Perlmutter Center Amicus Briefs



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Document Type

Amicus Brief



Case Name

Echols v. State


Amici includes a group of wrongfully convicted individuals who spent years ( for most, decades) in prison for crimes they did not commit. They submit this brief in support of Damien Echols' appeal to the Supreme Court of Arkansas out of concern that, left uncorrected, the decision below would undermine the fundamental right to prove one's innocence and as such suffer the consequences left. Additionally, exonerees suffer beyond anyone's imagination and this Court should not ignore the voices of those who have been similarly situated to that of Damien Echols.

Amici understands all too well the importance of such safeguards. In 1990, amicus Counsel Martin Tankleff was wrongfully convicted of murder in New York state court. When he was only seventeen years old, Tankleff was convicted based on a coerced confession written by a detective after hours of interrogation and sentenced to fifty years to life in prison. Tankleff spent nearly two decades behind bars before he was exculpated by newly discovered evidence. Now a free man, he is an attorney, the Peter P. Mullen Distinguished Visiting Professor of Government at Georgetown University, and an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown Law Center. Tankleff is joined by 68 other wrongfully convicted men and women, a full list of whom is included as an appendix to this brief. Together, they have spent over 1220 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.

The exonerees are joined by Dr. Amanda Lewis, a research associate at Georgetown University whose thesis was, Beyond the Bars - Exploring the Lives of Exonerees and Their Loved Ones as They Cope with Miscarriages of Justice (Dissertation, University of Florida, 2022, Attached as Exhibit 2) and Dr. Marc Howard, the Director of P JI.

The exonerees are also joined by Jennifer Thompson, an advocate for both crime victims and wrongfully convicted individuals. In 1984, Thompson was raped at knifepoint by a man who broke into her apartment while she slept. Thompson later mistakenly identified amicus Ronald Cotton as the perpetrator, and Cotton spent eleven years in prison. After Cotton was exonerated and released, he and Thompson became friends and even co-authored a book that is the basis for an upcoming major motion picture. In 2015, Thompson and Cotton received the U.S. Department of Justice's Special Courage Award, in recognition of their advocacy on behalf of all those affected by wrongful convictions.

Derrick Hamilton, a man who was himself wrongfully convicted, is now the Deputy Director of the Perlmutter Center for Legal Justice.