Sunday, August 31, 2008

John Grisham's Brother Mark Grisham Writes Novel - Bedlam South

John Grisham's brother publishes a book.
It took three years for David Donaldson and Mark Grisham — the younger brother of John Grisham — to finish their debut novel “Bedlam South,” which will hit bookstores worldwide on Oct. 7, 2008.

“Bedlam South,” a novel that begins and ends in an insane asylum during the Civil War, could be the saving grace for its novice authors as well as a Southaven charity.
Both Grisham and Donaldson have pledged that a significant portion of the proceeds from the sale of their book will go to help Impact Missions, the organization that Donaldson oversees.
Recently, donations to the nonprofit that helps needy and neglected children and families dropped drastically as the effects of a slumping economy trickled down to charitable organizations.

Donaldson, Impact Mission’s president, recently had to ask local governments for extra funding to pay the bills for this month.
“Whatever success we have with this book, we want to help this dedicated charity,” Grisham said. “So, we want to get the word out about our book, because it is a blessing for us and so many others.”
They didn’t ask Mark’s big brother, John, whose best-selling novels have brought him international fame, for help.

“We could’ve taken that short cut and asked him for advice, but we were raised to paddle your own canoe,” said Mark Grisham, 47, who lives in the Nesbit area and whose company sells heavy construction equipment parts. “After we finished the book, I told John and he almost fell off his chair. He then read it and he gave us some helpful tips.
“He also told me he was glad we got it published without help from him because he wants us to get all the credit.”

A little added information:
The book is being published by State Street Press, a publishing arm of Borders Books.
A Los Angeles company is working to turn "Bedlam South" into a screenplay.
The two longtime friends, who have known each other since junior high school, started their literary career in 2005.
Impact Missions Inc. Website - (click here ). .

Features a Donation Link

Impact Missions Address:
Impact Missions
8791 Northwest Drive
Southaven, MS 38671
(662) 343-0155

Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Palin On The Death Penalty

If legislature passed death penalty law, I would sign it. (Nov 2006) - Full Quote:
If legislature passed death penalty law, I would sign it I support adequate funding for a strong public safety presence in Alaska. Feeling safe in our communities is something we cannot accept any compromise on. This includes policing in all its forms, the court system, prosecutors and corrections. If the legislature passed a death penalty law, I would sign it. We have a right to know that someone who rapes and murders a child or kills an innocent person in a drive by shooting will never be able to do that again. Source: Campaign website,, Issues" Nov 7, 2006 ,
Sarah Palin is against abortion and gay marriage,as well as the right to bear arms.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Inmates Playing Card Games Can Solve Cold Cases

The story - While inmates in jails across New York pass the time by playing card games -- gin rummy, poker and solitaire -- they may also be helping crack cold cases.

The idea is simple: Each of the 52 playing cards contains information about a murder, a missing person or another unsolved crime.
Inmates know information law enforcement agents don't, and as corrections officers can attest, inmates love to talk as long as it's not about their own crimes.

Most of the cases featured on the New York cards deal with missing persons, but some show unsolved murders, some dating to the 1980s.
Inmates can provide information by calling a hot line. They're not required to provide their names. Cindy Bloch, case manager at New York's Criminal Justice Services, said she's encouraged by the response.
"Prior to the playing card program being implemented, we had virtually no calls coming from correctional facilities," she said. "We now have 40 or 50 calls per month coming in."
Sheriff Jack Mahar, who runs the county jail in Rensselaer County, New York, said he replaced all the playing cards in the jail with the cold case cards.
"The people that are here live out on the streets, they grew up out on the streets, they know what's going on," Mahar said.
"Sooner or later, someone will hear, someone talks; it always happens whether it's two days from now or five years from now."
Even inmates think the cards are a good idea.

Doug and Mary Lyall began the card program in New York. Their daughter has been missing for a decade.

Continue Reading
Cards could help uncover cold case clues"

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Improving the Practice and Use of Forensic Science

Forensic science can be a powerful tool for seeking truth in criminal investigations and trials, but it is not flawless. A recent study found that faulty forensic evidence or testimony was a contributing factor in nearly sixty percent of wrongful convictions.

Dennis Fritz and Ron Williamson were two of those wrongfully convicted based on inaccurate and misleading forensic evidence. A visual hair comparison - a “science” that has an error rate as high as sixty-seven percent on individual samples - was a major factor in their convictions. They spent over a decade in jail, with Williamson on death row, until DNA testing proved their innocence in 1999. The DNA at the crime scene matched the man who originally led police to Williamson and Fritz.

The problems in Fritz and Williamson’s case are among those highlighted in a new publication from The Justice Project (TJP), which is designed to help states improve the quality of evidence in criminal trials and increase fairness and accuracy within the criminal justice system.

A new publication from The Justice Project (TJP),
Improving the Practice and Use of Forensic Science: A Policy Review, provides an overview of the problems with certain forensic science policies and procedures, offers solutions to these problems, profiles cases of injustice, highlights states with good laws and procedures, and includes a model policy for the states.

The Justice Project recommends that:

· States create an independent, transparent oversight commission to develop and enforce quality standards for forensic science laboratories.
· States require all forensic science laboratories to develop internal structures and policies to prevent bias in testing and analysis.
· States require that all forensic laboratories are independent from law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies.
· States require that all forensic laboratory analysts receive proper training and certification.
· States allocate sufficient funding to adequately implement these recommendations.

To ensure a more fair and accurate criminal justice system, it is critical to improve the reliability, objectivity, and independence of forensic analysis and testimony in criminal trials and investigations. This and other policy reviews are available on TJP’s website at

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Books about Judicial Error, False Imprisonment, Forensic Sciences

Book List: DNA data banks, judicial error, false imprisonment, forensic sciences. I will be adding more books to list in the future. To Submit A Book - Have a book to recommend and add to list, just click on the word "comments" on bottom of post and add a book to list. Must be on subjects.

  • Journey Toward Justice Author: Dennis Fritz, Seven Locks Press, 2006 - judicial error, false imprisonment, forensic sciences

  • DNA Databases edited by Lauri R. Harding - Greenhaven Press, Dna Crime Scene: Inside the World of the Real CSIs by Connie Fletcher - St. Martin's Paperbacks, 2007

  • The Forensic Laboratory Handbook: Procedures and Practice edited by Ashraf Mozayani and Carla Noziglia - Humana Press

  • Crime Scene: The Ultimate Guide to Forensic Science- Law - DK Publishing 2003 by Richard Platt (Author)

Partial List of Books about Forensics for Youths

  • Whodunit? : Science Solves the Crime Author: Otfinoski, Steven.; Scheld, Betsy,Publication: New York : W H Freeman, 1995 Reading Level: Ages 4-8
  • Police Lab: Using Science to Solve Crimes Author: Sheely, Robert, 1956-Publication: New York : Silver Moon Press, 1993 Reading Level: Ages 9-12
  • Cool Careers for Girls as Crime Solvers Author: Thornburg, Linda, 1949-Publication: Manassas Park, VA : Impact Publications, 2001
  • Forensics - Author: Ball, Jacqueline A. Publication: Milwaukee, WI : Gareth Stevens Pub., 2003 Reading Level: Ages 9-12

Monday, August 18, 2008

Dennis Fritz - Tabitha Pollock - A Rally For The Wrongfully Convicted

On June 21, 2008, an outside rally was held in Harrah, Oklahoma for Raye Dawn Smith. She is now serving a 27 year sentence for the charge of Enabling—in that, she ‘should have known’ that her former husband was abusing her child Kelsey, which thereafter resulted in her death.
At a country-side park ( just minutes away from the prison where Raye Dawn is currently incarcerated ) people were arriving in carloads, to give their unyielding support for Raye Dawn’s declared innocence.
The keynote speakers, Dennis Fritz, author of Journey Toward Justice ( the co-companion book to John Grisham’s, The Innocent Man ), and Tabitha Pollock—along with her husband, Abe—were seen in and around the pavilion, greeting and meeting Ray Dawn’s family members and guests. Tabitha, who had also been once convicted for the same charge of Enabling, was outwardly expressive in showing her empathy, as she mingled throughout the now-crowded assembly of people in sharing her support.

The smell of grilled hotdogs permeated throughout the gathering, thus signaling everyone’s attention that this special day, would help to bring forth Raye Dawn’s long sought-after freedom. The building intensity of emotions could easily be felt, like a fast moving thunderstorm sweeping through on a once calm, cloudless day. Every word and mannerism expressed by the guests and family members, were powerfully focused on one thing, and one thing only—to bust open those prison gates that wrongfully restrained Ray Dawn Smith.

As the large populated crowd sat down at the picnic tables to enjoy their lunch, the rally began. Several members of Ray Dawn’s family—including her mother, Gayla, went to the front and poured their hearts out. The inner strength of their words brought tears to everyone’s eyes. Their outright determination bore the resemblance of a lit cherry bomb that was about to ignite. A true spiritual blessing from the holy spirit was being felt by everyone in attendance. It was almost like you could feel the overhead pavilion shaking from it’s very foundation.

Next to speak was Tabitha Pollock. The emotion in her voice could not hide the tremendous amount of pain and suffering that she had been through. As she told her story of the traumatic years she spent behind bars— in having to deal with the agony of her daughter’s death—her broken words pierced everyone’s heart like a horror story straight out-of-hell. Although tears were streaming down from her eyes, an enormous inner strength brought forth a renewed Raye-of-Hope, that one day, Raye Dawn Smith’s innocence would be proven beyond a shadow of a doubt. Her slowly spoken words reverberated the pent-up scars that extended to the depths of her soul. Her courage shined through like a brilliant light as she shifted from side to side. It was the first time that Tabitha had told her complete story in front of a group of people.
When she had finished, it was noticeably visible that a great burden had been lifted from her shaking, small-framed body. Everyone clapped and cheered with joy and happiness as she passed the microphone. God bless you, Tabitha!

The next speaker, Dennis Fritz, described his horrible account of having been wrongfully convicted for 12 years of 1st Degree Capital Murder. Mr. Fritz eloquently compared his nightmarish circumstances to that of Raye Dawn Smith’s plight for justice. In his straight forward and easy going manner, Dennis spoke of hope and divine intervention for Raye Dawn and her family. His inspiring words also brought forth a tremendous comfort and renewed hope, that Raye Dawn would be exonerated in the near future.
With all eyes glued upon him, Mr. Fritz further conveyed the many instances how the Lord had been there to help him throughout his wrongful conviction. Following a brief silence of inward thought, Dennis raised his head and said, “Raye Dawn will receive her freedom through her strong faith and belief in the Lord. At first, my prayers were all about asking the Lord to get me out of this situation. After entering prison, my prayers changed by giving thanks to the Lord for being in the actual process of opening those prison doors.
It was my full faith in the Lord that brought about my miracle of freedom.” One could easily see that strong feelings of faith, love, and determination were running through everyone’s minds. Thereafter, Mr. Fritz went to a designated area outside the pavilion and signed many books for the people standing in line.
Now, the time was at hand for the spectacular event—the releasing of the balloons! Hundreds of multi-colored balloons were SET FREE into the sky, as a commemoration to Raye Dawn’s upcoming day of FREEDOM. The expressions of glamour and celebration were on everyone’s faces, as the drifting balloons found their way to a freedom that would never end.
The rally ended with group photograph pictures. All of the family members and guests wore their purple Fight For Freedom Tee-shirts, that were being sold for donations. Right before each picture was taken, Mr. Fritz would count to 3 and everyone would yell as loud as they could—“FREEDOM.” Needless to say, countless pictures were taken. What a day to remember. It is that very memory that is still-framed in everyone’s mind—on that very special day— that will help to bring about that glorious DAY OF FREEDOM that WILL come to Raye Dawn Smith. Hallelulla!!!!!!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dennis Fritz and DNA Testing

Dennis Fritz spent years in prison fighting for the DNA test that proved his innocence. Seven times he petitioned the courts for DNA testing and seven times he was turned down. The state of Oklahoma fought Dennis ever step of the way and refused to compare his DNA with evidence collected from the crime scene. When his lawyers finally obtained permission to test the DNA, the results not only exonerated Dennis but identified and helped convict the real killer.

So far, more than 200 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence, yet according to a New Report on Post-Conviction DNA Testing , (Link here) many states – including Oklahoma -- still have barriers that prevent DNA testing from being used effectively. Improving Access to Post-Conviction DNA Testing: A Policy Review provides an overview of problems with current post-conviction DNA testing laws, offers solutions to these problems, profiles cases of injustice, highlights states with good laws and policies for DNA testing, and includes a model policy.
This is the link to The Justice Project
here .

According to the policy review, Oklahoma is one of seven states without a statute for post-conviction DNA testing access. (The others are Alabama, Alaska, Massachusetts, Mississippi, South Carolina, and South Dakota.) Oklahoma passed a statute in 2000, but it expired in 2005. Other states with access statutes

TJP’s policy review includes six common sense recommendations for improving state post-conviction DNA testing to create a more accurate criminal justice system and restore public confidence in the system’s ability to correct its own errors.

Without DNA testing, Dennis Fritz would still be in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. But it’s clear from this report states still have a long way to go to make sure that every wrongfully convicted person has a fair chance to prove their innocence through DNA testing.
All of TJP’s policy reviews are available on its website at
The Justice Project

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Improving Access to Post-Conviction DNA Testing: A Policy Review

The Justice Project (TJP) has constructed a national program of initiatives designed to increase fairness and accuracy in the criminal justice system. As part of their work, they have developed a series of policy reviews on the leading causes of wrongful convictions that explain the problems and recommend common sense solutions.

I’m pleased to provide you with an electronic copy of the latest TJP policy review,
Improving Access to Post-Conviction DNA Testing: A Policy Review. (Click the title for PDF.) This policy review provides an overview of problems with current post-conviction DNA testing laws, offers solutions to these problems, profiles cases of injustice, highlights states with good laws and policies for DNA testing, and includes a model policy.

TJP’s six recommendations for states will improve the effective use of post-conviction DNA testing to create a more accurate criminal justice system and restore public confidence in the system’s ability to correct its own errors.
TJP recommends:

  • States should require the preservation of biological evidence throughout a defendant’s sentence and devise standards regarding custody of evidence.
  • States should ensure that all inmates with a DNA-based innocence claim may petition for DNA testing at any time and without regard to plea, confession, self-implication, the nature of the crime, or previous unfavorable test results.
  • States should require judges to grant post-conviction testing petitions when testing may produce new material evidence that raises a reasonable probability of the petitioner’s innocence or reduced culpability.
  • States should ensure that petitioners have access to objective and reliable forensic analysis at independent and privately funded labs, subject to judicial approval.
  • States should provide counsel and cover the cost of post-conviction DNA testing in cases where a petitioner is indigent.
  • States should standardize post-testing procedures for cases that produce testing results favorable to a petitioner.

    All of TJP’s policy reviews are available in the National Work section of our their website The Justice Project, here
  • Tuesday, August 12, 2008

    Wrongful Convictions Do Happen To The Innocent - Kelsey Smith - Briggs Case

    Raye Dawn Smith convicted to 27 years in jail because she should have known of the abuse of her 2 year old daughter Kelsey, not that she knew anything but convicted on the basis that she should have.

    The Story
    On October 11, 2005, Raye left the home for 30 to 40 minutes to pick up her step-daughter from school. Mike Porter was expecting a friend to pick up some tires and Kelsey was sleeping so Raye went to pick up the child and left Kelsey in bed with Mike Porter watching after her. When Raye Dawn returned home, an ambulance was there and Kelsey was unresponsive. Kelsey died later that day.
    Raye has been convicted of enabling child abuse with a recommended sentence of 27 years. Raye shared a special bond with Kelsey. She would have never allowed anyone to harm her child.
    Due to the mass media coverage on this case, Raye Dawn Smith was not granted a fair trial. Join us in starting an online petition to bring light to the injustice that has occurred as we lobby for fairness in this over-publicized case.

    In a local television interview, the D.A., Smothermon, stated "the media has been detrimental to this case...I would rather take the evidence and present it to twelve jurors..."

    Raye refused to take a blind plea for spanking Kelsey with a brush. She said, "I didn't do it! I won't take it!" Raye Dawn is innocent, it's time to set the record straight. She left her fate in the hands of a jury, a jury that got it wrong.

    To Read More "The Truth About Kelsey"
    Click HERE

    Thursday, August 7, 2008

    DNA Evidence Not Saved in 25 States

    The ability to clear wrongly-convicted individuals is made more difficult because 25 states are not required to keep DNA evidence according to an August 5, 2008 story in USA Today.
    The possibility of solving crimes committed years ago is hampered by lack of DNA samples as well. The biggest problems surrounding this issue are the guidelines and length of time for saving DNA material and the requirements and cost for storage.

    What states are doing:
    • South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford vetoed a proposal last month that, in part, would have mandated preservation of biological evidence. He says he supports giving the "wrongly accused a chance to clear their names" but could not endorse a provision requiring all suspects charged with felonies — but not yet convicted — to provide genetic profiles.

    • A similar proposal in New York, one of the largest states that do not require DNA preservation, died in the State Assembly in June.

    • Colorado prosecutors and defense lawyers are grappling to implement a broad law that requires law enforcement agencies to keep DNA evidence in murder, sexual assault and other serious cases for the lifetime of convicted defendants. It also calls for keeping DNA evidence in less serious crimes.

    • Arizona lawmakers approved legislation, which takes effect Dec. 31, to maintain biological evidence in murder and sexual assault cases for as long as the offender remains in prison.

    Larry Pozner, former head of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, says states have shown a "shocking" disinterest in keeping DNA: "Innocent inmates are going to die in prison."Evidence preservation has been the key to freeing more than 200 wrongfully convicted prisoners, says the Innocence Project, a group that works to free the innocent based on DNA testing.

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008

    Exonerated Jeff Deskovic Finds Reintegration Back Into Society Is Anything But Easy

    Starting at the age of 17 and ending at 34, I served 16 years in prison for a murder and rape which I was proven innocent of by DNA 23 months ago. I received an acknowledgment of my innocence and an apology from both the judge and the prosecutor. I was not given any compensation to assist me in starting my life over. I have sued, but it will take between 2-7 years before the litigation is over. Most people think that once someone has been freed from prison following exoneration that their problems are over. In reality, reintegration back into society after being exonerated is anything but easy. The difficulties that I encounter on a daily basis in many ways are typical of that which almost all exonerees experience.

    Psychologically and emotionally, coping with what happened to me and the after effects has been hard, as has adjusting to being free after having decisions made for me for such a long time. In many ways, it is like being dropped off on a strange planet where one knows nobody, doesn’t understand the culture, customs, or technology.

    Financially, it is a struggle. I earn money by giving lectures on wrongful convictions across the country at high schools, colleges, churches, and other community organizations, but I never know when or if the next one is coming. I also write an article a week for a local newspaper on criminal justice and wrongful conviction type subjects. When I have tried to find a job making consistent income to support myself in between engagements, I am only offered dead end jobs being paid next to nothing because I don’t have the same level of experience that others have.

    It has been hard breaking in socially. Most people have a circle of friends and people that they socialize with. They form these associations from work, college, high school, and friends of friends. But I am never at the same location twice unless I get invited back, I email in my articles for the paper, at college the students were in the wrong age group, and I was incarcerated during what would have been my high school years. What does one do when one has no assets with which to start?

    I am a solutions oriented, pro-active person who has a never give up mentality. But I am in an environment which I do not fully understand. To deal with readjustment and what happened to me, I see a therapist twice a week. I have worked hard trying to learn technology, for the most part on my own through asking questions here and there. I am not quite caught up to speed, but I have learned a lot. Financially, I have started my own non-profit organization whose purpose is to disseminate information about wrongful convictions, get reforms passed, help exonerate people, and help the exonerated reintegrate, and am currently looking for funding from both wealthy people and other philanthropic organizations. If I can find it, not only will those issues be worked on but I will help supervise things, and thus I will in effect have created my own job. I have also tried to get a loan, using my lawsuit as collateral. The goal would be to borrow enough to have a modest amount of money to live off of for the next 3-4 somewhat akin to what I would make as a salary while I await compensation. I am willing to pay back the principal and interest, as well as an additional amount of money for doing me the favor, but again I have not been able to find anybody. Litigation banks want such an absorbitant amount of money interest wise that I might as well be handing them the lawsuit.

    In terms of trying to find people to do things with, I would like people between 25-37 to hang out with, who are educated, progressive, and social justice type people, who like doing energy based type things for fun, such as sports, anything involving a ball, swimming, biking, karaoke, trying new things, going to new places, parks, amusement parks, historical places, and just having a good conversation, who live within 25 minutes of Tarrytown, NY. I have went to a variety of places, tried many ideas that others have suggested, placed ads on, myspace, and Craigslist. I even tried starting my own Meetup group; alas no one showed up. I do not know what else to try. If anybody would like to send me a message of support, comments, much needed ideas, make a contribution to help the foundation get started, or even to hang out if you are within 20 minutes of Tarrytown, NY, please email me through my website www.JeffreyDeskovicSpeaks. All emails will be answered.