The Curious Autodidact

March 11, 2015

Being Falsely Imprisoned

Filed under: media related,social justice — Honilima @ 3:15 am
After Innocence (2005) Poster

Take time today to watch AFTER INNOCENCE a movie about the lives of several men who were exonerated by DNA evidence in their court cases including a man who was a police officer. If you think this could never happen to you or someone you love you will think again after 90 minutes of watching this documentary.

Here’s the scoop as detailed by the Innocence Project:

Facts on Post-Conviction DNA Exonerations

There have been 249 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States.

• The first DNA exoneration took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in 34 states; since 2000, there have been 183 exonerations.

• 17 of the 249 people exonerated through DNA served time on death row.

• The average length of time served by exonerees is 13 years. The total number of years served is approximately 3,178.

• The average age of exonerees at the time of their wrongful convictions was 26.

Races of the 249 exonerees:

150 African Americans
71 Caucasians
21 Latinos
2 Asian American
5 whose race is unknown

• The true suspects and/or perpetrators have been identified in 106 of the DNA exoneration cases.

• Since 1989, there have been tens of thousands of cases where prime suspects were identified and pursued—until DNA testing (prior to conviction) proved that they were wrongly accused.

• In more than 25 percent of cases in a National Institute of Justice study, suspects were excluded once DNA testing was conducted during the criminal investigation (the study, conducted in 1995, included 10,060 cases where testing was performed by FBI labs).

• About half of the people exonerated through DNA testing have been financially compensated. 27 states, the federal government, and the District of Columbia have passed laws to compensate people who were wrongfully incarcerated. Awards under these statutes vary from state to state.

• 22 percent of cases closed by the Innocence Project since 2004 were closed because of lost or missing evidence.

• 18 DNA exonerees pled guilty to crimes they didn’t commit, serving more than 100 years in prison before they were exonerated.

Leading Causes of Wrongful Convictions
These DNA exoneration cases have provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events, but arise from systemic defects that can be precisely identified and addressed. For more than 15 years, the Innocence Project has worked to pinpoint these trends.

Eyewitness Misidentification Testimony was a factor in 74 percent of post-conviction DNA exoneration cases in the U.S., making it the leading cause of these wrongful convictions. At least 40 percent of these eyewitness identifications involved a cross racial identification (race data is currently only available on the victim, not for non-victim eyewitnesses). Studies have shown that people are less able to recognize faces of a different race than their own. These suggested reforms are embraced by leading criminal justice organizations and have been adopted in the states of New Jersey and North Carolina, large cities like Minneapolis and Seattle, and many smaller jurisdictions.

Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science played a role in approximately 50 percent of wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing. While DNA testing was developed through extensive scientific research at top academic centers, many other forensic techniques – such as hair microscopy, bite mark comparisons, firearm tool mark analysis and shoe print comparisons – have never been subjected to rigorous scientific evaluation. Meanwhile, forensics techniques that have been properly validated – such as serology, commonly known as blood typing – are sometimes improperly conducted or inaccurately conveyed in trial testimony. In other wrongful conviction cases, forensic scientists have engaged in misconduct.

False confessions and incriminating statements lead to wrongful convictions in approximately 25 percent of cases. In 35 percent of false confession or admission cases, the defendant was 18 years old or younger and/or developmentally disabled. The Innocence Project encourages police departments to electronically record all custodial interrogations in their entirety in order to prevent coercion and to provide an accurate record of the proceedings. More than 500 jurisdictions have voluntarily adopted policies to record interrogations. State supreme courts have taken action in Alaska, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. Illinois, Maine, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia require the taping of interrogations in homicide cases.

Snitches contributed to wrongful convictions in 16 percent of cases. Whenever snitch testimony is used, the Innocence Project recommends that the judge instruct the jury that most snitch testimony is unreliable as it may be offered in return for deals, special treatment, or the dropping of charges. Prosecutors should also reveal any incentive the snitch might receive, and all communication between prosecutors and snitches should be recorded. Fifteen percent of wrongful convictions that were later overturned by DNA testing were caused in part by snitch testimony.

March 10, 2015

Podcast: The Bittersweet Life

Filed under: cool internet stuff,media related,Word Related — Honilima @ 2:29 pm


I read about this podcast, The Bittersweet Life on a local website and put off listening for a long while. When I got to listening I binge listened to it a few segments at a time. It’s a charming podcast featuring two childhood friends from the Seattle Area who met in sixth grade found themselves both living in Rome. Tiffany moved to Rome in 2014 and Katy was taken there for a year’s stay due to an educational opportunity her husband had. Tiffany Parks works at an English publication in Rome, works sometimes as a tour guide, and married an Italian. She has a blog called The Pines of Rome.  Katy Sewall quit her decade-long job at the local NPR station and speaks frankly about the uncertainty of what life may deal her when upon her return. They talk on their podcast about the ex-pat experience, do interviews, take listeners on a few walking tours, and discuss their views on the city they are living in.

Katy is now back in Seattle but their podcast is beginning to evolve and they are getting their wings as regular podcasters. I can’t wait to see where this format takes them next. It is a charming and fun listen into the lives of these two young women who obviously share a great affection for one another from childhood.

March 8, 2015

The Psychology of Spanking

Filed under: cool internet stuff,social justice — Honilima @ 11:56 pm


March 7, 2015

Locking up Youth

Filed under: media related,social justice — Honilima @ 2:20 pm


Steve Davis - Unfinished: Incarcerated Youth

Locking  up youth is certainly a sign we as a community have failed somewhere along the line to provide the proper safety net to make them productive tax paying members of society. Their paths are generally determined from abuse and neglect and prison rarely helps them to regain their lost footing.

Steve Davis spent several years photographing the youth incarcerated in Washington State. The photos are startling and certainly sobering. Someone’s son, someone’s brother, someone’s father. You can read more about his project here.  The photos are haunting and if you know much about “the system” in place to help them once they get out it will make your heart break, rarely to do these youth have a chance to break the pattern.

If you’d like to become more educated about what a youth’s journey might be in the criminal justice system take a look at the Frontline film called Prison State about Kentucky.

Take a moment today to think what small or big step you can take today to keep vulnerable young people out of harm’s way. Just being there as a decent role model can make a huge different. Bravo to the Big Brother & Sister Program.

March 6, 2015

Vancouver Courier: Dead of Winter

Filed under: end of life — Honilima @ 11:40 am


Death and taxes, what else do we have in common, putting our pants on one leg at a time? Why can we talk so easily about pants and taxes and not about death?

A newspaper series, from our neighbors to the north, tackles just this topic. Pat Johnson, writing in the Vancouver Courier has begun a series called “Dead of Winter:  Death Mourning and Rituals.”  I found these to be the most interesting Viewing Death the Traditional Way and Burial or Cremation to be particularly of interest. The more we as a cultural can normalize death as a part of life the healthier we will all be.

March 5, 2015

Words Make a Difference: Kelley Benham, journalist

Filed under: media related,women heroes,Word Related — Honilima @ 11:22 am


Kelley Benham

If you have an interest in writing a journalism you should take a taste of the Longform Podcast. It features brilliant interviews with writers you have heard of and many you may not know. I cherry-picked through some I love and then started in on the people I was less familiar with.  All the interviews are different but all very well done and worth listening to.

I stumbled onto their interview with Kelly Benham and listened to her story about her career in journalism and her very personal journey as a mother of a premature baby so premature she was called micro-premature. I heard her mention her 1000 words about Terri Schiavo, an attempt to humanize her, after the highly publicized battle that wound up polarizing the country on the topic of end of life choice. Benham wanted to put a different twist on the public’s view of who this young woman was and wow is it a powerful contrast to the familial rancor we all recall.

I love to stumbling into things like this. Kelly Benham is a wonderful writer and her words will touch you deeply and stay with you as her words about Terri did with me.

March 4, 2015

Clever Info-Graphic: The Cost of Cute


A sucker for visual displays of information I enjoyed this look at what pets cost to maintain called Pet Obsessed: The Cost of Cute. It has often been said that everyone wants to be reincarnated as a pet in America, I guess this illustration might show why this is so often mentioned.

How Do We Reduce America’s Prison Population?

Filed under: prison reform,social justice — Honilima @ 11:35 am

This Marshall Project interactive infographic, shows how difficult it is to reduce 
the prison population substantially by focusing solely on low-level offenders.

This interactive infographic tool will make you think about how we can and cannot 
possibly reduce the prison population, the highest incarceration rate in the world, 
by only focusing on the lesser offenders.

March 2, 2015

Kingsolver: on Memories

Filed under: Uncategorized — Honilima @ 9:47 pm


It’s surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.

Barbara Kingsolver, novelist, essayist, and poet (b. 1955)

Wonder Mom: Debbie Ziegler

Filed under: end of life,social justice — Honilima @ 1:16 pm

Shouldn’t Debbie Zielger the mother of Brittany Maynard have a cape? She is a super hero.

If you think that one person can’t make a difference you haven’t read about how Brittany Maynard.  Her willingness to speak out, about her quest for a peaceful death before brain cancer took away all quality of life, raised the country’s awareness of a decent death. She garnered attention because she was so smart, young, attractive and articulate.

Amid the grief, of losing her only daughter, Debbie Ziegler has stood up to continue her daughter’s campaign to bring right to die legislation to other states. She is now working on the campaign in California where they were living before Brittany’s diagnosis made them decide to establish residency in Oregon. They moved to where palliative care and hospice were so strong as a result from the ongoing quest for end of life choice. Oregon has lead the way for more end of life conversation with their Death with Dignity law that was established there in 1994 with Measure 16.

Brittany is a hero but it’s not hard to see where she got her passion and intelligence if you have seen her mother Debbie. Here she is recently talking about her daughter with Dr. Oz.


“My dream is that every terminally ill American has access to the choice to die
on their own terms with dignity. Please take an active role to make this a reality.”
Brittany Maynard, October 24, 2014

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