1 Inn cence Matters An Innocence Project of Florida Newsletter May 2013 In This Issue A Night of Celebration: 10 Years of Freeing the Innocent and Restoring Lives 1 IPF Honored with Gideon Award 1 Who We Are 2 Time Is Running Out: Consider a Tax-Free Gift From Your IRA 3 Many Thanks to Our Interns 3 Reflections by Selected Board and Staff Members 6 Give the Gift of Freedom 7 Obstacles to DNA Exonerations 8 IPF Honored with Gideon Award The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) was recently honored by Florida s 15 th Judicial Circuit Office of the Public Defender (PD) with the 2013 Gideon Award. Each year the Palm Beach County Office of the PD presents the Gideon Award to an individual or individuals who have manifested an honorable, consistent and recognizable effort to ensure equal justice for the indigent in our community. The award is named in honor of Clarence Earl Gideon, an indigent defendant who filed a handwritten petition for a writ of certiorari to the U.S. Continued on page 2 The Honorable Carey Haughwort presented IPF staff attorney Melissa Montle with the 2013 Gideon Award. A Night of Celebration: 10 Years of Freeing the Innocent and Restoring Lives Steppin Out with the Innocence Project of Florida, our annual fundraising event, was held on April 5, 2013, at the Four Seasons Hotel in Miami. We celebrated IPF s 10 th anniversary by honoring the exonerees strength and fortitude, and the families and friends who stood by them. The stories shared throughout the evening moved, outraged, and eventually cheered us as the audience learned of gross injustices, brutal suffering and, ultimately, the triumph and freedom of these men. The evening started with cocktails and a silent auction. IPF honored Ms. Betty Anne Waters with the 2013 Frank Lee Smith Innocence Award for her work to correct injustices caused by wrongful convictions. Her life inspired the 2010 movie Conviction. Ms. Waters Continued on page 4 Luis Diaz with his wife, Caradid Goodrich, and two children, Albert and Marilyn, and daughterin-law, Marisol Diaz. Albert and Marilyn were 5 and 7 years old, respectively, when their dad was wrongfully imprisoned. He spent 26 years in prison for a crime did not commit.
2 Page 2 IPF Honored (Continued From Page 1) Supreme Court seeking the right to appointed counsel. This year marks the 50 th anniversary of the unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright, which established that an indigent defendant charged with a felony was entitled to a lawyer at state expense. This ruling led to the formation of the statewide public defender system in Florida. The Gideon Award was first presented in 2003; past recipients have included: Talbot Sandy D Alemberte, IPF s founding board chair and past president of the American Bar Association; Florida Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead (retired); Barry Scheck, Co-Founder of the Innocence Project; and Bryan Stevenson, Executive Director of the Equal Justice Initiative. We are simultaneously proud and humbled by the honor of receiving this award. We are saddened by the passing of long-time IPF board member, criminal defense lawyer and true champion of justice, Robert A. Harper, Jr. August 15, April 23, 2013 Who We Are Executive Committee David B. Rothman, Esq., Chairman Partner, Rothman & Associates, P.A., Miami, FL Robert K. Cromwell, Chair Elect Retired FBI Special Agent In Charge, St. Petersburg, FL Michael Ufferman, Esq., Secretary Partner, Michael Ufferman Law Firm, P.A., Tallahassee, FL Honorable Janet Ferris, Treasurer Retired Second Judicial Circuit Judge, Tallahassee, FL Members Talbot Sandy D Alemberte, Esq. IPF Founding Board Chair and President Emeritus, American Bar Association and Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL Honorable Harry Lee Anstead Retired Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice, Tallahassee, FL Barney Bishop President, Barney Bishop Consulting LLC, Tallahassee, FL Rev. J. Allison DeFoor, Esq. Allison DeFoor Counselor of Law and Episcopal Priest, Tallahassee, FL William Michael Dillon Florida DNA Exoneree and Recording Artist, Chapel Hill, NC Robert G. Kerrigan, Esq. Partner, Kerrigan, Estess, Rankin, McLeod & Thompson, LLP, Pensacola, FL Rabbi Gary Klein Temple Ahavat Shalom, Clearwater, FL Rev. Bryan Fulwider Executive Director of Building Us, Altamonte Springs, FL James R. McDonough Consultant, McDonough Strategies, LLC and former Secretary, Florida Department of Corrections, Crofton, MD Gregory R. Miller, Esq. Partner, Beggs & Lane and former U. S. Attorney in North Florida, Tallahassee, FL Paula S. Saunders, Esq. Assistant Public Defender, Florida s Second Judicial Circuit, Tallahassee, FL Mark R. Schlakman, Esq. Senior Program Director, Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University, Tallahassee, FL Brian L. Tannebaum, Esq. Partner, Tannebaum Weiss, P.A., Miami, FL IPF Staff Michael J. Minerva, Esq. Chief Executive Officer Seth E. Miller, Esq. Executive Director Toni Shrewsbury, M.A. Assistant Director Melissa L. Montle, Esq. Staff Attorney Anthony Scott, M.S.W. Director of Social Services Lisa Prychodko, J.D. Intake Coordinator Jackie Pugh Development Coordinator Innocence Project of Florida, Inc.
3 Page 3 Time Is Running Out: Consider a Tax-Free Gift From Your IRA The passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act extended the option to make charitable tax-free IRA rollover gifts. However, this law is set to expire on December 31, There are several things that you should consider to determine if this giving option is appropriate for your situation. This option is available to those who are at least 70 ½ years of age during Gifts from your IRA must be made directly from your IRA to a qualified charity, such as the Innocence Project of Florida. You may give to more than one charity as long as your total IRA charitable rollover gifts for 2013 do not exceed $100,000. Many Thanks to Our Interns If you are married, your spouse may also be eligible to make such gifts up to $100,000 from her/his IRA. Charitable tax-free rollover gifts from your IRA will qualify for your annual mandatory distribution. The distribution is excluded from your income. Although you cannot deduct the gift on your income tax return, the distribution is not reported as income so there is no adverse income tax effect. IRA assets may not be used to fund a gift annuity, charitable remainder trust, a donor advised fund, or private foundation. This law applies only to IRA accounts (either traditional or Roth). Other plans, including 401(k) or 403(b) plans, do not qualify. Although this distribution is excluded from income for federal income tax purposes, you should check your state law to determine if the distribution amount may still be included for state income tax purposes. This information is not intended as legal or tax advice. For legal or tax advice, please consult an attorney or financial planner. Each semester IPF welcomes students from around the world to participate in our Intern/Extern Program. The program is an opportunity for students to earn class credits while gaining real-world experience working in a law office. IPF interns play a critical role in our daily operations. They provide vital assistance with legal review, public relations, and communications. Fall 2012 Front row: Jordan Esker (Florida State University), Widnie Sainvil (Florida A&M University), Lauren Angulo (FSU), Nico Pento (FSU College of Law), Funsho Ilori (FSU College of Law). Back row: Matthew Williams (FSU College of Law), Kyle Griffith (FSU), Jake Slotin (FSU College of Law), Jonathan de Armas (FSU College of Law), and Bobby Olivo (FSU College of Law). Not pictured: Matthew Covert (FSU), Michela Pearl (FSU College of Law) and Travis Cantey (FSU). Spring 2013 Pictured left to right: Jonathan Apolinario (FSU College of Law), Hassel Nunez (FSU College of Law), Yale Olenick (FSU College of Law), and Ian Puczkowski (FSU College of Law). Not pictured: Jessica Weaver (FSU), and Widnie Sainvil (Florida A&M University). Innocence Matters May 2013
4 Page 4 A Night of Celebration (Continued from Page 1) Betty Anne Waters accepts the 2013 Frank Lee Smith Innocence Award. spoke emotionally about her brother Kenny s wrongful incarceration and its impact on the entire family. Her story, and the many years she devoted to freeing her brother, were met with a standing ovation. A special performance by William Michael Dillon, DNA exoneree and recording artist, captivated the crowd. IPF Chairman David Rothman presented the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers with the Chairman s Award for the organization s and their members moral and financial support of IPF. The evening raised more than $40,000, which will support our litigation efforts on behalf of innocent people in Florida prisons. Each exoneree is grateful for the opportunities now open to them. This funding will make these opportunities available to others who are innocent, imprisoned and waiting to come home. More than 220 friends and supporters joined us in the celebration. William Michael Dillon, DNA exoneree and recording artist, performed several original songs about his wrongful conviction. He served 27.5 years for a crime he did not commit. Seth Miller, IPF s Executive Director, celebrates with Betty Anne Waters, the 2013 Frank Lee Smith Innocence Award recipient. Omar Edwards with his parents, Evonne and Derrick Williams. Omar was 11 years old when Derrick was wrongfully convicted, and 29 at his release. David Rothman, IPF s Chairman, presented the Chairman s Award to the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. The award was accepted by Nellie King, immediate past president of FACDL. FACDL presented IPF with a sponsorship check for the event. Additional photos of the evening are available on our website, Innocence Project of Florida, Inc.
5 Page 5 At the conclusion of the evening, IPF staff joined the exonerees on stage as everyone sang We Are the Champions. We believe all exonerees are champions! Lyrics for We Are the Champions I ve paid my dues Time after time I ve done my sentence But committed no crime And bad mistakes I ve made a few I ve had my share of sand kicked in my face - But I ve come through We are the champions - my friends And we ll keep on fighting - till the end - We are the champions - We are the champions No time for losers Cause we are the champions - of the world - We want to extend a special thanks to all of our sponsors and friends who made this evening such a success. Advocate Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers Friends Holland & Knight LLP Manny Kadre, Esq. Greg Miller, Esq. & Karen Rhew-Miller, Esq. Rothman & Associates, P.A. Associates Carlton Fields, P.A. Michael Ufferman Law Firm, P.A. The Collection Patrons Talbot Sandy D Alemberte, Esq. & Patsy Palmer, Esq. The Honorable Harry Lee & Mrs. Susan Anstead Atterbury, Goldberger & Weiss, P.A. Jonathan Davidoff, Esq, Jessica and Scott Galya Harry M. Solomon, P.A. Robert Josefsberg, Esq. Krozyak Tropin & Throckmorton, P.A. Law Office of Warren W. Lindsey, P.A. McClain & McDermott, P.A. Alicio Pina, Esq. Roy J. Kahn P.A. Samuel J. Rabin, Jr., P.A. S. Patrick Dray, P.A. Paula Saunders, Esq. Adele Stone, Esq. & Jesse Diner, Esq. In-Kind Bacardi Limited Innocence Matters May 2013
6 Page 6 Reflections by Selected Board and Staff Members IPF has worked to find and free innocent people in Florida prisons for 10 years. It is a labor intensive process that takes many years and involves dozens of people - staff, interns, pro bono attorneys, investigators, and experts. Nationwide, on average, it takes seven years to exonerate someone - from the initial letter asking for help to walking out of the prison. With hundreds of cases in the review process and dozens more in litigation, our work can be very challenging and frustrating, yet very rewarding. We have asked some of our board members and staff to reflect on IPF and its work. Board Members: Why Do You Serve? I spent almost 30 years in law enforcement, first as a police officer, then as an NCIS agent and finally as an FBI agent. I have seen our criminal justice system up close and know that it is simply not a level playing field. Injustices Robert Cromwell, Retired do occur. The innocent are FBI Special Agent in Charge, Chair-Elect sometimes wrongfully convicted. That s why the Innocence Project is so important. That s why I serve on the Innocence Project of Florida s Board. Think about what these men [Florida s DNA exonerees] endured. The average sentence served is more than 20 years. Two decades. Over 7,000 times each man went to bed at David Rothman, Esq., night and woke up the Chairman next morning locked in a cell knowing he was innocent. That is why I serve. Staff: What Is Most Satisfying About Your Work? Anthony Scott, L.C.S.W., Director of Social Services: Seeing clients manage themselves more effectively in dealing with the negative effects of wrongful incarceration, before and after their release. And, once they get out, as they take full advantage of the opportunities to maintain their freedom, healing from past trauma; progressing toward reaching and maintaining their immediate and longer term goals. Staff: How Does IPF s Work Make a Difference? Melissa Montle, Esq., Staff Attorney: Our work makes a huge difference in each of our client s lives, whether they are exonerated or not. If they are exonerated, they get freedom. If they are not exonerated, they still know that there are people out there who believe in them and care enough to fight for them I like to think that even that makes a difference reminding them that they are human beings, not monsters, and that they matter, that their lives still matter. Seth Miller, Esq., Executive Director: Many of those who seek our help have fallen through the cracks of our judicial system, where lawyers and judges alike have failed them at every step of the way. For these individuals, many of whom are serving decades or even life in prison, there is literally no one else to turn to but IPF. In that vein, we play an integral role in making sure that every person who seeks us out gets a fair shake and a thorough review of their case. And when we identify a miscarriage of justice, we vigorously fight to make it right. Innocence Project of Florida, Inc.
7 Page 7 Give the Gift of Freedom Your generosity helps to free the wrongfully convicted. Last year IPF processed more than 1,000 requests for assistance from inmates and their families. We are currently litigating dozens of cases with hundreds more in various stages of review and investigation. Your support will enable IPF to more quickly unlock the truth for innocent people in Florida s prisons, help those whose innocence has been proven to rebuild their lives, and work to reform Florida s criminal justice system. Please accept my gift to the Innocence Project of Florida, Inc. Amount $ I want to designate my gift to the Exoneree Fund. Name Address City State Zip Code Home Phone Work Phone My check, payable to the Innocence Project of Florida, is enclosed. Mail to: Innocence Project of Florida, Inc., 1100 East Park Avenue, Tallahassee, FL Please charge my VISA MasterCard Discover American Express Cardholder s Name: Billing Address (if different from above): Card # Exp. Date: CSC: (3-digit code) (4-digit code for AmEx) My gift is in honor of My gift is in memory of Please list my name(s) in your donor publications as No, thank you. Please do not list me in your donor publications. Thank you for your generosity! To donate online, go to IPF is certified as a nonprofit organization under the Internal Revenue Service Act section 501(C)(3). Our Federal Tax ID is All gifts are tax deductible to the fullest extent of the law. A COPY OF THE OFFICIAL REGISTRATION, CH21991, AND FINANCIAL INFORMATION MAY BE OBTAINED FROM THE FLORIDA DIVISION OF CONSUMER SERVICES BY CALLING TOLL-FREE WITHIN THE STATE, REGISTRATION DOES NOT IMPLY ENDORSEMENT, APPROVAL, OR RECOMMENDATION BY THE STATE. The Innocence Project of Florida is supported in part by a grant from The Florida Bar Foundation. Innocence Matters May 2013
8 Innocence Project of Florida, Inc East Park Avenue Tallahassee, FL NONPROFIT ORG US POSTAGE PAID TALLAHASSEE, FL PERMIT NO. 528 RETURN SERVICE REQUESTED Obstacles to DNA Exonerations Each case......must have biological evidence... Only 5 to 10% of serious felonies involve evidence that contains blood, saliva, semen, skin or hair....that is still available for DNA testing. 22% of cases nationwide are closed because the evidence has been lost or destroyed. Prosecutors must consent to the DNA testing or the court must order it. In 2011 and 2012, Florida prosecutors opposed DNA testing in 95% of IPF s requests, thus requiring IPF to use its limited resources litigating the right to DNA testing. Page 8