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Report on Innocence Project

This essay gives a report on the innocence project in case of Douglas DiLosa with regard to his murder guilty plea.

According to the State of Louisiana appeal, on September 27 in 1986, there had been registered a 911 call to police from the son of Douglas DiLosa asking for a help. At 5:30 a.m. upon entering the household, police found Douglas lying on living room floor and bounded with the rope, whereas his wife, Glinda, was suffocated on a bed tied with the help of the same rope as her husband.

According to XXX, the family consisting of Douglas, Glinda and their two small children Dennis and Denise, lived in condominium at Apartment 7-C, Chardonnay Village Condominiums, 1500 West Esplanade Ave. in Kenner, Louisiana. According to the materials of the case, one night the house of DiLosas’ was broken in and a wife was beaten and murdered, whereas a husband was beaten and tied. Police couldn’t find any suspect and catch the people who had done the crime, thus they decided to arrest the Douglas DiLosa since, as a result of a crime, his wife was murdered yet he stayed alive. Thus, on December 29, 1986, DiLosa was arrested by the officers of the Kenner Police Department for the murder of his wife. On September 11, 1987, the court sentenced DiLosa to life in prison at hard labor and remanded him to the custody of the Angola State Penitentiary.

Contrary to prosecutor’s decision, DiLosa argued, that the case was fabricated as the police had no significant evidence to convict him. The story of DiLosa in this incident was the following. Around 3:30 a.m. he woke up because of the noisy sounds downstairs. As he went downstairs, he found two black men in his place. Douglas said that intruders beat him until he got unconscious. Once he came to his senses in beating bounds, he called his son and asked to dial 911. In fact, DiLosa had not known that his wife was murdered till the time he reached the hospital.

The evidence for DiLosa’s arrest was a contradictive nature of his version of events in the night of crime. In addition, police suggested the possible motive evidence, such as the facts that Douglas did not have a permanent job and his unemployment benefits were due to termination, whereas housing costs required the large payment. In the same time, police found the coincident in the extreme need of money on the one hand, and the possible income source through helth insurance of DiLosa’s wife on the other. Thus, the police supposed, that DiLosa planned to solve his financial troubles through the insurance reimbursement upon his wife’s death.   The prosecution’s arguments were based on the fact that during the perquisition of the residence, investigators did not found any physical evidences of intruders – no hair, fingerprints or any other signs. The closing argument was that in the surrounding neighborhoods there was no single house hit at the same manner as DiLosa’s, thus the story of Douglas had no confirmation.

Generelly, as it was revealed later, the police withheld the existed evidence report from DiLosa and his lawyer. The facts, giving true sound of DiLosa’s story, included the evidences that at the time of crime occurrence the house, except for the children room, had been ransacked and one window pane in the living room had been removed with a glass-cutter and taped with a help of duct tape. Further, the 150-page investigation report included the pieces of physical evidence, giving credibility to DiLosa’s claims. For instance, there were found the pry-marks on the condominium’s windows, the numerous fingerprints of outsiders surrounding the crime location, few hairs belonging to the person of African-American origin, one of which was found on the rope that strangled Glinda.  What is more, the fact of another similar offence was recorded at the same night in nearby condominium. The police even managed to find witness – a taxi driver who saw two black men drive out from the DiLosa’s condominium area in the early morning hours and the DiLosa’s neighbors that saw the shadows of the person and animal and found the door to the condo patio open.

The intermediate appellate court affirmed DiLosa’s conviction, and his petition for writ of certiorari was refused by the Louisiana Supreme Court. DiLosa’s  first application for post-conviction relief was denied. He tried the second application, arguing that the court had violated the criminal procession law (Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83, 83 S.Ct. 1194, 10 L.Ed.2d 215 (1963)) as they omitted substantial material evidence. Unfortunately, the trial and Supreme courts found no Brady violation as the undisclosed evidences were not relevant in finding DiLosa innocent. On the other hand, according to Brady law, the violation of the process when the state withholds the material evidence needn’t to be proved by the possible different outcome of the trial. The sufficient proof is the lack of faith in the result.

In 2002, the United States Court of Appeals exonerated Douglas DiLosa. They affirmed, that the state court’s decision was a misconstruction of Brady and seriously unreasonable. The excluded evidence regarding the intruders including the “non-caucasian” hair samples, the fingerprints belonging to no one of DiLosa’s family, and the statements of the three witnesses about the potential intruders to the house, shows the confirmation that the withhold of evidence affected the conviction decision notably.

It took DiLosa sixteen years to prove his innocence. According to DiLosa’s interview on Resurrection After Exoneration, all the years being behind the jail at Angola, he received the support from his children. Now, he is free, but still unemployed. He receives unemployment benefit from the state and wishes to find a job. Unfortunately, the competition at the labor market is tough and employers do not want to hire a person that missed a great part his life being “out of the society”. DiLosa is one of the active members of the advocacy movement “Voices of Innocence” that aims exposing the failures of US justice system to publicity and preventing the cases of wrongful incarceration. The movement strives to implement accountability standards that would prevent the corruption and misconduct in criminal justice system and save innocent people from arrogant victimization. The public reaction to the cases of wrongful conviction is manifested in many ways including social networks, seminars, book releases and other events. For instance, in May 2010 Hohn Hollway and Ronald Gauthier published their book “Killing Time: An 18-Year Odyssey from Death Row to Freedom” (Hollway and Gauthier) telling the life story of John Thompson who has lost years of his life in jail because of the poor criminal justice system. The Resurrection After Exonerationsuggests, that today, more than 400 exonerated people become victims of the judicial system and each of them spent about more than ten years in prison before proving the innocence. Unfortunately, the system ignores the cases and helps the people who are in charge of such misconduct avoid the responsibility. Actually, the withheld of substantial evidence and unreasonable arrest are also crimes, and officials should incur the relevant punishment.In case of DiLosa, his claims against officials, who fabricated the murder, namely Douglas Dodt, the City of Kenner, Merril Boling, Harry Lee, Nicholas Congemi and Joseph Warren, were dismissed confirming the disabled design of criminal justice system.

In conclusion, it is important to mention, that today the presumption of innocence, once being a core principle in criminal law, is ignored in a dull rash of crime detection. The police officers strive for adding the stars to their career achievements rather than for establishing the fair-dealing investigative standards. So far, hundreds of families, just as the children of Douglas DiLosa, are left without fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters. They all are the victims of the so-called justice, and they experienced the situation, where bureaucratic officials and criminals are equally criminal and detrimental. It took sixteen years to reveal the truth in DiLosa’s case, yet it would take another hundreds of years to clean-up the dysfunctional corrupted system. In this light, it is extremely important to call the public attention to the problem of innocent victims of judicial system. The Resurrection After Exoneration is one of the great examples for such organizations. The lawyers should react and create the relevant funds and board for assisting in cases of innocent’s imprisonment. In addition, the U.S. Department of Labor should work out and implement a program that would help exonerated people find relevant jobs, which is of a high significance as they are starting their life from scratch and entering the new, altered society. Unfortunately, today these victims are thrown away by the state with their own needs and appeals, and just as it took years for them to establish a kind of justice in exoneration,  they would spend another great part of their life in search of adaptation and help from the society.     

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