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Ex-football Star Exonerated a Decade after Rape Conviction

By Prison Legal News

A California high school football star who was exonerated after serving five years in prison for kidnapping and raping a classmate has fulfilled his dream of playing for the NFL, and there are now plans to make a movie about his ordeal. Meanwhile, the woman who falsely accused him has been ordered to pay $2.6 million.

The crowd in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta cheered when Brian Banks, 28, took the field wearing an Atlanta Falcons uniform in the fourth quarter of a pre-season game on August 8, 2013. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound linebacker racked up two tackles during the Falcons’ 34-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

“It was definitely a good feeling,” Banks said. “It was one of those things where, coming from where you’re coming from, just to have people support you chasing a dream. These guys have been working on this all their life. From Pop Warner [youth football program] to high school to college, this is what they’ve been doing. For them to accept me, and let me be a part of it, and just get out here and play and show what I can do is more than I can ask for.”

Although he was cut from the Falcons’ lineup before the regular season, Banks signed a movie deal with Gidden Media, which intends to tell his story in a full-length feature film. The entertainment website TMZ reported on January 9, 2014 that the movie will portray Banks’ fight to clear his name, and how he went from being a convicted sex offender to an NFL player.

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Ryan Ferguson Released

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

Last Tuesday morning when inmate #1137593 bent down to tie his shoes, he did not know what the rest of the day would bring.

The inmate’s name was Ryan Ferguson.

Ferguson remained neutral with his emotions because had been through the same scenario before. He was holding back from getting his hopes up that this would be the last day he spent behind bars. Ferguson had served ten-years of a 40-year sentence for a murder he claims he did not commit.   

November 12, 2013 turned out to be Ferguson’s lucky day. Just seven-hours later, a composed Ryan Ferguson was surrounded by probing reporters outside the Tiger Hotel in Columba, Missouri. After ten years of being incarcerated for murder, 29-year-old Ryan Ferguson was finally exonerated and set free.

The main question inquiring minds want to know about Ferguson is this:  is he bitter about having a decade of his life snatched away from him? Ferguson was a 20-year-old college student when he was arrested. He spent all of his 20s incarcerated.

Amazingly, Ferguson is more interested in moving forward with his new life on the outside than seeking revenge. He has even forgiven his friend that initially lied about his involvement in the murder. Ryan now wants to start a campaign to free this man.

On Halloween night, 2001, Ferguson and his friend, Charles Erickson went out for a night on the town. They engaged in a night of underage drinking until the bars closed at 1:00am.  According to Ferguson, Erickson dropped him off at home and he went to sleep. During the wee hours of the morning, Kent Heitholt, sports writer for the Columbia Daily Tribune was brutally murdered in the parking lot of his office.  

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Virginia Prisoner Pardoned After Accuser Admits She Lied

By Prison Legal News

Everyone in Virginia’s criminal justice system knew that Johnathan Christopher Montgomery was innocent of the crimes for which he’d been convicted.

His accuser had recanted her testimony and admitted she lied to police about being molested by Montgomery more than a dozen years earlier. And yet the state continued to deny him his freedom until an advocacy organization for the wrongly convicted petitioned for his release.

Finally, on November 20, 2012, more than four years after he was sent to prison for aggravated sexual battery and lesser charges – and two days before Thanksgiving –Montgomery was conditionally pardoned by Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and walked out of the Greensville Correctional Center.

“The truth sets you free,” Montgomery told reporters outside the facility.

His accuser, Elizabeth Paige Coast, had told police that Montgomery sexually abused her in 2000 when she was 10 years old and he was 14 and lived across the street from Coast’s grandmother in Hampton. Coast invented the story, she reportedly told investigators, because she was embarrassed and panicked when her parents caught her looking at pornographic websites.

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Brooklyn Detective Accused of Corruption

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

After serving two
consecutive 20-years to life sentences, a Brooklyn man’s persistence for a
review hearing was granted by a judge.  Shabaka Shakur, 48, has spent the last 25-years in prison for
two murders he claims he did not commit. Shakur argues his conviction was the result
of a detective’s fabricated confession and a non-credible witness.

According to Shabaka, former Brooklyn North homicide
detective Louis Scarcella was responsible for his alleged incriminating
statement that was used as evidence against him.

Allegedly, Mr. Scarecella has a history of obtaining false
statements from defendants. The Brooklyn District attorney’s office is in the
process of reviewing 50 murder cases that are suspicious. Scarecella is
suspected of solving murder cases by proclaiming false statements from
defendants.

After scrutinizing over a dozen similar cases, The New York Times was savvy enough to
notice a pattern of defendants arguing their convictions were false and
Scarcella was the investigator responsible for framing them. Criminal advocacy
organizations, defense lawyers and inmates were in alignment with the
suspicious synchronicity and requested the district attorney’s office dig
further into these cases. 

Conjuring up bogus confessions was not the only consistency
found in the cases Scarcella handled. Murder suspects also claimed they were
railroaded by Scarcella using the same unreliable-eye witness for each case.

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The Ryan Ferguson Case

Dianne-Frazee Walker The sentencing amelioration organization, Injustice Anywhere, has created a petition for Bill Ferguson to free his son, Ryan Ferguson. Prior to 2001, Ryan

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Louis Taylor Savors Freedom After 40 Years in Prison

By Dianne Walker

Through his tears Louis Taylor could hardly speak when he was interviewed by CBS News correspondent Bill Whitaker after being freed from prison after 40-years for something he did not do. “How did this happen?”  exclaimed Taylor. “We live in a country that is supposed to have the best criminal justice system in the world.”

In 1970 Taylor was only 16 years old when he was accused and convicted of 29 counts of murder.  How did this happen?  Taylor was working at the Pioneer Hotel in Tucson when the building perished in a fire that killed 29 people.  Originally, Taylor was regarded as a hero because he rescued people from the burning hotel. Taylor is a trained medical technician so in an emergency his training to save lives took over, but he believes because he is African American his status quickly went from hero to criminal.

Taylor was charged with 29 counts of murder and spent 40 years behind bars for a crime he claims he “did not do.”

Thanks to 60 minutes Investigation, Arizona Justice Project, and his legal team, Taylor is now a free man. Even though a shoddy investigation and racial bias was uncovered, Taylor had to take a plea bargain of “no contest” to 28 counts of murder before being released from prison, but the plea was no bargain for Taylor. He was forced into the plea agreement to avoid a retrial.   The Pima County prosecutor said, “His release doesn’t mean exoneration. His conviction still stands.”

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