Monday, September 30, 2013

  • Freed by DNA, Angola Prisoner Henry James on His 30 Years Behind Bars for Crime He Didn’t Commit

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    We broadcast from New Orleans, Louisiana, the heart of the world’s prison capital, where more people are behind bars any other state per capita — an incarceration rate 13 times that of China. Louisiana also ranks among the highest in the country in terms of the number of people per capita who are exonerated after serving years in prison for crimes they did not commit. We are joined by Henry James, the longest-serving prisoner to be exonerated in Louisiana. James spent 30 years in the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola prison, on a life sentence without parole for rape. At trial, the prosecution never told the jury that serology testing from the rape kit excluded James as the perpetrator. In 2011, DNA evidence found by accident proved James’ innocence, winning him his release. We also speak with Emily Maw, director of Innocence Project New Orleans, which helped win his exoneration. "Henry James’ case is unfortunately atypical. Everybody in Louisiana who is convicted of murder or rape gets sentenced to life without parole. There is no other sentence for those two crimes. What is atypical about Henry’s case is that they found the evidence," Maw says. "In Louisiana, as in many places, evidence storage and preservation practices are atrocious. People lose evidence all the time in cases where DNA testing could prove their innocence."

  • Cancer-Stricken Angola 3 Prisoner Herman Wallace Given Just Days to Live After 42 Years in Solitary

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    Angola prisoner Herman Wallace is dying of liver cancer after 42 years in solitary confinement. A member of the so-called Angola Three, Wallace and two others were in jail for armed robbery, then accused in 1972 of murdering a prison guard at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, known as Angola prison. The men say they were framed because of their political activism as members one of the first prison chapters of the Black Panther Party. Wallace’s supporters say he has just days to live, but his requests for compassionate release has so far gone unanswered. We speak with Jackie Sumell, a New Orleans-based artist behind "Herman’s House," a collaboration with Wallace, which is the subject of a new documentary by the same name. "I’m not sure in the state of Louisiana if compassion is part of the vocabulary of those who are in power. I always felt that compassionate release, or asking for compassionate release, was important in terms of a multipronged effort to have Herman released," Sumell says. "But there’s been 42 years of the state continuing to deny Herman’s due process. It’s incredible. He’s the longest known serving in solitary confinement in the United States." We are also joined by Malik Rahim, one of the founders of the Louisiana chapter of the Black Panther Party and a co-founder of the Common Ground Collective, which helped bring thousands of people from all over the world to help rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

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