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April 6th, 2009
04:27 PM ET

Blood on their hands

Program Note: Tune in tonight for a special report by Joe Johns and Erica Hill on gun violence in America on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

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Jami Floyd | Bio
In Session

I went to college in Binghamton, the scene of Friday’s deadly shooting, in which a gunman killed 13 people and then himself. In my four years at the university, I learned to love that little city; I even spent the summer there after my senior year.

I got to know the folks who lived in town, hardworking folks—waitresses and bartenders, store clerks and paralegals. The kind of Americans who keep this country running. Binghamton is the kind of town you see in Steven Spielberg movies, where kids ride their bikes to school and people still go to church on Sundays.

The education I received at school there prepared me for my time at the White House, where I worked on a federal ban on assault weapons. It was signed into law by President Clinton in 1994.

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Filed under: Gun Violence • In Session • Jami Floyd
April 2nd, 2009
03:36 PM ET

Brandon Craig: not guilty

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Jami Floyd | Bio
In Session

Brandon Craig has been acquitted of all charges related to the brutal murders of three teenagers, ten years ago; and it’s a good thing.

Don’t get me wrong: Three innocent kids were gunned down, in cold blood, before their lives had really even begun. Their families have suffered immeasurably in the ten years since. But the “not guilty” verdict is a good thing because of what it says about our system of justice. The verdict signals a return to the principles upon which our system was founded — that every man is innocent until proven guilty.

In recent years, we have lost sight of those fundamentals; in too many cases the desire for retribution has replaced reason, and reasonable doubt was the first casualty. Now, however, the pendulum of justice is swinging back to center. Juries, like this one, are once again finding the courage to hold the prosecution to its proof.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • In Session • Jami Floyd
March 31st, 2009
03:46 PM ET

The Craig case

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on
“In Session.”

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Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

It’s hard to know whether Brandon Craig is guilty or not. There isn’t much to prove it either way.

On the prosecution side of things, there are three alleged eyewitnesses who have spent the last decade lying to police. Now they say they saw Brandon Craig shoot and kill those three kids all those years ago. they say now that they are telling the truth; but they have every reason to lie.

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Filed under: Crime & Punishment • In Session • Jami Floyd
March 26th, 2009
03:15 PM ET

John Hope Franklin, 1915-2009

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on
“In Session.”

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Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

Historian John Hope Franklin died yesterday in Durham, North Carolina. He was 94. Perhaps you have never heard of Dr. Franklin. Historians — even the great ones — make it their business to document the big events. Rarely are they at the center of it all. But as an African-American child born in the 1960s, I heard early and often about John Hope Franklin. He was not just a historian. He was a scholar of our history— the history of black people in America.

As such, Dr. Franklin wasn’t content to sit on the sidelines while his people struggled for equality. He marched on Selma. He met with presidents. He consulted with the lawyers who would argue Brown v. Board of Education in the U.S. Supreme Court. With Dr. Franklin’s help, they were able to convince the Justices that separate was inherently unequal. This, of course, had a direct impact on my life and the lives of generations of black children since.

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Filed under: In Session • Jami Floyd
March 24th, 2009
05:44 PM ET

The whole truth

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”

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Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

Marty Tankleff, imprisoned for nearly two decades for the murders of his mother and father — crimes he did not commit — will file a lawsuit today against Suffolk County, Long Island for his wrongful imprisonment.

Marty spent what should have been the best years of his life behind bars, from age 17, until his release at age 36. For 6,338 days, from the day he was arrested to the day he was freed, at the end of 2007, Marty maintained his innocence and fought to prove his innocence. No doubt, Marty Tankelff is owed great compensation for those lost years, especially because it is more than likely that Marty’s wrongful conviction was due not to negligence, but to malfeasance.

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Filed under: Crime & Punishment • In Session • Jami Floyd
March 12th, 2009
03:15 PM ET

What should happen to Bernie Madoff?

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”

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Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

Bernie Madoff admitted Thursday to stealing $65 billion investor dollars. It looks as though there were more than 4000 victims – and we’re not just talking about the rich and famous. There are lots of regular folks who have lost everything.

One guy I know, a lawyer here in New York, had three-quarters of his net worth tied up with Madoff. There’s a South African fellow who came to this country with nothing, worked hard and, over the years, gave a million dollars to Madoff to invest. He’s lost his life savings. There’s a Boston woman who worked for a charitable foundation. It had all of its assets “managed” by Madoff. Now, her job, her entire retirement account and the foundation itself have – poof – evaporated.

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Filed under: Finance • In Session • Jami Floyd
March 5th, 2009
05:11 PM ET

Tyranny of the majority

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”

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Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

Today, the California Supreme Court heard arguments on whether to overturn Proposition 8, the state initiative that outlawed gay marriage last November.

Gay marriage is one of those polarizing issues in American life — like abortion and gun control. People stake out a position and they don’t want to hear what anyone on the other side has to say. But I am here to tell you that, even if you are opposed to gay marriage, even if you voted for Prop 8, you want to listen up; because this case isn’t just about gay marriage. It’s much bigger than that.

This case is about the civil rights of all Californians, and by extension, all Americans. With the ban on gay marriage, California did something that no other state in the history of this country has done: It took away an already established civil right. Imagine someone suddenly telling you your marriage is no longer valid – for whatever reason.

I have said before that Prop 8 was mean-spirited and it was. But more to the point, it was unprecedented. And it’s not the kind of precedent we want in America. This country was founded on the principal that the majority, well intentioned or not can’t simply erase the rights of the minority. That’s just plain un-American.


Filed under: 360º Follow • In Session • Jami Floyd • Proposition 8
March 2nd, 2009
04:36 PM ET

Criminal Justice

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”

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Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

Let’s talk DNA. Believe it or not, if you are convicted of a crime, you have no right to the DNA evidence. No constitutional right, that is. That’s why Peter Neufeld and Barry Scheck and the other folks at the Innocence Project are in Washington, D.C. today to convince the U.S. Supreme Court to find that such a right exists in our Constitution.

To be clear, most states do provide for access to DNA material; But in many states, the fight for the DNA material from a crime scene can go on for years, even decades. In Alaska, where today’s case originates, there is no right at all to test DNA on appeal from a conviction — none. That means that an innocent person, who might be able to prove his wrongful conviction, simply cannot.

It also means that victims and their families, who seek justice, may not get it because if the wrong man is in prison, of course, the real perpetrator is still out there – a result not even the most law-and-order prosecutor would want. Prosecutors, after all, are in pursuit of justice.

That is why a consortium of prosecutors have joined with the Innocence Project to file an amicus brief in the case supporting a Constitutional right to DNA. Those who oppose it cite the costs of collection, preservation and the testing of DNA. These are valid concerns but do not trump the Constitution, lest we lose the true meaning of criminal justice.


Filed under: Crime & Punishment • In Session • Jami Floyd
February 25th, 2009
03:01 PM ET

Forget what you've seen on CSI...

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”

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Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

A new report from the National Academy of Sciences finds that so-called forensic science needs a big fat overhaul. According to some of the country’s top doctors, engineers and researchers, the evidence we’ve used to convict the 1.6 million Americans currently in prison is unreliable, at best.

•Fingerprint analysis •shoeprint evidence •blood spatter •toxicology •drug testing •handwriting samples •tool marks •bite marks •hair sampling

And that’s the short list. The full list is too long for this post. Suffice it to say, the techniques employed to catch and convict criminals cannot be trusted.

Forget what you’ve seen on CSI; that’s fiction. Here are the facts: What we call forensic “science” is not science. It was not developed by scientists in lab coats with test tubes and lots of letters after their names. The practice of forensics developed in the context of law enforcement. There is an inherent bias. And it has never been subject to the kind of peer review and scientific rigor to which real scientists must adhere.

Of course there are lots of talented and dedicated people in the forensic science community, but they are under funded and under pressure to convict. And inconsistent practices in federal, state, and local agencies plague the profession as a whole. The quality of forensic science varies too greatly for a system that is ultimately about life, liberty and sometimes even death.

What we need is a new and independent entity, with no ties to the past dysfunctions of the forensic science community, and with the authority and resources to implement a fresh agenda designed to prevent the miscarriage of justice. A National Institute of Forensic Science. Justice requires nothing less.


Filed under: In Session • Jami Floyd
February 23rd, 2009
04:45 PM ET

Justice delayed

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Jami Floyd
AC360° Contributor
In Session Anchor

Apparently an arrest is imminent in the Chandra Levy case. The 24 year old had just completed an internship with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons when she went missing in May 2001 in Washington, D.C.

After her relationship with then-Congressman Gary Condit was revealed, Condit was all but convicted by the talking heads on the 24/7 cable news outlets and in the mainstream media too. Most appalling were the legal pundits, some of them lawyers, who seemed never to have learned about the presumption of innocence in law school.

Condit was never a suspect, but the misplaced spotlight ruined his career. More importantly, it distracted the rest of us from the truth.

Now, eight years later, prosecutors are finally planning to make an arrest in the case. The new suspect was convicted of attacking two women joggers in Rock Creek Park around the same time as the Levy murder and is now serving 10 years in prison. But he has previously denied any involvement in the Levy murder and he deserves the same presumption of innocence Gary Condit was denied.

Even more than for Mr. Condit, I feel for Chandra Levy’s family. For them, justice has been corrupted, convoluted and, for too long, denied.

Editor’s Note: You can read more Jami Floyd blogs on “In Session.”


Filed under: 360º Follow • Crime & Punishment • In Session • Jami Floyd
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