Thursday, July 14, 2005

Wrongful Death

Not the tort kind - the "death penalty" kind.
In this case, an extremely unusual private investigation was conducted after Mr. Griffin's death. It was sponsored by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and led by Samuel Gross, a professor at the University of Michigan Law School. That investigation has pretty much demolished Mr. Fitzgerald's account of what occurred and prompted Ms. Joyce to reopen the case.

* * *

Professor Gross, who has received extensive pro bono help from prominent law firms, has given prosecutors the names of three men he believes committed the murder, and the evidence that points to their guilt.
Professor Gross has an unusual background for a law professor (at least at a school like Michigan) - and it's good to hear (although not surprising) that he continues to perform this type of work. He also taught one of my favorite classes in law school, and always seemed to be a genuinely nice guy.


  1. Bias is a funny thing and defense counsel are supposed to be zealous advocates for their clients positions. When a drug company does a study and determines that we would all be better off if we bought lots and lots of their product, I don't give the study much weight. When a political advocacy group "funds" research that finds exactly what they want it to find, I don't give the results much weight. Here is an alternate take on the article in question . . .

    Here is how the story told by Mr. Herbert seems to read when his biases are removed (and mine are added):
    a. An admitted murderer is executed, maybe for the wrong murder.

    b. The prosecuting attorney has reopened the investigation of a "drive by shooting" case involving multiple perpetrators in which someone has handed her evidence naming three additional suspects. Not exactly an indictment of the original conviction of one of the subjects of the investigation, just a prosecutor acting responsibly when provided new information.

    c. Defense counsel, for some reason not given by the author, chose not to call a witness who now claims that if called then he would have testified that the accused was not one of the gunmen and that the prosecution's star witness wasn't really there . . . of course for some reason the author omits why defense counsel chose not to call him at trial or why the witness didn't bother coming forward sooner. I'm guessing (and that's all I'm doing) that the witness is either a lot "clearer" on what happened now than he was then, or he has some major credibility issues that caused defense counsel to not use him at trial.

    d. A police officer who was called as a witness at the trial now claims that he perjured himself when he was on the witness stand at trial. He doesn't know why he perjured himself then, he isn't volunteering any information about why he is coming forward now, but he and the author both know we should all believe him "this time".

    What does that leave us with, some people who are against the use of the death penalty in any case reviewed an old case and determined that the death penalty was inappropriate. A witness who was at a "notorious block" and knew (was a friend of?) the accused claimed that he didn't see the accused do it and that nobody else saw the accused do it either, no matter what they thought they saw. A witness for the prosecution at the time of trial has come forward now to say that he lied then. He doesn't know why he lied then, but we should all believe him now. I'm sure Mr. Herbert will pardon me if I don't find this to be a very convincing case and I'm sure Prof. Gross will survive my insinuation that his "investigation" may have had a hint of advocacy to it.


  2. A lawyer as advocate? I think he would acknowledge the element of advocacy. ;-)


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