Monday, February 20, 2012

Senior Deputy King County Prosecutor Resigns

James Konat
James Konat
The Seattle Times reported last week that James Konat, a senior deputy King County prosecutor who went on leave last summer after being rebuked by the state Supreme Court for using racially charged language during a murder trial, has resigned. Check out the original article by Jennifer Sullivan
Seattle Times staff reporter at the Seattle Times website.
During the trial, Konat questioned witnesses, many of them black, about a purported street "code" that he claimed prevented some from talking to the police, according to the Supreme Court's majority opinion. In questioning some witnesses, Konat referred to police as the "PO-leese," the justices found.
During his closing argument to jurors, Konat also said that while witnesses denied the presence of such a code, "the code is black folk don't testify against black folk. You don't snitch to the police," according to the Supreme Court decision.

The Supreme Court overturned Monday's conviction and awarded the man a new trial. Monday is black; Konat is white.
Monday, in his appeal, claimed Konat "made a blatant and inappropriate appeal to racial prejudice and undermined the credibility of African-American witnesses based on their race," according to the Supreme Court.

While the state Court of Appeals upheld Monday's conviction, the Supreme Court cited Konat's comments as grounds for the conviction to be overturned, saying they cast doubt on the credibility of the witnesses based on their race. One justice called the deputy prosecutor's comments "repugnant."

Sunday, February 5, 2012

How Many Are Wrongfully Convicted?

We know that African-American men make up a disproportionate percentage of the federal and state penitentiary populations, but how many of those men are there because they have been wrongfully convicted?

According to the Innocence Project"s "200 Exonerated: Too Many Wrongfully Convicted",
"We...know that those who are exonerated by DNA are a subset within a subset—a fraction of cases that have evidence that still exists and can yield DNA results, within the tiny fraction of cases that even have DNA evidence as part of the crime. 
Very few cases involve physical evidence that could be subjected to DNA
testing (for example, it is estimated that, even among murders, only 10% of cases
have such evidence)."
Also, according to Innocence Project data, here is the figure that no one should be shocked about: 146 of the 245 people who have been cleared using DNA evidence are African-American.
"Seventy percent of the 245 people who were wrongly convicted are people of color. Sixty percent were African-American. By now, everyone knows that African-Americans are over-incarcerated. The prison population is 40 to 45 percent African-American, which is wildly disproportionate, but the percentage of those exonerated is even higher," said Ferrero

Watch "After Innocence," and then find out about the process for exoneration in your state.