When prisoners are looking to clear their names, they often turn to the same place: the Innocence Project. Across the country, branches of the project have helped exonerate 289 prisoners using post-conviction DNA testing. Thirteen of those cases were handled by the Northern California Innocence Project. I spoke with Linda Starr, legal director of the Northern California Innocence Project, in her office at Santa Clara University’s law school.
Maurice Caldwell's conviction was overturned, and after 20 years incarcerated, he walked out of custody the 28th of March 2011. Photo courtesy of: Paige Kaneb
It’s the early 90s. Young people are watching MTV, their parents Twin Peaks. Maurice Caldwell is 22 years old and lives in the Alemany projects in Bernal Heights, on the same streets where he grew up. He works in an industrial warehouse in Hayward and likes to hang out with his friends.
But, he admits today, he was also a troublemaker. “I wasn’t a choir boy,” says Caldwell. “I sold drugs, from time to time.” And, from time to time, he’d come in contact with police.
So when Caldwell was picked up by police and taken to the county jail on 850 Bryant Street in the morning hours one day in September 1990, he thought nothing of it. Until he learned that he was accused of murder.
By Martina Castro
California is home to the largest U.S. women’s prison, located in Chowchilla. Women represent the fastest growing sector of the prison population nationwide and in the state. And the Habeas Project says about two-thirds of women behind bars report they are survivors of domestic abuse. One of those women was Deborah Peagler.
Peagler says her boyfriend started abusing her shortly after they began dating at age 15. She says he was upset with her because she refused to prostitute herself.
DEBORAH PEAGLER: I just balled up on the floor in a ball, I’ll never forget, he was kicking me and kicking me and kicking me. And I was like, “I promise, I promise, I’ll do it next time. Please don’t hit me no more, please don’t hit me no more, please stop hitting me.”
Debi Peagler speaks from Chowchilla prison in a new documentary based on her story called “Crime After Crime.” The film shows how the abuse escalated: after she says her partner threatened to kill her, Debi Peagler was involved in her abuser’s murder. Though she wasn’t present when he was killed, that involvement landed her in prison for 25 years to life.
What’ll happen to the Defense of Marriage Act? (tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com) Judge officially rules that same-sex partners can’t be denied federal benefits.
Crime flicks in SF (therapsheet.blogspot.com) Tough guys like the fog.
Mysteries of San Francisco (therapsheet.blogspot.com) Crime novels infused with ferries, sourdough, and naked people.
Editorial blasts immigration enforcement program (The New York Times) Paper’s editorial board says Secure Communities doesn’t target the worst of the worst in criminal aliens so much as yoke local police into patrolling for immigration.
Should a sitting judge write a book? (Boston Globe) Judges are people with great power in the community–how much should we know about their personal lives and legal philosophies?
Innocence Project Co-Founder Peter Neufeld on Being Wrong (Slate) The psychology of wrongful convictions.