Imagine that you take a 19 hour, very long drive to Disney World with two kids in the back seat. And 15 minutes into this 19 hour trip, the immutable laws of nature dictate that you get the question: “are we there yet?” so you answer this question easily a hundred more times, in the negative, but you finally arrive. You have a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful trip. You drive 19 long hours back home. And when you get there, the police are waiting for you. They accuse you of committing a crime that occurred while you were away in Florida. Ultimately you are arrested, you’re tried, you’re convicted, and you’re sentenced.
Harvard Law Professor Ronald Sullivan, filmed for TED Talks in 2016, was asked to design a conviction review unit that would sit inside a prosecutor’s office and review their own cases for unsafe convictions. In the first year in one office, they found and overturned 13 unsafe convictions. In this video, Sullivan talks about the setting up of this unit and some of the other cases they have investigated.
They story above in the quotation above is that of Jonathan Fleming, who was convicted of a murder that happened back in Brooklyn while he was in Florida – the murder of one of his childhood friends. The evidence that cleared him was a timed and dated receipt from Disney World, which was in his back pocket when he was arrested. It had sat in the Police and Prosecutor files, but was never shared with the defence. It sat in Police and Prosecutor files for 24 years and 8 months, the amount of time that Jonathan Fleming spent in prison.
For the USA Today story about Jonathan Fleming’s case shown in the image at the top of the page, please click here.