“They’re Not Only Naive… [They Are] Being Economically and Budgetarily Unwise”

Wake Forest University School of Law

Professor Rabil has some strong words for legislators considering to repeal North Carolina’s landmark Racial Justice Act.  Speaking to Star News, Professor Rabil had this to say:

“Can the legislature legally retroactively repeal a law that people have already filed claims under? Generally speaking, I think the answer is going to be no, but that will be up to state and federal courts,” said Mark Rabil, director of Wake Forest University’s Innocence and Justice Clinic and a former capital defender. “They are basically ensuring several more years of litigation.”

“They’re not only naive,” he added, referring to legislators, but they are “being economically and budgetarily unwise because now the state is going to have to spend more resources defending the legislative repeal.”


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This Could Happen to You


On April 3, 2013, Brian Banks signed with the Atlanta Falcons and is now a part of their 90 man roster.  Right now you may be asking yourself, why do I care, and how could I make this happen to me?

But there’s a lot more to this story.  in 2002, Brian Banks was a 16 year old student at Long Beach Poly high school, a well known powerhouse of high school football in Southern California.  He was an outstanding linebacker, and he had drawn the attention of USC coach Pete Carroll.

Brian had his whole life ahead of him.  Even if he didn’t end up in the NFL, it seemed likely he would get a football scholarship at a great school, preparing him for a future as a productive member of society.  But if that’s what happened, I wouldn’t be writing about his story.

One summer day in 2002, Brian and a girl named Wanetta Gibson made out in a stair well on campus.  They didn’t have sex, and according to Brian, everything seemed fine.  Later that afternoon, Brian was arrested for raping her.  The rape kit came back negative, because they hadn’t had sex, but that didn’t seem to matter.  Brian’s public defender said that his size, age and race would mean a sure conviction of 40+ years, regardless of his guilt, and so she convinced him to plea bargain for a six year sentence on a reduced charge.

At this point, Brian’s life was ruined.  He served five years in California State Prison, and when he was released he had to register as a sex offender.  That meant he couldn’t even attend events like his little cousin’s birthday party, because as a registered sex offender he wasn’t allowed around children.  He was also required to wear a GPS tracking ankle bracelet at all times.

Then, in 2011, after suffering the indignity and humiliation that comes with being convicted of a crime he didn’t commit for almost a decade, Brian received a Facebook friend request that would change his life.  Wanetta Gibson, the alleged victim of his sexual assault wanted to reconnect with him.  She wanted to let bygones be bygones.  She wasn’t offering help, or to recant her completely made-up accusation, she just wanted to “hang out.”

Brian was understandably stunned at this turn of events.  Without accepting her friend request, Brian messaged her that they could hang out if she was willing to help him prove his innocence.  Knowing that this was an opportunity he could not pass up, Brian secretly recorded two meetings with Gibson, where she admitted that Brian didn’t rape her, and also that she made up the whole story, but was afraid of helping him because she couldn’t afford to pay back the million dollar settlement she won in her civil suit following Brian’s conviction.  Using this evidence, Brian was able to clear his name once and for all, and he said cutting off the ankle bracelet was the first moment he felt free in almost a decade.

The Brian Banks story should be a warning to every one of us.  This innocent man’s life was totally destroyed through no fault of his own, and the only reason we even know that is because his accuser was so divorced from reality she though he would be willing to let bygones be bygones, like nothing happened.  What I hope we can all take away from this story is that rape is a terrible, terrible crime, which should never happen to any woman.  The feelings of violation and shame are hard for a man to comprehend, but when someone like Wanetta furiously dream up a rape allegation, it harms actual victims of sexual assault, and trivializes their pain.  I don’t know what can be done to ameliorate this problem, but I know we have to do something before another innocent person is railroaded by a system that neither cares for the truth or the plight of the falsely accused.






“It looks like Damien Echols finally killed someone.”


These three young boys were found brutally murdered.  When police speculated about the assailant, the juvenile probation officer assisting at the scene said a local teenager, Damien Echols, was “capable” of committing the murders, stating “it looks like Damien Echols finally killed someone.”

That was pretty much all it took.  The small town West Memphis investigators saw these hogtied, partially mutilated young bodies, and they instantly assumed it was the work of a satanist cult.  Because Echols listened to bands like Metallica, and because he had been involved in some petty crimes, the police centered their investigation on him, and, eventually, his two friends Jessie Misskelley and Charles Baldwin.

John Douglas, a former FBI agent who now profiles violent criminals for law enforcement says that, in reality, the eight-year-old victims were not killed by three unsophisticated teenagers, but rather by a single assailant who was almost certainly a grown man with a violent past.  The actual killer would have had a violent past, and a very personal reason for killing these boys.

In other words, this crime was not committed by a satanic cult of teenagers,  but rather by a single disturbed man who knew these boys and had a personal reason for degrading them as well as killing them.

The West Memphis Three spent nearly twenty years in jail before three HBO documentaries over the course of 15 years produced a staggering amount of evidence indicating the trio’s innocence.  A new documentary called West of Memphis is separate from those other, previous documentaries, but it condenses the entire story into one film that acts as another huge data point in the growing mountain of cases that suggest our justice system is broken and desperately in need of reform.







More Casualties From Suicide than Combat is a Wake-up Call for America

Part of human nature is the propensity to ignore long-term consequences in order to deal with short-term problems. Americans are no exception to this instinct, in fact, we are outliers.  Modern America has cultivated and refined the primal drive for instant gratification, weaving it directly into the DNA of our culture.  As a result, our society is now replete with massive moral contradictions that naturally flow from constantly choosing the easy short-term relief over the painful long-term cure.

We have a problem with drugs, and drug-related crime, and so we decide the best way to deal with the problem is to incarcerate more people than any other country on the face of the Earth.  Not just more people total, but more people per capita than notorious human-rights abusers like China, North Korea and Iran.  The result is that we now have a new slave-labor class of inmates who work in areas ranging from manual labor to telephone customer service for literally pennies a day.  This is a real problem obviously, to say nothing of the fact that when the state releases one of its indentured servants, it piles on the totally unrealistic expectation that convicts will somehow change their criminal behavior when they re-enter a society where they can’t get a job, rent an apartment, or even vote.

But if we trace the crime and drug problem in America, we have to go back to the fact that as a society, we allow people to graduate from high school totally unprepared for life in the real world, without the basic tools that adults need to succeed in a competitive, capitalist society.  Meanwhile, over in fantasyland, politicians spend all the meager attention they pay to education by engaging in a pointless debate as to whether creationism should be taught alongside evolution.  It’s like no one even cares that the average high school graduate has no idea about American History, let alone Science, Economics, or anything else of value in the real world, so long as they get their way on the irrelevant question of whether the world was created by an omnipotent, but somewhat mercurial being, or by a meaningless explosion.

We are leaving an entire generation of Americans forced to choose between working a low-wage, dead-end job or paying five or even six figures to attend a decent college.  Instead of preparing our young people for the challenges of the 21st century, our education system is preparing them for the 26th century world of idiocracy.

But more than either of these things, the problem that most reveals our flaws as a culture is the shameful way we have treated our veterans in the 21st century.  In 2012, the number of active-duty casualties from suicide actually outnumbered the combat deaths in all of Afghanistan, 349-295.   But it’s even worse than that if you look at the number of suicides by America’s veterans.  As of February 4th, TWENTY-TWO veterans kill themselves EVERY DAY.  That’s one EVERY 65 MINUTES.  How could we let these people down like this, to the point where massive numbers have decided their best and only choice is suicide?  This is our wake-up call America.  We must do something about this problem, now, whatever it takes.  And we must do it in a way that considers not just short-term statistical success, but also long-term change, no matter how painful that change may be.  We owe at least that much to the people who have sacrificed so much for the rest of us.

His Family Died in a Fire, and He Served 27 Years for Their Murder

A lot of people may feel like David Gavitt should have died with his family, but that doesn’t mean he killed them.


Source: http://www.lawtimesnews.com/201302259629/Headline-News/Prof-touts-happy-ending-to-the-saddest-case-I-know

A Thousand Days Without Trial


Bradley Manning waited over 1,000 days in jail before his recent plea in which he admitted being the source behind hundreds of thousands of documents released to Wikileaks, but contested that his actions “aided the enemy”.  The Verge.com has an in-depth series on the Manning case, and most-distressingly it exposes the federal government’s increasing use of the WWI-era Espionage Act to prosecute government officials who disclose information to media outlets.  The Obama Administration has used the Espionage act against whistle-blowing government officials more than all the previous administrations combined.  This policy of prosecuting whistle-blowers is especially strange, considering the President promised to have ‘the most transparent administration in history.’


Source: http://www.theverge.com/2013/2/26/4027850/bradley-manning-wikileaks-and-the-culture-of-secrecy/in/3801093

Innocence Network Presentation April 2011

Prof. Turowski invited to present at National Innocence Network Conference April 7th  – 10th.  “It is a privilege and honor to be asked to appear on a panel and conduct a roundtable discussion with fellow wrongful conviction advocates from 60 programs, including 15 from outside the US”, states Turowski.  Formed in 2006, the Innocence Network is an affiliation of organizations dedicated to providing pro bono legal and investigative services to individuals seeking to prove innocence of crimes for which they have been convicted and working to redress the causes of wrongful convictions.  More information about the conference and the work of the Network can be found at: https://webapps.uc.edu/conferencing/Details.aspx?ConferenceID=365

Stephen Bright, panel to discuss race and the death penalty on March 31

The Wake Forest Innocence & Justice Clinic is pleased to announce that Wake Forest University School of Law has been selected as one of five sites in North Carolina to host a national tour that explores the complex issues involving race and the death penalty in America.  Continue reading this story.