Saturday was the first meeting of a class called Post Conviction Actual Innocence Claims, which is the fourth of the four classes i'm taking this semester.
Post Conviction Actual Innocence Claims is a 2-credit class, which, to meet the American Bar Association's standards for in-class instruction time, means it meets for four hours every other week.
the class is scheduled from 10:00am to 3:00pm with a break in the middle.
we had the break this time, but the Professor suggested that going forward, we would just run the class straight through and get out an hour and fifteen minutes early.
we were all fine with that.

i rode my TITScycle to Law School downtown and found the parking lot and the building mostly empty.
i got to campus with enough time to grab my thermos from my locker, and a hoodie because it gets cold in the Law School building a lot of the time and made my way to the assigned room and set myself up in the back, stage-right where i always sit.
after several minutes the room filled up with thirteen other Law Students, only two of whom i recognized.
one guy was a First Year last year like i was. he wasn't in my Section but he was in my Criminal Law class because that class had two sections in it for some reason and we sat next to each other and made occasional chit-chat.
the other woman was in my Children And The Law class i took over the Summer. we talked a few times about her horrible life with five children, one of whom has some kind of crippling genetic defect.
everybody else was a new face, though they seem pleasant enough.

our Professor is a guy who looks, talks and caries himself just like George Dubya Bush.
he even has that same awkward way of speaking where his sentences will come to abrupt ends when he is trying to emphasize a point and he'll stand there and look at you making a face like a monkey.
i don't mind it, i always thought Dubya Bush was charming. a shite President, but a personable fella.
physical resemblance seems to be where the similarities end between our Professor and George Dubya.
our Professor is a practicing criminal defense attorney of some prestige and the head of the Innocence Project of Texas.
he works full time on getting people out of prison and only teaches one class a semester as an adjunct.
as opposed to Dubya Bush who presided over more executions then any other Governor in history.
our Professor has done a lot of good works over the course of his lengthy career, and he is not shy about letting everybody know that.

class started with everybody going around the room and introducing themselves, which is something i haven't done since undergraduate work.
hello, my name is TITS, i'm still technically in my first-year and i'm interested in Criminal Justice reform.
maybe a third of the class was also interested in criminal defense though a fair amount were just there because a Saturday class fit their schedule.
i'm hoping their lack of interest in the subject works to my advantage.
that took up the first forty-five minutes of class, somehow.
then we turned out attentions to the readings we had been assigned.

a week or so before class we receive an e-mail from our Professor assigning us to read seven cases, most from the Supreme Court, that discuss when and how post-conviction actual innocence claims can be pressed.
the short answer is that as far as the Supreme Court is concerned, they really can't.
a post-conviction actual innocence claim is exactly what it sounds like, where, after they are convicted, a person tries to get their conviction overturned on the basis that they are actually innocent.
this isn't just some dude hollering “i din do nuffin!!!” over and over again, there has to be some actual way to prove their actual innocence, often times with hard scientific evidence that frequently has just been invented or evolved in the time between their conviction and their innocence claim.
the bar is really, really high for getting anybody to take a post-conviction actual innocence claim seriously, however.
the case only came before the Supreme Court in the mid-90s and when it did, the Court was torn as to whether or not actually being innocent was grounds for being able to get any kind of relief.
Scalia and the Conservatives were only interested in procedural errors, violations of your 6th or 8th or 14th Amendment rights, and, if there were none to be found, then tough titties for ya.
Scalia wrote “if the system that has been in place for 200 years “shocks” the dissenter's consciences, perhaps they should doubt the usefulness of conscience-shocking as a legal test.”
what a shit!
a year later a different case came own and held that if a “miscarriage of justice” can be shown to have occurred then possibly-maybe a petitioner might be able to overcome the procedural hurdles and win themselves a chance to evaluate whether or not any errors might have occurred at their trial.
but, the standard for deciding whether a “miscarriage of justice” has occurred is really, really high.

at 11:45 we took a break.
which couldn't come a minute too soon as i had been holding in pee since 10:00am.
i peed right before class started, but an hour and forty-five minutes is asking a lot of my dumb little bladder.
after having a piss i went out to my TITScycle and drove off into the downtown area in search of something to eat for lunch because the PSE didn't pack me any lunch because we had a big fight about that the night before, but once i finally found somewhere to go eat i happened to look at my phone and saw that i had missed a call from the PSE.
she told me that she had lunch for me after all so i drove back to School and met the PSE and the Monster and we sat and ate noodles for an hour before i had to report back to class at 1:00pm.

for the second half of class our Professor just showed us an episode from a TV show he was on on the Discovery Chanel, or some shit.
back in the early 2000s our Professor started up something called the Conviction Integrity Unit at the Dallas District Attorney's Office and the Discovery Chanel came around to make a series about it.
his job at the Conviction Integrity Unit was to go through previous convictions and look for circumstances where somebody was most likely wrongly convicted.
you would think it would be a no-brainer that every Prosecutor's Office in the country ought to have something like that, but this one in Dallas was the first of its kind.
in most cases, Prosecutor's Offices are more concerned with their win-loss record then they are with doing justice.
since then, Conviction Integrity Units have become a part of many District Attorney's Offices in major cities across the country but in the early 2000s, it was a novel idea.

anyways, this particular episode of the TV show about my Professor was about some guy who did eighteen years for rape and robbery who was convicted largely based on something called ABO blood testing which is wildly imprecise.
the results of the ABO blood test said that the guy could have been the person who committed the crime but also, so could 13% of the male Black population.
the guy was convicted and spent the next 18 years trying to get the Dallas County District Attorney's office to retest the sample with better DNA tests that have been developed but the Prosecutor's Office fought and fought and fought not to let him do it until our Professor came around.
ultimately our Professor went ahead and did the re-test and it turned out that the man who did 18 years in prison was exonerated.
the test also allowed them to figure out who actually did the crime, they got confessions from the actual perps and everything, but after 18 years the statute of limitations was up and the actual rapist was never punished for his crime.
of course, if the Dallas County District Attorney's Office was receptive to doing the re-test when the innocent man first asked for it, they could have then had time to go apprehend the guilty party, but that didn't happen because of institutional intransigence.
class got out at 2:40, twenty minutes before the scheduled end at 3:00pm.

/[ab irato ad astra]
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October 2017

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