Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Tuesday Must Read: Another Innocent Oakland Man Is Exonerated; Chief Judge Warns that Justice System Is in Peril

By Robert Gammon
Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 9:52 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Another Oakland man who was wrongly convicted and sent to prison has been exonerated thanks to the Northern California Innocence Project at Santa Clara University, the Trib and Chron report. Johnny Williams, 38, spent fourteen years in prison after being wrongly convicted of sexually assaulting a young girl in Oakland in the 1990s. Williams was released in January after serving his full-term behind bars, and wasn’t exonerated in court until last Friday after the Innocence Project proved through DNA testing that he was innocent. Like the other recent case of an Oakland man who was exonerated by the Innocence Project last month, Oakland police and the Alameda County DA’s Office depended solely on a witness identification to obtain Williams’ conviction. As the Express has previously reported, witness IDs have proven to be among the least reliable forms of evidence. The news of Williams’ case also coincided with the revelation that OPD has been sued for putting an innocent man on its Most Wanted list.

Tani Cantil-Sakauye
  • Tani Cantil-Sakauye
2. California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye warned the legislature yesterday that repeated budget cuts have imperiled the state’s criminal justice system, the SacBee$ reports. The chief justice said that defendants are at risk of no longer receiving a fair trial. "To have your day in court, you need a court room," Cantil-Sakauye said. "And I must say that what we once counted on, that courts would be open and ready and available to deliver prompt justice, is no longer true in California."

3. Family and neighbors of a missing North Oakland woman have been searching the area where she was last seen — apparently while jogging, the Trib and Chron report. A surveillance camera recorded Erica Maskaleris, 31, last Thursday, just after 7 a.m., in the 3400 block of Telegraph Avenue.

4. A new bill in the state legislature would ban smokers from lighting up in their homes if they live in an apartment, condo, or townhome, the Chron reports. Housing complexes with shared walls and ventilation systems put residents at risk of second-hand smoke inhalation. Smokers would still be allowed to smoke in designated outdoor areas if the bill becomes law.

5. And a judge has blocked New York City’s large-soda ban, ruling that the law was “arbitrary” because it would not have applied to all business that sell big sugary drinks. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has vowed to appeal.

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