Omaha Gives! 2016

January 31st, 2016

 

 

omaha gives

 

 

 

 

We NEED your help! The Nebraska Innocence Project is proud to be participating in Omaha Gives! – a 24 hour charitable challenge organized by the Omaha Community Foundation. Mark your calendars! The online giving holiday will take place on May 25, 2016 from midnight to midnight. We will be joining over 700 local nonprofits in raising support and competing for matching funds and prize money. $350,000 of bonus dollars will be shared by all participating nonprofits receiving donations during the event! The more money we raise, the larger amount of bonus dollars we receive. The more donors we get to give to us, the more likely we are to win the prize money.

Omaha Gives! is a one day event led by the Omaha Community Foundation to raise as much money as possible for local nonprofits through online fundraising. It is a community wide event to show off Omaha’s spirit of giving, raise awareness about local nonprofits, and celebrate the collective efforts it takes to make this city great. Learn more at OMAHAGIVES24.ORG.

On May 25, 2015 starting at midnight and all day, you can go to OMAHAGIVES24.ORG and select the organization (us!) you would like to provide a charitable donation. If you think you might forget this amazing online giving holiday, you can schedule a donation April 1st- May 24th! Donations will not be taken until May 25th.

We want to take the opportunity to thank you for your generosity. Our project is very important to all of our volunteers and we operate solely on donations. Without the generous support of our donors, we would not be able to operate. Again, thank you! And remember May 25h, Omaha Gives!

To donate directly to the Nebraska Innocence Project through Omaha Gives! visit https://www.omahagives24.org/index.php?section=organizations&action=overview&fwID=1369

PAROLE BOARD SETS HEARING FOR JUNEAL PRATT!

April 21st, 2015

There is good news for Juneal from the Parole Board.  Last week (4/17/15) he received official notification that the Parole Board had set a date for a hearing at which time parole may be granted.   It will be in April, 2017.   In the meantime, Juneal will have two years of “transition,” which starts with some time on “Work Detail.” This involves work on the grounds or in the building of the Community Corrections Center (across the parking lot from the Omaha Correctional Center where he is currently confined).  After Work Detail he will transfer to the Work Release Program in which he will be working at a paid job somewhere outside while continuing to be housed at the Community Corrections Center.  If all goes well during the two transition years, he will be granted parole at the hearing in 2017.  On parole he will be able to live in the community.  Juneal is happy with this two-year transition plan because after nearly forty years of incarceration he is prepared to learn as much as he can in order to live in today’s society.

NET publishes story about Juneal’s case

February 22nd, 2014

Find the article here http://courtsandcops.blogspot.com/2014/02/after-37-years-new-dna-test-for.html

Courts and Cops An NET News Blog_ After 37 Years, A New DNA Test for a Convicted Rapist

Supreme Court Grants DNA Testing for Juneal Pratt

February 22nd, 2014

Supreme Court Grants DNA Testing for Juneal Pratt

On Friday, February 21, 2014, the Nebraska Supreme Court upheld an earlier ruling by the Court of Appeals in the case of Juneal Pratt.  Mr. Pratt, who has served 38 years for two rapes, has consistently maintained his innocence.  The Court agreed that Pratt is entitled to DNA testing that might prove his innocence.

Juneal Pratt, an African-American, was arrested in 1975 following the rape of two white women.  For all these years, Mr. Pratt has contended he is innocent and was the victim of cross-racial misidentification.  The nonprofit organization Nebraska Innocence Project has represented Mr. Pratt in his request for DNA testing since 2008.

“The Nebraska Supreme Court rightly recognized that state law requires broad access to DNA testing when it might show that someone was wrongly convicted,” said Tracy Hightower-Henne, a volunteer attorney and Executive Director of the Nebraska Innocence Project.  “This is incredibly exciting news for our client who has been fighting for access to a second round of testing since 2004.”

Juneal Pratt was 19 years old with a history of minor, petty crimes when he was arrested by Omaha Police for two rapes that occurred in a hotel.  Mr. Pratt has always maintained the victims misidentified him.  The Nebraska Innocence Project’s work uncovered the fact that the two victims were originally from Sioux City, Iowa, in a county that had few, if any, black residents.  “Modern studies have revealed the fallacy of eyewitness identification’s accuracy,” noted Hightower-Henne. “Identification becomes even more difficult when it is across races, and the victims in this case would have had little or no previous contact with any black men.  DNA testing is the only reliable way to determine whether Juneal Pratt was involved.”  Social science research has shown that eyewitnesses are more likely to misidentify someone of a different race.

The state of Nebraska fought Mr. Pratt’s request for DNA testing, even though DNA testing has proven the innocence of over 300 men and women across the country.  The state argued Mr. Pratt already had one test and did not merit another one.  “The previous test was not the final answer,” Hightower-Henne noted.  “Scientific improvements in DNA testing mean that while the last test gave no definitive answer, a test today will show whether Mr. Pratt’s or another male’s DNA was present.”

The Nebraska Supreme Court rejected the state’s arguments and found that Nebraska’s DNA Testing Act mandates that Pratt be given the opportunity to retest the biological materials pertinent to his convictions.  The Supreme Court acknowledged that Pratt presented uncontroverted evidence that the biological evidence can now be retested with more accurate current techniques which may exclude Pratt as the contributor of DNA and which may also identify the true perpetrator.

The court remanded the case back to the trial court for testing.  The court’s decision makes it clear that if the testing is able to recover male DNA that does not match Mr. Pratt, his conviction should be overturned, and he will be entitled to a new trial.

“It’s tragic that Mr. Pratt has had to fight so long for access to this testing, but this decision sends a very clear message that DNA testing should be granted when it might prove the answer to guilt,” added Hightower-Henne.

A copy of both the Nebraska Court of Appeals and the Nebraska Supreme Court’s decision is available on the Nebraska Supreme Court’s website or by clicking on this link Pratt-2.21.14.pdf.

Juneal Pratt, Court of Appeals grants DNA testing, decision appealed to the Supreme Court

November 13th, 2013

supreme court oral argument

On January 8, 2013, the Nebraska Court of Appeals issued this opinion (Pratt Court of Appeals Decision 1-8-13) overturning the trial court’s denial of Juneal’s request for DNA testing.  The Attorney General’s office appealed that decision to the Nebraska Supreme Court.  Oral arguments were heard in the Nebraska Supreme Court on October 10, 2013.  We are awaiting the decision from the Nebraska Supreme Court.  Oral arguments can be heard here:  http://supremecourt.ne.gov/sites/supremecourt.ne.gov/files/sc/oa/audio/dcr_20131010_11-0760.wav

The briefs to the Court of Appeals can be read here:

Pratt Final Opening Brief

Pratt Final Response Brief

Pratt Final Response Brief

Op-Ed by Pamela Everett: Parole denied for Juneal Pratt; review set for 6 months.

September 13th, 2011

After serving 36 years for a crime he has steadfastly denied committing, Juneal Pratt appeared again Friday, July 29th before the Nebraska Parole Board.  He listened as psychologist Kirk Newring explained that a new parolee sits precariously atop a table, the surest support for which are things like family, friends, employment, housing, counseling and strong motivation.  The more legs the better.  Mr. Pratt knew the analogy well and had worked diligently for years giving of himself from behind prison walls to build a support network outside those walls.  He built his network for this very day – and beyond.

Nearly 40 supporters packed the hearing room.  Friends and family spoke, including his son who testified eloquently about how his father helped him right his own ship.  Frank Bailey of Omaha’s Bell House testified confidently how Mr. Pratt would have a transitional home with structure, support and accountability.  Tom Hightower of Omaha’s 1212 House transitional program revealed his deep friendship with Pratt, and said that he will be a daily touchstone for any of Mr. Pratt’s transitional needs.  Hightower and Pratt’s attorney both guaranteed him employment.  And the list went on.

Dr. Newring explained that Mr. Pratt, now 56 years old, was a low to moderate risk for re-offending and was an excellent candidate for parole.  Newring would even provide the Department of Correctional Services-required treatment program that Mr. Pratt had been unable to complete.  He’d attempted to take the program in Lincoln, but was brutally attacked there.  He narrowly escaped a fatal head injury but required surgery and extensive follow-up care.

Newring explained that before going into private practice, he designed and implemented the very programs DCS uses today, so his outpatient program is essentially identical to the DCS program but is even more beneficial administered in the community with non-inmate participants.

Mr. Pratt’s Nebraska Innocence Project attorney, Tracy Hightower-Henne, closed by presenting all the supporters as so many stout table legs, an unshakeable platform for Mr. Pratt’s new life.

It was hard to imagine a better candidate for parole or a better time to let Mr. Pratt start rebuilding his life and helping young men like his son turn their lives around.

But the Board voted 3-2 to deny parole and all the air went out of the room.

The Board explained that Mr. Pratt had not completed the DCS-mandated inpatient program and the DCS evaluator, who concluded as Newring had that Mr. Pratt was a low to moderate risk, had not recommended parole.
Granted, the Board’s decision is technically defensible.  No matter how unworkable, you must punch the DCS ticket before we’ll grant parole.

But Nebraska law (NRS 83-1,115) requires that the Board consider a variety of factors, not just internal recommendations.  The statute is designed for inmates like Mr. Pratt whose big picture is exceptional, but who may have a technical deficiency like the inpatient program.  The two Board members who voted for parole seemed to see that big picture, understanding that most parolees won’t have guaranteed housing and employment as Mr. Pratt will.  The remaining Board members focused on the single DCS requirement.

To the Board’s credit, rather than just denying parole and forcing Mr. Pratt to serve out 15 more years, they set the matter for review in five months so he can seek DCS approval for his outpatient program.

Mr. Pratt is the rare inmate who will use the next five months wisely and positively, and all those supporters at Friday’s hearing will still be there when the Board reviews his case again and when he is finally released.  But even five more months is too long.

When a deserving inmate is before our parole board with real support in place, we should seize those opportunities to release them when their chance for success is greatest.  If we can address program requirements in the community without sacrificing public safety, which is the case with Mr. Pratt, we should always do so.  It speeds transition and saves taxpayer dollars.

And in Mr. Pratt’s case, 36 years is enough – far too much for a man who has maintained his innocence despite the overwhelming incentive to lie and admit guilt to gain early release so many times before.  Not only is he still maintaining his innocence, he’s doing so from atop a rock solid table.

We must finally see the big picture – in his case and every case.

Joseph White, 48, dies in accident

April 5th, 2011

Joseph White, 48, passed away as a result of a workplace accident on March 27, 2011. Joseph was known as one of the “Beatrice 6,” six individuals who were convicted of a 1985 crime that they did not commit. Joseph was released from prison in October 2008 when DNA evidence revealed that he had nothing to do with the 1985 crime.
Many loved ones are left behind to mourn the loss of this great man.

Obituary:

The Cullman Times Mon Mar 28, 2011, 09:08 PM CDT

Funeral services for Joseph White, 48, of Cullman will be Wednesday, March 30, 2011 at 11 a.m. at Holly Pond Funeral Home Chapel with Revs. David Hooper and Javon Daniel officiating. Interment will follow in Union Grove Cemetery.

Holly Pond Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Mr. White died Sunday, March 27, 2011 in Jefferson County. He was born in Cullman to Carroll and Lois Powell White. He worked for Alabama Byproducts Corporation and served in the United States Army.

He was preceded in death by a brother, Jeffery White.

Survivors include his parents; fiance, Paige Latham; son, Brandon Poteet; brother, Jason (Lisa) White; sisters Evelyn (Billy) Cox, Nancy (Joey) Aspinwall and Margaret White.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations be made to Cullman Caring for Kids.

Visitation will be Tuesday, March 29, 2011 from 6 – 8 p.m.

Article from the Journal Star:

http://journalstar.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/article_c29799d0-1146-555b-b664-b0ce41420337.html

Article from the Omaha World Herald:

http://omaha.com/article/20110328/NEWS97/703299967

Innocence Project Blog

January 5th, 2011

Coming soon.