in this state that seem to create artificial monopolies in various industries? Besides this one, the other law that comes to mind is the legislation that governed the granting of licenses to firms that wanted to set up craft distilleries. The licensing was limited to only those entities that were already in the craft beer brewing business. Republicans in this state talk a big game when it comes to being "business friendly". They're friendly alright . . . to certain businesses.

  2. Gretchen, Asia, Roberto, Tonia, Shannon, Cheri, Nicholas, Sondra, Carey, Laura ... my heart breaks for you, reaching out in a forum in which you are ignored by a professional suffering through both compassion fatigue and the love of filthy lucre. Most if not all of you seek a warm blooded Hoosier attorney unafraid to take on the government and plead that government officials have acted unconstitutionally to try to save a family and/or rescue children in need and/or press individual rights against the Leviathan state. I know an attorney from Kansas who has taken such cases across the country, arguing before half of the federal courts of appeal and presenting cases to the US S.Ct. numerous times seeking cert. Unfortunately, due to his zeal for the constitutional rights of peasants and willingness to confront powerful government bureaucrats seemingly violating the same ... he was denied character and fitness certification to join the Indiana bar, even after he was cleared to sit for, and passed, both the bar exam and ethics exam. And was even admitted to the Indiana federal bar! NOW KNOW THIS .... you will face headwinds and difficulties in locating a zealously motivated Hoosier attorney to face off against powerful government agents who violate the constitution, for those who do so tend to end up as marginalized as Paul Odgen, who was driven from the profession. So beware, many are mere expensive lapdogs, the kind of breed who will gladly take a large retainer, but then fail to press against the status quo and powers that be when told to heel to. It is a common belief among some in Indiana that those attorneys who truly fight the power and rigorously confront corruption often end up, actually or metaphorically, in real life or at least as to their careers, as dead as the late, great Gary Welch. All of that said, I wish you the very best in finding a Hoosier attorney with a fighting spirit to press your rights as far as you can, for you do have rights against government actors, no matter what said actors may tell you otherwise. Attorneys outside the elitist camp are often better fighters that those owing the powers that be for their salaries, corner offices and end of year bonuses. So do not be afraid to retain a green horn or unconnected lawyer, many of them are fine men and woman who are yet untainted by the "unique" Hoosier system.

  3. I am not the John below. He is a journalist and talk show host who knows me through my years working in Kansas government. I did no ask John to post the note below ...

  4. "...not those committed in the heat of an argument." If I ever see a man physically abusing a woman or a child and I'm close enough to intercede I will not ask him why he is abusing her/him. I will give him a split second to cease his attack and put his hands in the air while I call the police. If he continues, I will still call the police but to report, "Man down with a gunshot wound,"instead.

  5. And so the therapeutic state is weaonized. How soon until those with ideologies opposing the elite are disarmed in the name of mental health? If it can start anywhere it can start in the hoosiers' slavishly politically correct capital city.

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