Advocates for the defense for over 40 years!
Board Member Nominations for 2016
The nomination for Board Members is an important aspect of your CACJ membership.
The nominations for the 2016 Board of Governors will shape how CACJ moves
forward and evolves in the changing climate. If you know of someone who
would be suited to this candidacy, please submit their information
Relaxing California Sex Offender Rules Intended To Make Communities Safer
“It’s really about looking at each case individually and deciding
what punishment fits the crime,” Ignacio Hernandez told CBS 13.
“The way the law’s drafted now, it captures the most egregious
cases and the least serious cases and treats them the same. We assumed
that at some point the courts would find that unconstitutional.”
Amicus Update from John Philipsborn
Jones v. Davis
: The case is before the Ninth Circuit for review of a District Judge's
ruling that pervasive systemic delays invalidate the
death penalty in California. CACJ, NACDL and MCLAP have filed a brief
to address the implications of the delays in the appointment of counsel
for death row inmates, and in doing so points to the chronic underfunding
of the defense function in post-conviction death penalty litigation in
California. Numerous other groups are expected to address other aspects
of this litigation, and reasons for outlawing the death penalty as it
is employed in California.
"A man convicted of attempted murder contends his prosecutor, now
a Monterey County Judge, failed to turn over key evidence in his case.
His attorneys are also asking that all local judges be barred from presiding
over a hearing to investigate why a potentially exonerating videotape
never surfaced at trial."
CACJ is co-sponsoring SB 411 by Senator Lara
SACRAMENTO, CA —Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) today announced legislation
to clarify that recording public safety officers in the course of their
duties does not constitute an obstruction of an officer. Senate Bill 411
reinforces the First Amendment and underscores recording protections for
civilians and police. “Recent events throughout the country and
here in California have raised questions about when an individual can
-- and can’t -- record,” Lara said in a statement. “SB
411 will help erase ambiguity, enhance transparency and ensure that freedom
of speech is protected for both police officers and civilians.”
Assembly Public Safety Committee on Law Enforcement Use of Body Cameras:
Policies and Pitfalls
This morning at the State Capitol CACJ President Jeff Thoma participated
in a panel discussion regarding the use of body cameras by law enforcement.
The legislative informational hearing was convened by the Assembly Public
Safety Committee chaired by Assemblyman Bill Quirk. The hearing consisted
of testimony by a number of experts from law enforcement and civil rights
organizations. Jeff Thoma addressed a number of key legal issues involved
in the potential use of body cameras.
“We Need to Talk About an Injustice…”
"In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from
his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson
shares some hard truths about America's justice system, starting with
a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country's black
male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These
issues, which are wrapped up in America's unexamined history, are
rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness."
Recent Amicus Briefs filed by John Philipsborn, Amicus Committee Chair,
on behalf of CACJ
Exoneree Kirk Bloodsworth to Receive NCIP’s 2015 Cookie Ridolfi Freedom Award
Kirk Bloodsworth, the first death row inmate to be exonerated based on
DNA testing, will be honored at NCIP’s eighth annual
Justice for All awards dinner on March 12, 2015. In 1984, Bloodsworth was wrongfully convicted and sentenced
to death for the rape and murder of a young girl near Baltimore, Maryland.
He subsequently served almost 9 years in prison— two of those years
on death row. While Bloodsworth was facing execution in the early 1990s,
he learned about DNA testing and its ability to prove his innocence. With
the help from his attorney and supporters, the prosecution agreed to DNA
testing of the evidence from Bloodsworth’s case. The testing results
excluded Bloodsworth and matched the DNA of the actual perpetrator, Kimberly
Shay Ruffner. Bloodsworth was officially exonerated in 1993.
Since his exoneration, Bloodsworth has become an influential voice for
the wrongfully convicted on multiple fronts. He inspired the Kirk Bloodsworth
Post-Conviction DNA Testing Program, created by Congress in 2004, to help
defray the costs of DNA testing for those innocent people who still remain
Brady Violations Gain Judicial Attention as well as Proposed Solutions
CACJ's President, Jeff Thoma, was recently interviewed by John Roemer
for the Daily Journal regarding
Brady Violations. They discussed a "plan to rein in prosecutors who hide
favorable evidence from the defense in criminal trials [which] could be
gaining traction." Called a
Brady colloquy, during pretrial hearings, before the defendant enters a plea,
judges could ask prosecutors a short series of questions, on-the-record,
to determine if undisclosed exculpatory evidence exists.
Jeff Thoma remarked that "Brady violations [are] also on the state
Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Gorre Cantil-Sakayue's mind this
month," and that in "meeting with [her] he pointed out that
California is the only state that has not adopted the American Bar Association's
model rule of professional conduct 3.8 on the special responsibilities
as a prosecutor. She assured me that her staff would review it, as we
all agreed that this was an issue that needs to be addressed in some manner."
Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Alex Kozinski supports the idea;
putting prosecutors on notice that withholding pro-defense material violates
"For Thoma, the Brady colloquy idea resonated. Jason Kreag, [a Law
Professor at the University of Arizona College of Law,] proposed that
if trial judges refuse to ask
Brady-oriented questions of the prosecutor, defense lawyers should put a statement
on the record about what material they requested and what they got in
Clemency Project 2014
Volunteer Attorneys Needed to Support Clemency Project:
In 2014, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced an initiative to entertain
petitions for clemency from federal inmates whose sentences would, due
to intervening changes in law or policy, be shorter had they been sentenced
today. Clemency Project 2014 seeks the assistance of your members in this
national pro bono effort to secure freedom for many federal inmates who
are serving unnecessarily harsh sentences for non-violent offenses. CP
2014 is a working group comprised of lawyers and advocates including the
American Bar Association (ABA), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU),
Families Against Mandatory Minimums (FAMM), Federal Public and Community
Defenders, and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).
The goal is to recruit and train lawyers to participate in this project
by providing assistance to inmates who meet the stated criteria (which
are available at the CP 2014 website
At this very moment, Project staff has received more than 26,000 requests
for assistance from federal inmates, nearly 6,000 of which are currently
under attorney review to ascertain whether they meet criteria announced
by the DOJ. Although many of these inmates will not, it is likely that
hundreds, perhaps thousands, will. While some 1,500 attorneys have already
volunteered for the Project, the job cannot be completed without the help
of your members. Clemency Project 2014 assists volunteers by providing
(i) comprehensive on-line training, (ii) a complete set of resource materials
that complement the training, (iii) a panel of expert Resource Counsel
to answer technical, procedural and substantive questions, and (iv) Screening
Committee that will review attorney recommendations on individual cases.
And those who are CJA panel attorneys are not required to complete the
on-line, on-demand training, though many will find it helpful.
Please encourage your members to join this historic opportunity to reverse
the unduly harsh prison sentences that were imposed upon so many. To volunteer,
individuals should sign-up at
www.clemencyproject2014.org/volunteers/intro or send an email to
On Thursday, the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC) released a new
comprehensive report showing a clear decline in death penalty sentences
-- here in California and across the country.
The report shows that the country has seen the lowest number of death sentences
in the last 40 years. And here in California, the vast majority of counties
no longer seek the death penalty in capital cases.
That's progress, but there's still a lot of work to do. We are
getting closer to eradicating a death penalty system that is broken beyond
repair, risks innocent lives, and wastes billions of taxpayer dollars.
But we won't stop until every county in California -- and every state
in the country -- stops using the death penalty.