The People vs The System
The violence against black bodies that we now witness on cell phone video is not new – systemic racism and police brutality have existed for and evolved over centuries. Justice organizer and Presbyterian pastor Reverend Willie Keaton, civil rights attorney James E. Ferguson, and progressive sheriff Garry McFadden speak on the structural inequalities that have led to violence against black citizens by those meant to protect all of us and what hope there may be for the future.
Two hair follicles found at the scene of a 1989 rape and burglary put Timothy Bridges in prison for 25 years. In 2015, the FBI identified 257 cases linked to scientifically invalid testimony by FBI-trained experts. Timothy’s case was one of them.
In 1995, a three-year-old boy died in a house fire despite his mother Kristine’s frantic efforts to save him. An ATF agent’s purposefully falsified report suggested arson – and pointed the finger at Kristine. She was sent to prison for 17 years. It was later discovered the ATF agent altered his original report because his original findings did not match the fire investigators’ theory.
Did the state of Tennessee execute an innocent man in 2006? In 1987, Sedley Alley was sentenced to death for a brutal rape and murder, to which he confessed. The Innocence Project got involved. Experts closely examined the confession – it was clearly false. Lawyers reviewed the physical evidence – nothing implicated Alley. Then a new suspect surfaced in 2018. Alley’s daughter April is fighting for DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene, but the state of Tennessee is fighting to keep the case closed.
Efren Paredes Jr.
Efren Paredes Jr. received a juvenile life without parole sentence in 1989 at the age of 16. Prosecutors presented circumstantial evidence amidst a media circus of a case, in a predominantly white neighborhood, to convict a young Latino boy of murder. A court psychologist found him irreparable and unable to rehabilitate. But is he even guilty?
In 2003, Kimberly Long was charged with the murder of her boyfriend. The prosecution’s evidence was based on a story told by one witness who testified at the preliminary hearing, but who died in a car accident before the trial. Judges and jurors alike found her innocent, but a tenacious prosecutor would stop at nothing. Kimberly spent seven years in jail before winning a new trial and walking out of prison. But she lives each day not knowing whether she will be put back on trial.
Within minutes of shots being fired, an attempted murder victim pointed the finger at Quintin Morris as the shooter. It was an incredibly suggestive identification procedure: police stopped and handcuffed Quintin a few blocks from the shooting, despite no evidence he was involved; then they brought the victim to him and asked “is this the guy?”
Karl Fontenot, a main character in Netflix’s The Innocent Man, was released from prison on bond one year after the series came out. His false confession to the murder of Denice Harraway in Ada, OK sent him to prison for 35 years. Even though he is currently out of prison, he faces the possibility of a retrial every day, and the possibility of going back to prison for a crime he did not commit.
Perry Lott is an innocent man who spent more than 30 years in prison based on a rape victim’s testimony that she “thought” she recognized him. Abuse of Power’s second case from Ada, OK shines a light on the pervasive influence of police misconduct that caused the wrongful conviction of at least six men, and a court system that still won’t declare Perry innocent in the eyes of the law.
Hannah Overton, mother of five, was spending the afternoon with her soon-to-be adopted sixth child, when he fell ill. Thinking it was early symptoms of a stomach bug, she made him comfortable until his symptoms progressed in an unexpected way. He died the next day in the hospital, and Hannah was found guilty of his murder, a crime she did not commit.
For 32 years, James Dailey has been on Florida’s death row for a horrific murder. The only “evidence” linking him to the crime came from a jailhouse snitch who has been used by prosecutors to send dozens of people to prison – and four to death row.