Josh Whitaker, 2939 Claims, North Carolina General Assembly discussed on Coach Pete: A+ Retirement Show
To that law lawyer. It's Josh Whitaker and Joe Hammer of Whittaker and Hammer here with you, Um We're going to talk about the innocence Commission. Joe tell me a little bit about it. Yes. So the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, which will just affectionately referred to as the North Carolina Innocence Commission. It's the first of its kind in the nation. It's a commission that was created by the North Carolina General Assembly in 2000 and six and actually began operating in 2000 and seven since then, the commission's reviewed over 2500 innocence claims and conducted multiple hearings. The commission's basically charged with providing an independent and balanced true seeking forum for credible post conviction. Claims of innocence in North Carolina. It's a separate body from the traditional appeals process, so the commission doesn't come into play if you're falsely convicted. A defendant would still file appeals. And if accepted, go to the Supreme Court if needed. It's just kind of an additional vehicle to pursuing, You know, justice in the case of an erroneous decision. Joe when I was doing are when I was doing our research, you know, I'm generally as as attorneys were generally generally aware of the existence of this body, but I didn't know too much about the creation of it. Um, And so it was a statute it was created by the General Assembly. It's created by statute. I know a lot of times on the outlaw lawyer. We like to go back and look at the statute because you know, like we did with the dangerous dog statute. I don't know that I've ever read the dangerous dog statute before our before our show on it. But anyway, I'm a shortness to the commission. The commission that's better than what But the car, the car, uh and the C. The Big C. The commission does a lot of good work and it is it is different and separate. Like Joe said It is not. You know, if you get convicted of a crime, you're still responsible for trying to get heard Court of Appeals. Taking it to the Supreme Court. You have to exhaust all your administrative options, so that's one. There's a couple of different criteria. You have to meet to get considered by the commission. Um, but they have been doing a lot since they were operating. So I think the statute passed in. Oh, six. They began. They began operating in those seven and since Oh, seven, I went to their website looks like they have received 2939 claims of innocence. Um, they've got 29 claims so far in 2021. They've had 17 hearings and 15 exoneration. So we've got 15 folks convicted of fairly Serious crimes who have had their convictions exonerated. Um and so that's always a good story. You know, we would. We would argue as attorneys. We have one of the best judicial systems in the in the world, and it's but it is not perfect and it can be biased and it's just as imperfect as the people that operate it and serving the Juries and Serving the judiciary, so to have a body that can review this is I think very important and when it opened when they started, it was the first of its kind in the nation, and I really don't think I I went back to do some research, and I got back as far as 2018. I didn't see any other state doing anything similar to this, Um, still Yeah, and and like you said, we don't have an infallible system because of the fact that it's just at the end of the day as good of a framework as we may have for our legal system, it's just people who are imperfect. Mistakes are made biases, prejudices. There's all kinds of issues with the system, and we do the best we can. But at the same time, the fact that we have this vehicle to look back at things to make sure that anyone who has has been wrong by some injustice can get some relief. I think it's a great thing. And like you, said 15 exonerations. I mean, I think one exoneration is would be enough to justify the existence of the program and the fact that you've got 15 people wrongfully convicted that have been able to Find some relief. How great is that for those folks? Yeah, we'll talk a little bit about what it takes to apply to the commission. Like you said. These are fairly serious offenses. You're not applying to the Innocence Commission to get you out of a traffic ticket. I mean, these are these are major things and so too, in order to apply directly You must be claiming complete factual innocence for the crime for which you were convicted and any related and or lesser offense, So it can't be something you know years, claiming that It's a lesser degree. It's got to be complete factual innocence for both the crime which which you were convicted and or any lesser offense, and you also have to be convicted. Like you said of serious serious crimes, which include homicide, robbery, sex offenses, or class A through e felonies in North Carolina State court. Right. So you can't be convicted of first degree murder and make a claim to the commission and say it should have been manslaughter because that would be a lesser included offense of first degree murder. So you have to be completely innocent. Um, Charlie, the innocence commissioning it is, um in order. So the commission that's what you have to have and so forth in order for the commission to actually review your claim. In addition to being completely innocent and to having a serious offense, you have to, um it has to be a credible and verifiable evidence of innocent so they can review the transcripts from your cases. You know, they can review everything that's already there. But they need new evidence of innocence that the jury In your conviction did not hear that was not available or was not available prior to a plea or a jury trial. So your your criminal charge when it was finalized, there's there's evidence that was either withheld wasn't available. A lot of these have new DNA evidence because there's new, You know, a lot of these are from the eighties and the early nineties, There's new test and and so there has to be some new evidence. And I think you see when you look at the number of claims received verses, the number of hearings you know, you've got almost 2900 Plus claims received and you've got 17 hearings coming from that so The every case isn't going to get reviewed. There's gotta be some kind of like you said new evidence of innocence. Something new. Um, again, we put a lot of we still put a lot of faith in our system. And this is just kind of an additional check where new things have arisen that give that credible potential for innocence that that are going to be reviewed. So My statute. The commission can't review procedural errors, sentencing issues or any other claims that are not associated with actual innocence. So you can't just go back and look at Procedural errors again. It's got to be that new evidence that's being looked at or like you said some issue with the degree of sentencing. That's not what they're here to look at. The Innocence Commission also can't represent claimants that are appealing to them. They also require that claimants wave all privileges, including but not limited to the self incrimination. Attorney client privilege, spouse, so privileged doctor patient privilege. So you're basically waiting all of those privileges to be considered here, and you also have to turn over. Any additional evidence of the crime of anyone else's involvement or any new crimes that are associated to law enforcement as well. So there are a lot of strings attached here and a lot of additional things that must be complied with. Yeah, so the commission is basically telling you, you know the procedural errors, the sentencing issues all that would be handled through the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. That all has a Mechanism to be to be reviewed. Here It is the innocence..