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November 18, 2006

Who will seek clemency for clemency advocate?

Perhaps it is fitting that, during a lunch break of a great conference organized by Austin Sarat (who continues to do great clemency work), I see this interesting article from California about an investigation of a clemency advocate:

State agents have searched a San Francisco apartment for evidence that a former criminal defense investigator, working on the appeals of four death penalty cases, forged statements from jurors and others involved in the cases, Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office said Friday.  In legal papers accompanying the search warrant, an agent with Lockyer's office said documents and computer files at Kathleen Culhane's home could provide evidence of crimes, including forgery and perjury.

Allegations that Culhane had fabricated statements from jurors first came to light in February when lawyers for Death Row inmate Michael Morales withdrew declarations from five jurors and a witness supporting his petition for clemency. Morales, convicted of murdering a young woman near Lodi in 1981, later won a stay of execution from a federal judge, who is now considering his challenge to the state's procedures for lethal injection.

The state-funded Habeas Corpus Resource Center, where Culhane worked as an investigator from 2001 until mid-2005, subsequently withdrew declarations she had submitted in other capital cases. Friday's announcement by Lockyer's office was the first official indication that Culhane could face criminal charges. "It's clear they're going to prosecute her and try to make a symbol of her,'' said Culhane's lawyer, Stuart Hanlon. He said Culhane, who has "dedicated her life to fighting against the death penalty,'' maintains her innocence and will fight to vindicate herself.

Hanlon said state agents showed up Thursday at the apartment of Culhane's brother, apparently unaware that she had moved out, and seized computers and other items. In a sworn affidavit that was used to obtain the search warrant, John Porbanic, an agent in the attorney general's office, said former jurors, witnesses and others whose names appeared on 22 declarations submitted by Culhane between 2002 and February 2006 had all denied signing the documents.

November 18, 2006 at 12:16 PM | Permalink

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