Friday, August 19, 2016

The Conviction Integrity Unit/ Thoughts from Shane

Several months ago I wrote to Bronx District Attorney Darcel D. Clark, asking that she take a look at Shane's case in light of the new evidence we have gathered. I mentioned the success of the Conviction Review Unit in Brooklyn, the initiative of Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson. Since the formation of the CRU in 2014, at least 20 wrongfully convicted individuals have been exonerated. Ms. Clark took office as Bronx DA in January of this year, vowing to "breathe new life into the Bronx District Attorney's Office". It seemed timely then, to bring Shane's case of wrongful conviction to her attention.

Today I received a letter from the DA's office. The letter was addressed to our attorney, Robert Boyle: I was sent a copy of the letter as was Terry Leroy, an activist based in Woodstock, NY (Terry is the co-founder of the Haitian People's Support Project) whom I met at a Martin Luther King Jr. rally last January. Terry has since become a supporter of The Opus 30 Mission.

The letter was written by Mr. Seth Steed, of the "Conviction Integrity Unit" of the Bronx DA's office. Mr. Steed stated that his office is aware of our pending appeal hearing before the US Court of Appeals regarding Shane's case. Accordingly, the CIU will not get involved in reviewing Shane's case until the litigation of the Federal hearing has been completed. Obviously, our hope is that the Federal hearing will result in Shane's conviction being vacated, in which case there will be no need for the CIU to look at Shane's case.

The good news in this:
1) The Bronx DA's office has a Conviction Integrity Unit which presumably will undo the scourge of wrongful convictions.
2) In the event that our Federal hearing is unsuccessful, (God forbid), the CIU will at least provide another option for gaining justice for Shane Watson.

In the meantime, we await Shane's Federal hearing and are very hopeful that the Federal Court will see through the many holes in Shane's conviction.

I also received a letter from Shane today. In my most recent letter to him, I asked Shane if he knew David McCallum, the subject of the excellent documentary "Fight for Justice: David + Me" . McCallum spent 29 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of kidnapping and murder. He was exonerated in 2014. McCallum was released from Otisville Correctional Facility, the same unit where Shane currently is imprisoned. Shane did not know David personally, since Shane was at Fishkill Correctional in 2014, something I should have realized. Shane did say that he wanted Ray Klonsky ( the filmmaker and friend of David McCallum) to read his habeas corpus petition. I've reached out to Mr. Klonsky through the film's Facebook page but have not had a reply.

In my last letter I joked about winning Powerball and what I'd do with all the millions. Shane replied that I was "right on point" about that, and he would do the same (travel, help out a lot of people, and buy a small house on the beach) but that his house "would have to be a little bigger than mine". He also said that he would start some kind of foundation.

Shane wrote that the administration at Otisville is "the worst" of all the facilities he's been in. His mail is overly scrutinized (I had sent him some data from our Facebook page listing his followers and "likes", but this was confiscated by the Otisville administration. He also told me that one of the guards purposely makes Shane walk through a metal detector even though the guard is aware that Shane has a metal rod in one of his legs. Petty things.) Despite this, Shane ended his letter on a positive note: "All of the good news and favorable decisions have come since being here (Otisville) so I can't complain."

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