As the police continue to target black men and women in Dane County, the need for civil liberties checks on the police and the prosecutor is apparent.
One such check is the Center for Prosecutor Integrity (CPI).
When an innocent loses decades of his life, then is exonerated in Wisconsin, what happens? Does the press pound for an explanation? Do police self-evaluate? District Attorney's office?
Nothing happens, careerism and passive compliance remain the order of the day.
At CPR, the mission remains in part:
The Center for Prosecutor Integrity is the nation’s only organization with a sole focus on enhancing prosecutorial ethics.
Three major areas:Addressing Over-Criminalization, Ending Wrongful Convictions and Restoring Equal Treatment Under Law. ...
Our Prosecutor Integrity Registry help tell the story and address the very real problems in our Justice System today.
These are just some of the systemic problems.
Self-conscious malicious prosecutions and prosecutorial misconduct are common, common is Wisconsin.
Here in Dane County, for example, an innocent woman, Penny Brummer, remains behind bars (in Fond du Lac county), a 1994 prosecution presided over by District Attorney Brian Blanchard's office (2001-2010), and an injustice District Attorney Ismael R. Ozanne (2010-present) has refused to revisit, though the case lacks evidence of any kind—forensic evidence, eyewitness, murder weapon, nothing but bigotry and what attorneys call "confirmation bias"—the rest of all call it bullshit.
So what happened in 1994? The D.A.'s office says: There's no case?
Of course not, Brummer was a lesbian so she likely murdered someone, so who needs evidence?
The judge was former Dane County (Wisconsin) Judge Patrick Fiedler, now a partner with Hurley, Burish & Stanton, S.C, after several decades of prosecutorial work in service to the Republican Party and his career. Fiedler, a rightwinger and typical bigot, agreed with the D.A's office.
A decent judge would have dismissed the case.
For the life of me it is incomprehensible to me why Ismael Ozanne lets this injustice stand.
"Police clearly had 'tunnel vision' in building a case against Penny, another common feature in wrongful convictions. Witness David Zoromski, who reported seeing a suspicious man standing by the open passenger door of a parked pickup truck exactly where Sarah's body was later found, was told by a Dane County Sheriff's Deputy, 'What you saw is all very interesting, but we have a suspect and it doesn't fit.' The man seen by Mr. Zoromski matched the description of the person Penny said she saw Sarah talking to near the Taco Bell at East Washington Avenue and North Oak Street in Madison, after she dropped her off that night. Police identified him and knew he was a convicted felon with a long history of violence toward women -- but they never followed up on this lead."
- From Who Killed Sarah-
To support this innocent woman, Penny Brummer.
"They didn't look at (Penny), they just looked at it as let's get another gay person off the street," said Nancy Brummer, Penny's mother (Pabich, WMTV-TV).
What is Ozanne's excuse?
Ozanne has made public statements that his office will cooperate with the Innocence Project.
This is an unusual commitment by district attorneys in wrongful conviction cases.
In light of the growing prison-industrial complex of American society and case after case of innocents behind bars, I asked Ozanne point blank when he was running for Attorney General, "how much does the imprisonment of an innocent weigh on you?"
Ozanne's response is a source of hope for Penny Brummer: "No prosecutor should want to have innocent people who have been wrongfully convicted stay in prison. If evidence is brought to the attention of the authorities demonstrating that a mistake has been made, the interests of justice demand that the evidence is carefully reviewed and the individual should be released if exonerated. As Dane County District Attorney, I have worked with lawyers from the Innocence Project, and will do so in the future. While these decisions are largely at the discretion of the DAs around the state, I would work with them as attorney general, providing resources and advice in these situations. The ultimate goal of the system is not simply to secure convictions, it is to do justice."
These words do not square with Ozanne's inaciton.
As with all the other innocents whose lives were effectively murdered, Ms. Brummer's case calls for enactment of a Conviction Integrity Unit in Dane, Iron and Milwaukee counties, independent of the District Attorney's offices, for starters. (Conviction Integrity Unit, Wrongful Convictions)
[A version of this piece was published in 2014.]