Saturday, February 03, 2007

Interview: Warren Blackwell

I was lucky enough to have the chance to interview Warren Blackwell, the innocent father who spent over three years in prison on trumped up charges of sexual assault as the result of a false accusation by a woman called Shannon Taylor, who has a history of mental illness and convictions for dishonesty. He spoke to me about his experiences.

Heretic: What was your lifestyle like before the accusation was made? I understand you are a father of two? What was your occupation?

Warren Blackwell: Before I was very sociable. The Social Club was my local where I’d meet up regularly in the week and at weekends with friends to play pool, darts, have drinks after football etc. Although we’re not married, Tanya and I have been together for 14 years. Holly (Tanya’s daughter from a previous relationship) was two when I started seeing Tanya, and Liam joined the clan in 1995! I was employed as a factory operative.

Heretic: Did you know your accuser before she accused you?

Warren Blackwell: No I didn’t. She had started seeing Tanya’s Uncle Ian – having met him on holiday in Tenerife ‘recovering from the effects of having been the victim of an assault!’ (I learnt this after the event).

Heretic: How did you first become aware of the accusation?

Warren Blackwell: On Saturday 2nd January 1999 Tanya went down the Social Club to have a drink with friends. I stayed at home with Liam. When she came back she told me a lot of the women were talking about another certain individual, a well know womaniser. Their concerns were such that I said if you’re really worried then call the police and tell them. Tanya did – so for me it was no surprise when the police knocked on my door at 8:00am on Sunday 3rd January. We thought they had come to talk to Tanya about what had been said amongst several women the night before, concerning this other man. So it came as quite a shock when they turned round and arrested me!!

Heretic: So, you weren't even at the social club on the night in question? You were at home with your child? Surely that must have constituted a cast-iron alibi?

Warren Blackwell: No, I stayed in on New Years Day evening… I was at the Social Club on the night in question.

Heretic: How were you treated by the police?

Warren Blackwell: Well I’d struggle to say it was nice. They turned my house upside down, and left it in a right mess. They stuck me in a police cell all day while they went about gathering all their prosecution witnesses. So basically when I came to look for defence witnesses I couldn’t turn to many, because the police had already got them as their witnesses! Considering the misrepresentations in witness statements that have since come to light, it is clear how the police conduct their interviews. They will coerce the witness until they say what they ‘want’ them to say. I don’t ever recall being seen by a doctor while I was in the holding cell, which is supposed to be standard practice.

Heretic: Were you held on remand pending trial?

Warren Blackwell: No – and that says a lot about the strength of the case against me at the time.

Heretic: Did you get legal aid?

Warren Blackwell: Yes I did but I had to make a weekly contribution to the costs. As soon as the Single Judge refuses you leave to appeal then all legal aid ceases. From then on I was privately funded.

Heretic: Were you happy with your defence team?

Warren Blackwell: At first I’d have to say yes. Never having been involved with court proceedings before, anything my lawyer and barrister told me I took as Gospel. Only when I was convicted and began delving into the evidence for an appeal did I begin to realise just how incompetent they were. For instance, it took me three letters and over twelve months before my solicitor actually wrote to the CPS and demanded any and all reports pertaining to any forensic tests carried out in this case – and he only did that once leave was refused!

I was told by another convict that they would do nothing in order to ‘bury you in the prison system’ so as to save their own embarrassment. I firmly believe this to be the case. My original lawyer did not want me to have a proper appeal to the point where they did not use the new evidence we had gathered to put before the Full Court. This, I believe, was to save any embarrassing questions being asked of them, for instance – any judge would have turned round and asked why this evidence was not adduced at trial. I have many examples of their incompetence and what I see as deliberate stalling tactics. When I eventually plucked up the courage to fire them it was too late, the damage had already been done.

I have to say though, this has nothing to do with the defence team who eventually saw my name cleared. Robert Berg, Janes solicitors 18-21 Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6HP is a solicitor advocate specialising in serious crime, especially sexual crimes. Annie Johnston is my barrister and is an extremely astute woman indeed.

Heretic: What evidence was there against you? On what basis were you convicted?

Warren Blackwell: To cut a ‘very’ long story short, the evidence amounted to purely her say-so. She named five other people as possibly being her attacker – none of which were me. From the 1st January until the 19th she did not actually name me as her alleged attacker. She only named me on the ID parade on the 19th, after I had answered bail at Daventry Police Station and the Officer in the Case had seen what I was wearing for that parade. I was wearing a jumper with distinctive writing on the front. He was expecting me back at Daventry for further interviews – yet he still saw fit to travel the 20 miles to Northampton and enter the ID witness room prior to the parade and consult with the WPC who was with Shannon. These are very serious and clear breaches of the Police and Criminals Evidence Act code D (ID parades). This one piece of evidence formed part of our appeal which wasn’t heard because it was not contested. It also forms a large part of our official complaint to the IPCC (Independent Police Complaints Commission) – we will see what happens there but clearly my suggestion is he informed the WPC who then informed Shannon of the type of clothing I was wearing on the ID parade which led to her positive ID!

My conviction rested solely on the strength of that ID parade, as did the OIC (Officer in Charge)’s case against me. If Shannon had not picked me out on the parade then they would not have had any evidence to charge me. The forensics had already come back and proven her original allegation of rape to be unfounded, that’s why the allegation was down-graded to indecent assault… and those forensic reports were never disclosed to the defence.

Heretic: Do you feel that you received a fair trial?

Warren Blackwell: Not really, looking back. I was strongly advised that to attack the character of the primary witness would be frowned upon by the judge and could result in the jury taking a dislike to me, the defendant. Of course, at the time no one dreamt that she could’ve made it all up. Our defence was never that she hadn’t been attacked, simply that she was mistaken as to her attacker’s identity. Had we known then about her past, as the CPS did, but failed to disclose, then we definitely would have attacked her character.

Shannon is a convincing liar, and a good actress who can turn the tears on at the drop of a hat. She even ‘fainted’ in the witness box! Looking back though, and knowing what I know about the law now, she pointed at me and said “all I know is that is the man that attacked me.” That should not have been allowed because it is a “dock ID” – but the judge and my defence did nothing.

Heretic: So evidence was withheld from the defence at your trial?

Warren Blackwell: Yes – the forensic reports were not prepared until the month of the trial, even though the tests & results were known as early as January 5th 1999. On that day a phone call was made from the Forensic Science Service to DC Bell, the OIC. The FSS confirmed there was no evidence of rape or that sex had taken place. Following that, still on the same day and clearly following advice from the police, Shannon in effect dropped the rape allegation by making another statement claiming ‘the more she thought about it, it must have been a hand that was inserted rather than a penis.’

The forensic reports were never disclosed by the prosecution. I got my hands on them by examining the Unused Materials List. On there were references to holab request forms to have items tested forensically. Also on there were references made to the phone call made from the FSS to DC Bell. I eventually got details of the content of the phone call and also copies of the forensic reports purely by questioning items listed on the UML.

Evidence of Shannon’s convictions for theft and dishonesty were known to the police and CPS – they never disclosed it, for trial or for any of the appeal applications. Disclosure is an ongoing duty, so if any information comes to the police or prosecution (CPS) even after a trial they have a duty to disclose it.

Heretic: Did your friends and family stand by you?

Warren Blackwell: One thing I have learnt from this – you certainly find out who your friends are! For those that chose to turn their back on me well good riddance, who needs friends like you? For those that stuck by me (of which there are plenty) then I know why you did… because you know me and I will always be thankful for your support.

Tanya changed her surname to Blackwell which clearly showed her support, and all my family have stuck by me for which I will be eternally grateful. Especially Tanya and my kids though – this has made me an extremely angry person inside and sometimes that comes out in temper rages. I am the first to admit that at times I’m sure I’ve been quite unbearable to be around.

Heretic: I’d like to ask you about your experience of prison. What was your impression when you first arrived?

Warren Blackwell: At first I was very frightened, I don’t mind admitting it. I’ve always thought myself as being strong minded and can look after myself but when I saw some of the people in those holding cells, spitting and swearing at the screws, other cons? I lied immediately to the Doctor to see where it took me. I did not want to go into that holding cell. I have a scar on my wrist from an old pub prank – the doctor asked me if I’d self harmed? I said yes, because of the trial etc. That had the desired effect. I missed the holding cell and went straight to the hospital wing, where I was put in a cell that holds six prisoners – the difference here is they really did have mental problems so I’m not sure it was such a good idea after all!! On the way to the hospital wing a screw asked me why I was in. I told him and he said “Don’t tell anyone that or you’ll get battered. Tell ‘em you’re in for GBH.” So I was learning to lie straight from the off.

After a week another con who I had sort of befriended (he seemed more sane than the others in the cell) decided to refuse our medication. This only has one result on the hospital wing and that is to be transferred to the normal wings, which is what we had decided to do. Our cell on the normal wing wasn’t available straight away because we had to wait for the blood to be cleaned off the ceiling from a prisoner who had cut his wrists in it the night before!

I could write a book on my prison experience, but for me I found it horrible. Frightening at times, boring a lot of the time and for some reason, after a while, very easy. At the end of the day it’s just routine. Breakfast in the morning, lockup, work detail, dinner, lockup, work detail, lockup, tea and association then do it all again! The only thing that messes that up is when the screws decide to have an easy day and say there isn’t enough staff, so no work and hardly any association. (Something they did quite regularly because they knew it pissed everyone off!).

Mentally prison for me was harder. Being away from my family, Tanya and my kids killed me. My son was sucking a dummy before I went away. I missed him growing up, learning to ride a bike, starting school. My daughter (hate the word step-daughter) started senior school – a big step for her which I was not round to offer support. Incidentally, I get on great with her father who has also supported me throughout and wrote me a very touching character reference for trial.

Heretic: How did you occupy your time while you were inside?

Warren Blackwell: By working, going to the gym. Mostly though, my time was spent trawling through my case papers and writing to solicitors, family and private investigator. I discovered so much evidence that was clearly available at the time of trial which was not used or even looked at, and also lots of new evidence which only ever stemmed from questioning items listed on the unused materials list.

Heretic: How were you treated by the other prisoners?

Warren Blackwell: Haha – by other ‘sex offenders’ like a brother! How sick do you think that makes you feel when you get some paedophile telling you how hard done by he’s been because he thinks it’s perfectly natural to swim naked in a pool with other people’s kids? And if anyone thinks a paedo is a dirty old man then think again – I’ve seen 18 year old boys inside for having sex with kids as young as ten.

The trouble with the prison I was in, HMP Littlehey in Cambridgeshire, is it’s what they call an’ integrated prison’. That means convicted sex offenders mix on the wings with prisoners convicted of burglary, muggings, armed robbery, murder etc. Littlehey is a CAT C prison. Those convicted of serious crimes like murder, manslaughter are on their way through the system, progressively being down-graded prior to release. But in there, those convicted of a sexual offence lie and say they are in for something else.

Now, the wing I was on – A Wing, was a known VPU (Vulnerable Prisoner Unit) even though the prison would not accept it as such. Basically, if you were housed on A Wing then the rest of the prison knew for a fact you were in for a sexual offence, so you’re labelled a ‘nonce’, a ‘wrongun’, a ‘bacon’ etc. All prison slang for a sex offender.

The reason I was on there was because the prison thought it would be a good idea to cock up my paperwork and have it that my alleged victim was 13 yrs old, rather than 31!! So they ‘thought it best I go on A Wing straight away.’ When I told the screw how old Shannon was, in between breaking down, he said to me “you poor bastard.” So I was labelled straight away and still had to mingle at work with other prisoners who knew which wing I was on.

Yes I was the subject of some taunts, some I ignored, some I rose to. I had a few scrapes but nothing to brag about. I saw a lot worse. One fella had a sock filled with batteries bounced off his head in the corridor, and I saw the result of a fight over drugs. That ended with the bloke being cut from his ear to the point of his chin with a knife made from razor blades and a toothbrush. Not nice.

I genuinely believe there are innocent people in prison convicted of sexual assault, you’d be crazy not to accept that. But there are also clearly a lot of genuine sex offenders in prison and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our judicial system for the opportunity of having to live with them – thanks very much. (Sarcastic enough you think?)

Heretic: How were you treated by the guards?

Warren Blackwell: The screws? Well there are some good officers in there, but women on a sex offender’s wing? Gimme a break! Mind you, as bad as it sounds, I just had to laugh when a con took a female officer’s cup off the gate rail while she was patrolling, took it into the toilet and dropped a dump in it before putting it back. I never did see her again!!

My personal officer was a woman and she hated me. I would never agree to do any of the offending behaviour courses because that meant you had to admit guilt. So we clashed all the time. For the most part the screws see it as their duty to basically piss you off as often as possible, usually by letting you out of your cell late for tea and association.

Heretic: I understand your sentence was increased while you were inside. How did that come about?

Warren Blackwell: The judge gave me the minimum sentence allowed, three years. That clearly reflected on his feeling for the case. The prosecution stood up and challenged the sentence, but the judge shot him down and would not move. So the prosecution petitioned the Attorney General to review the sentence as being too lenient.

Because we were appealing the conviction the Attorney General’s reference followed on behind our applications for leave to appeal. What happened eventually was the Full Court refused us leave to appeal, they then heard the AG’s reference straight after and increased sentence from three to five years – this happened two weeks before I was due to be released! I should point out that they kindly took into consideration time already served - they wanted to give me six years!!

Heretic: How did you first come to find out about your accuser’s past history?

Warren Blackwell: Alarm bells began ringing when Ian’s ex-wife told Tanya that Shannon had her own emergency number for a mental hospital near where she lived. Apparently Shannon could just walk into the place and they’d admit her straight away. Then, less than six months after my conviction, Tanya told me on a visit that Shannon had made another allegation.

The rest of the evidence came about after we had successfully applied to the CCRC (Criminal Cases Review Commission). They eventually appointed an independent officer from the West Midlands Police Force, DCI Steve Glover. As he began to investigate, things came to his attention that were outside his instructions from the CCRC. He requested to be allowed to follow these other avenues of investigation. The CCRC agreed and hence he discovered all about her previous allegations and mental background.

Heretic: How did Lord Campbell-Savours first get involved?

Warren Blackwell: He has been campaigning for changes in the rape laws for many years. He’s particularly concerned with what is known as ‘word on word’ convictions. This is basically where a woman says ‘he did sexually assault me’, he says ‘I didn’t’ and the jury convict purely on her say so, with no other corroborating evidence – none. They literally believe she is telling the truth and he is lying!!

Heretic: How did you come to be released?

Warren Blackwell: Some in the media have reported I was released because my conviction was quashed. Simply not true. I served the full term of my sentence; from 10th October 1999 until I was released on 3rd February 2003. My conviction was eventually quashed on 12th September 2006. This is something I commented on in my press statement outside court, read by my solicitor Robert Berg. The fact that it took the police and judiciary less than twelve months to arrest and convict, yet it took almost eight years to prove my innocence!

Heretic: How has the case affected your career? Are you back at work now?

Warren Blackwell: I am back working where I left off. I was promoted almost immediately and now work in the office and also double as lorry driver when the lads on the shop floor are busy. My employer has been brilliant throughout, and he is also a very good friend. There have been countless others though, that have lost absolutely everything. This is why these types of false allegations must be stopped.

Heretic: Are you pursuing any complaints against the police?

Yes, most definitely. The complaint deals with the conduct of the OIC and the lengths he went to in order to secure a conviction. I’d also like to point out the fact that when this all started, initially as a rape allegation, the Northamptonshire Police Force saw fit to appoint a mere police constable as the OIC. I find that disgusting – for such a serious crime/allegation a higher ranked officer must be in charge.
Rape is considered second to murder, murder being the worst crime you can commit. You’ll never see a police constable heading a murder investigation!

Heretic: How do you feel about the CPS' role in your case?

Warren Blackwell: Their title speaks for itself… Crown PROSECUTION Service. They are not interested in the truth, they are only interested in gaining a prosecution for the statisticians. You could have a person accused of a crime, and that person really could be guilty but the CPS decides whether or not the evidence is strong enough to result in a conviction. If they feel it is not then the case will not go before the courts – what they are doing in those situations is they are actually replacing the jury and judge and making the decision for them without a trial.

Heretic: How do you feel about the CPS' decision not to prosecute your accuser?

Warren Blackwell: The CPS is a joke. When asked why they were not considering bringing a prosecution against Shannon Taylor for perverting the course of justice, they cited her mental background as being a barrier. Well they knew about that before but didn’t think it a barrier in bringing a prosecution against me!!

Heretic: Do you expect to be offered any compensation?

Warren Blackwell: You’re damn right I do!! Why not – if I can benefit from this tragedy and can provide for a better standard of living for my family, a better future for my kids then I’ll take as much as I can. The fact is though, libel cases amongst the famous get greater rewards than something like this. It’s a class thing as far as I’m concerned.

Heretic: Has anyone told you that your name has now been removed from the sex offenders’ register?

Warren Blackwell: No – and this is something I intend to take up formally. You’d have thought that would be the first thing on their agenda.

Heretic: What changes in the law would you recommend?

Warren Blackwell: Anonymity to be lifted where it has been accepted the woman has lied about the assault, and they should be prosecuted where possible. I’d also like to see the accused have their anonymity, at least until conviction. I have written to the Attorney General and have asked him what reason, how it can help a sexual assault case, for the man to be named? It serves no purpose other than to embarrass and in some cases, destroy the man’s life.

Heretic: Do you have any advice for other men, based on your experiences?

Warren Blackwell: Don’t stick with the duty solicitor – they’re not interested and can make more money by getting rid of you as soon as possible so they can get another client. Contact Robert Berg, Janes Solicitors as above. Hire a private investigator with a good track record. Andrew Salt represented me and was invaluable, although no one can trace him now! He was an ex Detective Constable – invaluable inside knowledge if you’re dealing with a dodgy police officer like the one in my case.

Get good financial support – I was fortunate in that I had my father, my employer and also a customer of ours who is also a good friend. You may have to ask for friends or family to take out a loan, whatever… but don’t go for these ‘no win no fee’ lawyers… you want to win no matter what the cost right?

If you ask a lawyer to request documents and they stall or mess you around, decide very quickly if they are the right solicitor for you. I wasted (literally) over a year being messed around and got nowhere – remember I said above how long it took to get my solicitor to request the forensic documents? Don’t be afraid to threaten them with reporting them to the Law Society.

The fact is you need to make sure your solicitor is experienced in defending sexual assault claims – ask them about their track record. If they’re good they’ll rattle off a list of cases.

Do not ignore the Unused Materials List – MG6(C) form. The police can be very devious in that evidence they haven’t used could well be undermining to the prosecution’s case. They are ‘supposed’ to disclose ANY material which may harm the crown’s case. They may well argue that they did disclose it because it’s listed on the UML. Examine what is listed on there and ask for further papers… that’s how I discovered the forensic reports did in fact exist.

If there is anything listed as ‘sensitive’ then make sure you go after that with gusto. That absolutely suggests there is something there you can use – in my case it turned out to be her medical history… her psychiatric background. You’ll never get your hands on it but your solicitor should see to it, and the judge, Crown Court or Appeal Court, should see it. Anything like that is extremely important – don’t let any solicitor tell you otherwise.

Heretic: How do you feel about your accuser?

Warren Blackwell: Ask me what I’d do if I had a shotgun, met her in a dark alley and knew for a fact I would get away with murder. Don’t anyone expect me to feel sympathy for this woman or anyone like her – these women ruin lives. Not just the accused, the whole family. Kids get bullied at school; partners get talked about behind their backs. These allegations should be given the same amount of scrutiny a murder investigation receives.

And for the Women’s Rights groups – whilst it is an awful, despicable thing to have gone through – sexual assault/rape… you have to accept that at some point the evidence has to be tested. The courts should be absolutely sure, beyond any reasonable doubt, that the man standing accused is the offender. That’s one reason why a majority verdict doesn’t cut it for me – if they’re not all sure then that must mean it has not been proven beyond all doubt.

Heretic: Warren, thank you for taking time to talk to me.

Demand Justice for Warren Blackwell

9 comments:

Darren said...

A fascinating and chilling interview. What a nightmare.

Anonymous said...

High quality stuff! thank you, heretical sex!

Mark said...

Warren,

this you have to see to believe (esp. 2nd para). What with the comments about your case and the blatant misrepresentation of fact re the incidence of false claims (see Heretic's earlier article for refs on that), I'd say a request to the Press Complaints Commission for investigation is in order:


"Accusations and press reports of women making false allegations have been widespread recently, and yet the most up-to-date research on this shows that false rape allegations are no higher than in any other crime, and stand at around 3%, although police officers questioned in the same report assumed 23% were false. One academic who has written extensively about false allegations of rape says his students believe that half of all rape complaints are false.

There are many calls for women to be harshly treated if they appear to be lying about rape. At the moment, these voices seem louder than those calling for justice for the thousands of rape victims who do not see their attacker dealt with by the law. Last year a Labour Peer, Lord Campbell-Savours, used parliamentary privilege to name a woman during a debate on rape legislation, calling her 'a serial and repeated liar' after a man found guilty of raping her had his conviction overturned. The woman neither admitted nor was charged with making a false allegation. Many tabloid newspapers have joined in, giving the impression that rape is simply a figment of mad women's imaginations."


'Why is rape so easy to get away with?'
http://www.guardian.co.uk/crime/article/0,,2003229,00.html

Warren Blackwell said...

Mark,

I read the article you refer to from The Guardian - 'women should get guns!!!'... are these people mad?? I guess in a way that would go along with what I am saying about the CPS replacing the judicial system when they decide whether or not a case should go to trial. Hell yeah - I see it now, a step further is to also replace the CPS by giving women guns. Then there would be no more rapes, or false accusations - because all us men would be dead!!

sisyphus said...

Warren didn't say--maybe because he doesn't know--that the feminist groups such as Ruth Hall's pernicious "Women Against Rape" have a hot line straight to Harriet Harman, Solicitor-General, and Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney-General who we now know, if we didn't already suspect, after his 'independent' legal advice to justify going to war in Iraq, is a government poodle.

Whenever another poor bloke gets sentenced (one of the apparently disgracefully low 5% of successful Rape/IA convictions) an automatic trigger is fired in the Women's Groups to lobby their pals as above to have the sentence reviewed i.e. increased.

Applications by the Attorney-General to the Court of Appeal are supposed to be independent. Ha ha.

By the way I've been in Littlehey. Warren is spot on, it's part of the Prison Service treatment of sex offenders, whether properly convicted and sentenced or not, to allocate them female Personal Officers. Ask yourself, why would a female PO want to work on A Wing?

Warren Blackwell said...

I'm afraid you will all have to forgive me, but I'm rather naive when it comes to all this feminism etc. Having never been in such a position before, all this is new to me!!

The reason they allow female officers on a sex offenders wing is quite simple... it’s to do with equality in the workplace. What you have to ask yourself is why a woman would want to work on a sex offenders wing? It’s so they can exercise what they feel is their right to punish men further for their alleged crimes.
My personal officer was, pardon me, a right bitch - and two faced with it. One minute she was really nice, the next doing everything in her power to land me in trouble with senior officers.

I made a complaint about her and guess what? I was called to the office and reprimanded because, having introduced her name in the letter, I then only referred to her as 'she'!! (i.e. she wouldn't allow me to...) - I was brought in front of a PO (Principal Officer) and basically got a right bollocking - the PO was also a woman!!!!

These Women’s Rights campaigners are now using my case and the publicity it is getting to exploit that media attention and use it to blow their own trumpet. What they are forgetting is that at the heart of my case, my argument is simply to stop women making false allegations – and they can’t say it doesn’t happen because they have already accepted it does.

If false allegations go down (and from what I’ve been reading up on, it’d need to drop considerably), then their conviction rate would go up in proportion with allegations being reported.

I still cannot get over what Ruth Hall said re them having some allegations brought to them that they didn’t feel were quite right. I’d like to ask her (and I will given my next media opportunity) how many cases they have turned down and on what evidence? Then I’d like to know how she can justify making that decision and then criticize all and sundry for not believing rape allegations that are made? How does that work – here is an allegation they don’t believe, but because we are men we must believe it to be true and God help us if we don’t?

Sisyphus – if you’ve been on A Wing at Littlehey then you’re totally familiar with the prejudice that wing carries. I bet it hasn’t changed at all… probably a damn site worse!

Men's Movement MySpace said...

Hi Warren,

I fully support the changes in the law regarding anonymity that you recommend.

I run the Men's Movement profile on MySpace, and I'm soon going to begin a campaign raising awareness about false rape allegations and the need for anonymity.

Feel free to contact me if you want discuss the campaign, my email address is mensmovement89@yahoo.co.uk

Danny Vice said...

In the United States, restitution for those incarcerated is certainly not guaranteed. In fact, in many states, there are more government resources for those released on parole than there are for those who have been wrongly incarcerated and later exonerated and released.

Currently, an overwhelming number of people who have been exonerated of a crime are not compensated for the toll the incarceration took on their lives socially and economically.

Thus far, only 22 states in the US have laws in place to provide some level of compensation for those who were wrongly convicted. This means a majority of those who went back to court and proved their innocence are then required to sue for this compensation.

This process utilizes significant resources that a recently released inmate typically does not have. For those who do have the knowledge or financial ability to bring a case, the enormous cost of the additional legal wrangling involved may soak up much of the payout.

Many victims of this outrageous process are handed the more daunting challenge of simply restoring their name, let alone consideration of a lawsuit that may or may not result in restitution for the time that has been lost.

What's more, the payout often times received is meager in comparison to what is usually lost. Marty Tankleff for example was sentenced to a New York state prison after being wrongly convicted of killing his parents. Although his case was recently overturned, Marty just recently visited his parent's graves for the first time since their deaths.

Ronnie Taylor, a Houston man who was recently exonerated of a crime he didn't commit was engaged to be married before his arrest in 1993. DNA testing proved his innocence 14 years later - allowing him to finally marry his bride Jeanette Brown. (source)

The Innocence Protect, one organization established in 1992 utilizes DNA testing as a means to force new hearings for those who are wrongly accused. It's website lists hundreds of cases of wrongly convicted individuals who's cases were overturned after a conviction.

While the Weekly Vice does not subscribe to every point of view of the Project's mission statement, one has to wonder where our culture would be without such advocates. Many wrongfully accused individuals have languished in prison for decades before their faulty convictions were tossed out.

Here are a few more examples of justice gone horribly wrong:

Dennis Brown from Louisiana was convicted of a 1984 rape and spent 19 years in prison before DNA testing confirmed that he could not have been the rapist.

Marvin Anderson became the ninety-ninth person in the US to be exonerated of a crime due to post-conviction DNA testing. Even when another individual confessed to the crime Lamont was accused of, the Judge upheld the conviction until DNA evidence finally confirmed Lamont's innocence. He wasn't exonerated until 1992, nearly 20 years after his arrest.

Orlando Boquete's wrongful conviction of attempted sexual battery was vacated a staggering 24 years after his arrest back in 1982.

Robert Clark, wrongly convicted of rape, kidnapping and armed robbery in 1982, languished in prison primarily by mistaken eyewitness. Mistaken identity seems to be a common theme with the cases that later get overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence. Clark was finally vindicated 24 years later.

Luis Diaz was wrongly convicted in 1980 as the 'Bird Road Rapist', where 25 women were attacked, many of them sexually assaulted. Diaz was convicted for 8 of them. His case was overturned 25 years later in 2005.

Conclusion:

These are only a handful of the cases you can view HERE, however they are a sampling of the many instances where our legal system goes horribly wrong to such degree that compensation for one's life cannot be calculated as a mere loss of wages as most restitution awarding states provide.

The Weekly Vice supports tough sentencing guidelines for all sexual assault cases, particularly those of minor children.

We also believe however, that states should be equally aggressive with some level of state subsidy, restitution or other adjudged compensation that is deemed appropriate for each individual case. A dismal 22 states is not a goodwill showing for a nation who prides itself on a Justice For All philosophy.

Thanks For Accepting Comment-----

Danny Vice
The Weekly Vice
htt://weeklyvice.blogspot.com

A.C.Wiedemann said...

Thank you for this. I'm currently researching for an EC1 FM radio programme on reasons for the low rape conviction rates. This interview and reading about Mr Blackwell's fate in general has provided me with some major insight about the other side of the story and it would be great to have his point of view and his campaign in the programme. Is there any chance that someone could provide me with his contact details? Or, if you are reading this yourself, Mr Blackwell, please be so kind and contact me at c_wiedemann@gmx.de or via this comment board. I would love to talk to you.
Thank you again,
A.C. Wiedemann
EC1 FM