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Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Efrén Paredes, Jr. Coronavirus (COVID-19) Message

I want to begin by expressing my gratitude and appreciation to the people who have been reaching out to me and expressing their concern about my health and well-being as the nation grapples with one of the most horrific pandemics and national tragedies we have ever witnessed.
This is a very challenging time for the nation and unfortunately the worst is yet to come. According to data models based on the trajectory of how the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak has impacted other countries, the disease isn't forecasted to peak in the U.S. until the end of April.
The mortality rate for those infected with COVID-19 as of March 23, 2020 in the U.S. is currently 1.3 percent. It's important to note that this number reflects a period of time when most hospitals still had enough ICU beds to care for infected patients. At this rate the nation could lose at least four million lives if the virus isn't aggressively contained and mitigated.
Yesterday Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer made the wise decision to issue a mandatory stay-at-home, stay safe executive order for Michigan residents which will remain in place for the next three weeks in an effort to slow the rapid spread of COVID-19.
The number of people infected with COVID-19 since the first person tested positive in Michigan thirteen days ago is now 1,791. Twenty-four people have died. The number of people testing positive for the disease doubled over the weekend.
According to Governor Whitmer, without taking aggressive measures to contain the disease the number of people becoming infected with COVID-19 could soar by as high as five times this week in the state. As of today, the State of Michigan ranks sixth highest for the number of people who have tested positive in the nation.
Last week administrators at the prison I am currently housed, the Lakeland Correctional Facility (LCF), suspended all visits from members of the public indefinitely. The Warden also announced they will understandably not be restored until the COVID-19 crisis is stabilized.
According to prison staff, as of today no one at the prison has tested positive for COVID-19. Incarcerated people don't find that very comforting, however, given that no testing for the disease has taken place for weeks within the MDOC due to the unavailability of test kits until March 22, 2020.
Previous to this the extent of diagnostic testing staff or incarcerated people in Michigan prisons consisted of people being asked a series a questions (e.g., if they have a cough, respiratory distress, etc.) and being administered a temperature check. If they didn't have a fever it was assumed they didn't have COVID-19.
For an incarcerated person this has meant being returned to the general population of the prison with hundreds of others. For staff members it has meant being allowed to enter the prison to work in direct contact with hundreds of incarcerated people and other staff members for an eight-hour shift.
This is deeply troubling because according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, people infected with COVID-19 can go days without exhibiting symptoms of the disease and still be very contagious. Some people remain asymptomatic the entire time and keep shedding the virus.
Many incarcerated people live barracks-style in congested dorms, gymnasiums, and other open settings surrounded by dozens of people originally designed to house only a fraction of the people they currently house. They live much closer together than students at college campus dorms which have been closed across the state to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
Incarcerated people in Michigan prisons are also still standing in lines waiting to be fed in the prison dining hall where hundreds of people are fed three times a day seated at tables designed to seat four. There are usually approximately 100 people in the dining hall eating at one time.
Just this past week the prison I am housed at began limiting seating in the dining hall to two people per table. While a step in the right direction, the square tables are only three feet wide -- half the space the CDC guidelines call for social distancing. People serving meals on the serving line are also standing side-by-side separated approximately a foot apart.
By now it is a widely known fact that COVID-19 spreads more rapidly in density. The current dining arrangement in many prisons is the reason Governor Whitmer ordered restaurants in the community to no longer offer dine-in services and restricted them to drive-thru and delivery options only.
Prisons also continue transferring incarcerated people from prison to prison, increasing the chance of COVID-19 becoming community spread throughout prisons. County jails continue transporting people to prisons as well.
This is taking place despite the White House Coronavirus Task Force urging people to remain in their homes to minimize the transmission of the contagion, and the U.S. State Department issuing a Level 4 global travel advisory -- the highest level possible -- restricting Americans from nonessential travel.
The conditions inside prisons make it impossible to practice the safe social distancing guidelines prescribed by the CDC of keeping people separated by six feet. Prisons are a frightening incubator for spread of the highly contagious disease and pose an enormous public health risk.
The problem will also be exacerbated because of the health care provider's inability to provide a serious level of care, and its dismal history of exhibiting repeated deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of incarcerated people.
March 18, 2020 elected prosecutors from across the nation -- including from Michigan -- issued a joint statement addressing the rights and needs of those in custody, sounding the alarm about the impact an outbreak of COVID-19 could have on this vulnerable demographic. According to their statement:
"[L]little attention is being paid to the millions of people in the most overcrowded conditions that are ripe for the spread of this contagious and deadly virus: the people behind bars in America's jails, prisons, and immigration detention centers."
New data shows that four out of five people -- an astonishing 80% -- who have tested positive for COVID-19 contracted it from a person they didn't even know had the disease, and a recent study from Italy found that the mortality rate for men in every age group who contract the contagion is twice as high as for women.
We've also learned that COVID-19 can remain active in the air for up to three hours and on hard surfaces for up to two days, making people vulnerable to coming into contact with the disease in those ways as well.
During the past week it was announced that three MDOC employees have tested positive for COVID-19. They worked in Detroit, Jackson, and Lapeer. Media outlets have reported that two of the employees worked in contact with incarcerated people and one of them did not.
This Sunday the Associated Press reported that a COVID-19 outbreak has occurred at the Rikers Island detention center in New York. Thirty-eight incarcerated people tested positive for the disease. This means potentially hundreds of others they lived and interacted with who have not yet exhibited symptoms may be infected as well.
And yesterday the local news reported the first case of an incarcerated person at the Kinross Correctional Facility (KCF) in Kincheloe, Michigan, testing positive for COVID-19. KCF houses over 1,000 incarcerated people in double-bunked pole barns, which each house hundreds of people.
Now that diagnostic testing for COVID-19 has begun in the MDOC it is inevitable we will begin hearing additional reports of people testing positive for the virus in prisons across Michigan in the coming days. The fear of incarcerated people is if more mitigation and containment efforts are not implemented in prisons there could be a surge of infection which would be catastrophic.
One thing that needs to immediately occur is for prisons to discontinue feeding incarcerated people in dining halls. They should instead prepare meals for them in disposable containers and/or bags to consume in their living quarters.
The practice of eating in dining halls as the spread of COVID-19 is accelerating across the country is diametrically opposed to the CDC guidelines and poses a serious danger to public safety. The objective is to mitigate the propagation of the highly contagious disease, not wait for people to contract it and then act.
No effort has completely prevented COVID-19 from spreading anywhere in the world. Some countries are doing better than others at it. But the ones that are have completely locked the country down and issued stay-at-home orders to their citizens which are being strictly enforced.
I am grateful to share that the status of my personal health is currently good. I've been going out to take walks and get fresh air daily, exercising alone, and spending a lot of time reading. I have a lot of writing projects I'm working on that are keeping me busy as well.
Though the majority of people will survive if they contract COVID-19, we have to shield ourselves and others from being hunted by it as much as possible. We're not invincible. Thousands of people are succumbing to COVID-19 around the globe and no one is being spared.
It is important that we take all the CDC COVID-19 guidelines very seriously. Listen to the scientists, doctors, and health experts. We should continue washing our hands frequently, sanitizing hard surfaces, and practice social distancing.
Ignoring any of these guidelines will not only put our personal lives at risk, but the lives of our family members, friends, and neighbors as well. A short time ago the World Health Organization announced that the U.S. is on track to soon become the global epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis is becoming more serious by the moment.
COVID-19 is ravaging people's lungs. It's leaving many of them scarred and some people are losing 20-30% of their lung capacity. Some people have also reported losing the ability to taste and smell. Whether the damage remains permanently is still unknown at this time.
We have a moral and social responsibility to support and help one another during this time. And the more we work together to contain and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 the sooner we will be able to defeat the virus and resume our normal lives.
Taking care of our mental and emotional health is also critically important right now. Unmanaged stress can compromise our immune system which is something we can ill-afford. The confluence of crisis and uncertainty can grip people with fear and anxiety. So can being barraged with intrusive worries.
I am reminding people around me every day who are struggling mentally or emotionally right now that no one benefits from becoming panicked during this time. We have to remain calm and clear minded so we can make good choices, driven by facts not by fear.
I encourage people to use this time for self-care, reflection, and recentering. These activities can have a calming and healing effect. As I have personally experienced, taking walks and enjoying the outdoors while still practicing social distancing can be helpful as well.
Members of the public should enjoy the time they are spending with those they are sheltering in their homes with, and strive to forge deeper connections with them. Celebrate the gift of life and be grateful for one another at a time when thousands of families are suffering the devastating loss of loved ones due to COVID-19.
Take time to introduce a hobby you enjoy with someone else which can stimulate their brain activity and be serenity-inducing, creativity-boosting, and health-enhancing. Please also do each other an enormous favor and exercise an abundance of patience with one another.
People can also call one another and use video chat platforms like Skype, Face Time, and Facebook Messenger to connect. Don't equate social distancing with emotional distancing. Instead, devote energy to nurturing emotional connections.
That said, we should take the time to address each other's mental and emotional health needs and concerns right now as well. There are a lot of people struggling with depression and anxiety in need of our help and support.
A 2005 Australian study found that having a strong social support system can increase life expectancy by as much as 22 percent. Listening to people, offering them words of encouragement, and validating them goes a long way.
Taking time to helping our children and young people is also important right now. Many kids are living in fear and struggling to make sense of everything going on. Their lives were abruptly upended with no advanced notice of any kind. They will need help developing coping strategies and ideas to manage their frustration.
Consider visiting YouTube and TED Talks to view talks about meditation, yoga, and techniques to cope with stress and anxiety. I recommend watching videos by Deepak Chopra whose books have been a guide and inspiration to help me cope with decades of living in isolation.
To all the courageous medical professionals and first responders risking their lives everyday fighting the battle against COVID-19 on the front line; the school employees (like my beloved mother) still going to work each day to prepare meals to deliver to their students who struggle with food insecurity; shopping angels -- people shopping for their elderly neighbors so they don't have to leave their homes to risk their health; people producing much needed masks and gowns for health care workers in their own homes; and the many, many others doing their part to help make a difference -- the nation thanks you.
The road forward may be difficult and the end may seem very distant at times, but we are resilient and we'll make it through this crisis together. We have to believe in ourselves, in each other, and continue supporting one another. When we tell each another "I got you" make it count.
Let's choose faith over fear, and peace over panic. Life is sacred, and the safety and protection of every human life is paramount right now. Please be careful and stay healthy.
Praying for the nation,
--Efrén Paredes, Jr.
http://fb.com/Free.Efren

Monday, March 16, 2020

Corrupt Policing During the Arrest of Efrén Paredes, Jr. (Part 2 of 2)

by Dr. John Masterson
Emeritus Professor of Mathematics
Michigan State University

The evidence strongly suggests that Efrén Paredes, Jr.'s version of what actually occurred during the time he was alone in a police car with the arresting officer in his case, former Berrien County Sheriff's Department detective William Tucker, is far more credible than the one Tucker falsified for the following reasons:

(1) According to one of Efrén's former high school teachers, "Those who knew Efrén then knew he didn't use the word 'ain't' or the language Tucker claimed. He respected authority and was never offensive to adults. That's not the student or kind of person he was."

(2) There is no audio recording of the exchange Efrén and Tucker in the police car. Tucker could have easily recorded their drive to the jail, particularly since they were alone, if he was concerned about protecting the integrity of anything that was said. He purposely placed Efrén in the front seat of his police car and didn't have anyone accompany them to avoid having any witnesses present.

(3) Tucker's decision to place Efrén in the front seat of the police car next to him was calculated and deliberate so he could attempt to engage him in conversation. Police do not seat murder suspects in the front seat with them. Tucker clearly had a motive for breaking with normal practice and doing so.

(4) Efrén knew not to talk to police outside the presence of an attorney well before his arrest. Further, he informed Tucker he had an attorney from the moment of his arrest in the presence of his family and again when they were alone in the car.

(5) During Efrén's trial before a packed courtroom he testified under oath that he did not kill the victim in his case and he had no role in the crime.

(6) After his trial and conviction Efrén spoke to two men from the probation department who interviewed him to prepare a Pre-Sentence Investigation Report for his sentencing judge. When asked to describe his version of the crime, according to the report Efrén responded, "I didn't do anything to be arrested. I am being charged for something I didn't do and had no part of."

(7) At his sentencing hearing when asked by the judge if he had anything to say to the court prior to receiving his sentence Efrén stated, "I don't believe I should be sentenced for something I didn't do."

(8) There have been numerous complaints against Tucker by people he arrested in the past claiming he engaged in various forms of misconduct in their cases. Common complaints have included him falsifying statements attributed to them, and using threats and intimidation to coerce people into making statements.

(9) In hundreds of interviews with various television, print, and radio media outlets during his 31-year incarceration Efrén has denied committing the crime and Tucker's false claims, and has remained consistent about what actually occurred that day. He also did so at a nine-and-a-half hour 2008 public hearing when he was seeking a commutation of his sentence under a barrage of questioning from five parole board members and an Assistant Attorney General.

(10) During his time at the Berrien County Sheriff's Department Tucker was suspended for insubordination. In a 1997 lawsuit it was also revealed:

"Tucker was demoted to sergeant in connection with misconduct involving two [police] informants. ... Tucker admitted to having sexual relations with the second informant[.]" (Mata v. County of Berrien, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19344, 13 (W.D. Mich 1997))

Throughout his employment with the Berrien County Sheriff's Department, and since his early departure from the department in 2005, Tucker has been embroiled in various controversies according to stories featured in local newspapers.

Tucker's lack of good judgment, abuse of authority, and credibility gap are clear in his mishandling of Efrén's arrest and mistreatment of a vulnerable 15-year-old boy. It is further evident in the way Tucker performed his duties in other cases and abused his position as a police officer to take advantage of vulnerable people.

His actions are clearly at odds with being an honest, credible public servant, and his conduct in Efrén's case rises to the level of corruption and committing fraud upon the court by knowingly providing false testimony to the court.

"Police corruption refers to dishonest and illegal acts by police officers. These actions may range from stealing evidence to perjury and obstruction of justice." (Laurie L. Levenson, "Police Corruption and New Models for Reform," 35 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 1 (2001))

In her academic journal article, "Bias in Blue: Instructing Jurors to Consider the Testimony of Police Officer Witnesses with Caution," 44 Pepp. L. Rev. 245, 263-64 (2017), Vida B. Johnson, Visiting Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center, writes:

"Police officers are also interested parties; the motivations to lie, shade the truth, and protect colleagues exist. Just like a witness seeking a reward or a witness with some other interest in the case, police officers often have financial, career, ideological, or institutional interests at play, particularly in certain types of cases."

She adds, "Although it may reveal a 'dismal' side of our criminal justice system to acknowledge these biases, ignoring police officer bias does not make it go away."

Substantial evidence demonstrates that police perjury is so prevalent that scholars have characterized it as a "subcultural norm rather than an individual aberration." (Stephen W. Gard, "Bearing False Witness: Perjured Affidavits and the Fourth Amendment," 41 Suffolk U. L. Rev. 445, 448 (2008))

"Blue lies are so pervasive that even former prosecutors have described them as 'commonplace' and 'prevalent.'" (Myron W. Orfield, Jr., "Deterrence, Perjury, and the Heater Factor," 63 U. Colo. L. Rev. 75, 107 (1992))

Prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges in one survey expressed their belief that perjury is present in approximately twenty percent of all cases. A separate survey of police officers was even more troubling. "Seventy-six percent of responding officers agreed that officers shade the facts to establish probable cause; forty-eight percent believed judges were often correct in disbelieving police testimony." (Myron W. Orfield, Jr., "The Exclusionary Rule and Deterrence," 54 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1016, 1050-51 & n.129 (1987))

Of the dozens of people who witnessed Efrén speaking to any member of law enforcement or testifying in court, no one other than Tucker falsely claims that Efrén made any statement contrary to him denying he committed the crime or had an attorney. Tucker sought to be a hero in the case by being the sole person able to extract a statement from Efrén that would be prejudicial in some way.

It is a technique routinely used by police to bolster their claims and make a case stronger than it was previously to boost the appearance of their success rates. Some of the ways police do this is by:

"Claiming to have heard a confession or an out-of-context condemning statement, recovering weapons or other evidence planted in a particular location, obscuring evidence that points to someone else, or hiding evidence of the suspect's innocence." (Christopher Slobogin, Professor of Law & Alumni Research Scholar, University of Florida College of Law, "Testilying: Police Perjury and What to Do About It," 67 U. Colo. L. Rev. 1037, (996))

Sadly, events like this occur far too often in cities across America. And it occurs most often between encounters with white officers and black and brown youth. In Efrén's case he is Latino and Tucker is white; as were all the investigating police in his case.

According to Lupe S. Salinas, retired Criminal Court Judge in Houston, Texas, and a former federal prosecutor in the Southern District of Texas, who serves as a Professor of Law at Texas Southern University, Thurgood Marshall School of Law:

"The mistreatment of Latinos by law enforcement has been extensive. However, for whatever reasons, media coverage has been minimal." (Lupe S. Salinas, "Lawless Cops, Latino Injustice, and Revictimization by the Justice System," 2018 Mich. St. L. Rev. 1095, 1128 (2018))

Since 2009 an alarming number of police officers have been identified as members of white supremacist groups. Professor Vida B. Johnson, Georgetown Law School, writes, "In that same period, there have been scandals in over 100 different police departments, in 49 different states where individuals have sent overtly racist emails, texts, or made racist comments via social media."

She adds, "[S]ome of these shocking occurrences have involved high-ranking members of their respective police forces." ("KKK in the PD: White Supremacist Police and What To Do About It," 23 Lewis & Clark L. Rev. 205, 210 (2019))

This troubling number is in addition to scores of widely documented instances of racism that have been committed by police officers against communities of color for decades while performing their routine job duties before the advent of the digital sphere.

Purveyors of racism are able to express themselves more openly today by hiding behind blue screens giving them a false sense of anonymity across a panoply of platforms. Proliferation of the digital evidence in recent years has only made it easier to expose the prevalence of this activity.

Though most members of law enforcement strive to perform their duty with integrity there are always rogue actors seeking to fulfill personal goals and hidden agendas. "Our nation has experienced a regrettable history of lawlessness among a significant minority of police officers." (Salinas, supra, at 1213).

Reporting on the frequency of police officers arrested for committing crimes, one study found that "During 2005-2012, 10,787 individual non-federal sworn law enforcement officers with general powers of arrest faced criminal charges." (Philip M. Stinson, Associate Professor, Bowling Green St. Univ., Presentation at the 2017 Urban Elected Prosecutors Summit: "Police Shootings Data: What We Know and What We Don't Know" 12 (Apr. 20, 2017))

This astonishing number is significant because police corruption results in wrongful convictions across the country. According to the National Registry of Exonerations website there have been 2,434 documented exonerations as of May 5, 2019. (NAT'L REGISTRY OF EXONERATIONS, www.law.umich.edu/special/exoneration/Pages/about.aspx (last visited May 5, 2019)).

"Wrongful conviction estimates, calculated from different methods, range from 0.03 to 15% of felony convictions." (Rossmo & Pollock, supra, at 796). Of the 2,434 cases that have been exonerated nationwide over 100 of them have occurred in the State of Michigan.

Though Tucker is woefully emblematic of police corruption he is only a small part of the overall problem pervasive in police departments across America. Most police officers strive to do the right thing. But as long as a culture referred to as the "Blue Wall of Silence" persists, even good cops will be degraded by the pernicious actions of the minority.

We have to work collectively to prevent police corruption, cast a light on its incidents, and restore integrity in the criminal justice system or run the risk of the few bad apples narrative becoming one that depicts a rotten orchard. If we don't, we run the risk of becoming the next Efrén Paredes, Jr. handcuffed sitting in a car next to a rogue cop like William Tucker.

It's a nightmare scenario any law-abiding citizen -- or 15-year-old kid -- can ill-afford to encounter without risking the loss of unwarranted decades of their freedom.


(To learn more about the case of Efrén Paredes, Jr. or how you can support his campaign for justice visit http://fb.com/Free.Efren or http://Bitly.com/FreeEfren.)



Sunday, March 15, 2020

Corrupt Policing During the Arrest of Efrén Paredes, Jr. (Part 1 of 2)


by Dr. John Masterson
Emeritus Professor of Mathematics
Michigan State University

"Almost all police lie about whether they violated the Constitution in order to convict guilty defendants." (Alan M. Dershowitz, "The Best Defense," at xxi (1982))

Across the nation police officers have engaged in corruption and malfeasance in criminal cases across the country which have yielded wrongful convictions. It should come as no surprise that Michigan is no outlier to these abuses of power.

An abundance of research has proven that "[p]olice falsification, or 'testilying' is the most common form of police corruption." (Tracey Maclin, Professor of Law, Boston University, "Race and the Fourth Amendment," 51 Vand. L. Rev. 333, 380 (1998))

According to Laura Cohen, Clinical Professor of Law, Director of Criminal and Youth Justice Clinic, Rutgers School of Law-Newark, and author of "Freedom's Road: Youth, Parole, and the Promise of 

Miller v. Alabama and Graham v. Florida," 35 Cardozo L. Rev. 1031, 1085 (2014):

"The causes of wrongful convictions are legion, including, among others, erroneous eyewitness identification, false confessions, failures of science, ineffective assistance of counsel, law enforcement and prosecutorial misconduct, overzealousness, and use of unreliable informants."

Shortly after the March 15, 1989 arrest of fifteen-year-old Efrén Paredes, Jr. thirty-one years ago, the narrative about the event quickly focused on an alleged statement attributed to Efrén which was manufactured by the arresting officer in the case, William Tucker of the Berrien County Sheriff's Department.

The prosecution used Tucker's statement to prejudice Efrén and never attempted to question its veracity when cross-examining him during trial. It was a strategic decision done to disallow Efrén the opportunity to offer to the jury his own version of events that actually transpired.

"Even amid a documented history of police corruption in the form of perjury -- lying in reports and lying on the witness stand -- prosecutors regularly ... file charges based on the unexamined word of the arresting officer." (Steven Zeidman, Professor, CUNY School of Law, "From Dropsy to Testilying: Prosecutorial Apathy, Ennui, or Complicity?," 16 Ohio St. J. Crim. L. 423, 424 (2019))

Why Efrén's defense attorney failed to inquire about his arrest during his trial is anyone's guess. From the time of his arrest until his trial Efrén made clear to his attorney multiple times that he didn't make the statement attributed to him by Tucker after he learned about the statement he manufactured.

Between the time of his arrest and his original sentencing four months later media outlets that breathlessly reported about the crime Efrén was charged with never reached out to him for a response to the Tucker statement. They simply reported Tucker's false claims and recklessly disseminated them as facts.

For context it's important to begin this story by introducing another criminal attorney named Tat Parish whose name was frequently used during Efrén's trial by the prosecution. Parish was their family attorney who prepared Efrén's parents' wills and assisted them with any other legal matters that arose.

Parish and the family had been friends and next door neighbors for several years. Efrén and his two younger brothers were also friends with Parish's sons who were close in age to each other. The kids spent time in each other's yards and homes regularly.

Parish was a criminal defense attorney very familiar with the type of misconduct that some members of law enforcement engage in through his experience with them in courtrooms over the years. He not only protected members of the general public against false allegations in trials, he also defended police officers accused of crimes.

Over the years Parish had conversations with Efrén and his own children as they were growing up about their rights regarding police contact. He instructed them that if a member of law enforcement were to ever accuse them of any wrongdoing, they didn't commit they should inform the officer that he, Parish, was their attorney.

The kids were also counseled to not make statements to police outside the presence of an attorney. This was to avoid having the kids be coerced into making any false statements without a witness present that could be used against them later.

The afternoon of March 15, 1989 Efrén's mother received a phone call from an attorney in Parish's office named Philip Riley. Riley informed Efrén's mother that he had just spoken to another local attorney and learned that Efrén may be arrested that day in connection with the murder and robbery of a store manager that occurred a week earlier.

Riley asked Efrén's mother to pick him up from school and take him to their home so if he actually was arrested, they could be there to witness things as opposed to him being arrested at school. He also instructed Efrén's mother to convey to Efrén that if he is arrested to let them know Parish is his attorney and not to answer any questions from police outside of the presence of his attorney.

Shortly thereafter Efrén's mother called her husband at work, told him about the details of the phone call they received, and asked him to pick Efrén up from school, which he did. Upon Efrén getting into the car his father briefly told him about the phone call he received from his mother and told him they would get more details when they arrived home. (There were no cellphones when this occurred in 1989.)

When they arrived at their home, they were met by Efrén's mother, two brothers, and extended members of their family. Upon their arrival Efrén's mother offered more details from the phone call with Riley including the instruction for Efrén to tell police Parish is his attorney and not to answer any police questions outside the presence of his attorney.

A short time later, at approximately 4:57 pm, police cars surrounded their home. Detective Tucker entered the garage which was connected to the home and knocked on the door to the kitchen of the home. Upon entering the kitchen he told Efrén he was under arrest.

When Tucker handcuffed Efrén and read him his Miranda rights Efrén immediately informed him in the presence of his family that Tat Parish was his attorney just as he had been instructed to do. Tucker acknowledged this in the report he made regarding the arrest.

Tucker handcuffed Efrén and he was then escorted out to a police car parked in the driveway by Lincoln Township Police Department Chief Daniel Robinson. The car had officers seated in the front of the car and Efrén was placed in the backseat of the car. While seated in the car Efrén remained silent and didn't speak to anyone, nor did any officers claim that he did in any police reports.

A short time later Tucker returned to the squad car alone and ordered Efrén to exit the car and accompany him to an unmarked police car parked at the end of the driveway. Tucker placed Efrén in the front seat of the police car next to him rather than in the back seat, which is typical for people who have been charged with murder. No one else was in the car other than Tucker and Efrén.

Tucker then proceeded to drive Efrén to the Berrien County Jail. During the drive Tucker began telling Efrén that the other boys who had already been arrested in connection to the crime had "dumped" on him. Tucker told him the police had "the gun" from the murder and they (the police) knew he killed the victim whose death he was being charged with.

As Tucker continued rambling, became belligerent, and attempted to badger him Efrén remarked, "I told you Tat Parish is my attorney. I can't answer any questions until he's there." Tucker quickly became visibly angry at Efrén's unwillingness to talk and their exchange abruptly ended.

Upon arriving at the jail Tucker escorted Efrén into the building and took him to an interrogation room where two other officers were present. Once in the room one of the officers offered Efrén a Miranda card. He asked him to sign it and tell them about the crime he was arrested for.

Efrén had no clue what a Miranda card was at the time nor had he ever heard of one. He refused to sign the card and immediately informed the officer who offered it to him that Tat Parish was his attorney and he would be making no statement outside the presence of his attorney.

The officer grew angry with Efrén's unwillingness to cooperate and began yelling at him. He began threatening Efrén telling him if he didn't tell them what happened he was going to "get fucked" and "die in prison." Despite being terrified by what was occurring Efrén still refused to speak to the officers.

A short time later the officers received a phone call telling them Efrén's attorney was there to see Efrén. The officers placed Efrén in an elevator and took him to see the attorney. The attorney, Paul Jancha, informed Efrén that Tat Parish sent him to talk to him and let him know that Parish would be visiting him later that evening.

Parish wanted to remain present at Efrén's parents' home while a search warrant was being conducted at the home by several police officers. Jancha again reminded Efrén not to speak to anyone at the jail outside the presence of his attorney.

Later that afternoon Tucker fabricated a police report falsely claiming that during their drive alone in the car Efrén told him he was waiving his right to have an attorney present and stated, "Fuck you ... I'm only 15, and I ain't going to do no time. You can't prove nothing."

According to Efrén, "Tucker's statement is completely false. I never said anything even remotely close to that. I was in handcuffs and completely terrified kid at the time. I had respect for law enforcement and believed they were good people."

He added, "I didn't know anything about wrongful convictions or that officers will lie if they don't get their way. I had never been arrested before and the officer was sitting next to me carrying a loaded gun. There is no way I would have said anything like that to him."

Tucker appeared before Berrien County District Court Judge Daniel R. Deja less than a half-hour prior to Efrén's arrest. During a probable cause hearing lasting only a mere eleven minutes Tucker rushed to present information to the judge he obtained from an informant named Steve Miller in an effort to convince him to issue a warrant for Efrén's arrest.

Miller, a drug dealer at the time, was admittedly connected with the planning of the crime and never charged by the Berrien County Prosecutor. A decade later he was charged and convicted in an unrelated case in federal court for drug trafficking.

Because he was the person to obtain the warrant for Efrén's arrest Tucker felt pressured to justify his reasoning for doing so by trying to coerce an incriminating statement from Efrén. However, once Efrén stated he had an attorney and wouldn't answer questions regarding the case Tucker felt compelled to manufacture a statement for him.

Tucker refused to accept that he could have made a mistake. He also refused to allow himself to be embarrassed by a 15-year-old he couldn't coerce into speaking to him and provide him with any helpful information for the investigation. His confirmation bias prevented him from being able to gather evidence and view things objectively.

According to D. Kim Rossmo and Joycelyn M. Pollock authors of the academic journal article, "Confirmation Bias and Other Systemic Causes of Wrongful Convictions," 11 Ne. U. L. Rev. 790, 814 (2019):

"Confirmation bias is a type of selective thinking. Once a hypothesis has been formed, our inclination is to confirm rather than refute it. We tend to look for supporting information, interpret ambiguous information as consistent with our beliefs, and minimize any inconsistent evidence. Types of confirmation bias include: (1) the biased search for evidence; (2) the biased interpretation of information; and (3) a biased memory (selective recall)."

They add, "Unfortunately, there have been several cases where detectives refused to abandon the original suspect, justifying their intransigence through highly convoluted reasoning. Critical thinking requires effort, and an entrenched position, even an untenable one, can persist through psychological lethargy and organizational momentum."

Efrén exercising his constitutional rights at the time of his arrest was negatively colored when people -- including jurors at his trial -- heard that he immediately told police he had an attorney when he was arrested, and that he declined to speak to officers outside the presence of his attorney.

They had no idea that Efrén already knew he may be arrested before it actually occurred. They also didn't know he had previously received instructions from two different attorneys, including only minutes before his arrest, about what to do if he were to have any negative contact with police.
Because people were unaware of this, some negatively perceived Efrén's mention of already having an attorney as evidence that he had something to hide or that it implied some sort of guilt or wrongdoing.

Efrén simply followed the advice of counsel who sought to ensure he asserted his constitutional right to remain silent and not answer any police questions outside the presence of an attorney, to protect him from overzealous officers like Tucker trying to make a name for themselves.

Laurie L. Levenson, Professor of Law & William M. Rains Fellow, Loyola Law School, writes:
"[I]t is entirely understandable why an innocent person might assert his Miranda rights. After all, it should not be surprising that a person, who has just been told that he has the right not to answer questions, chooses not to answer questions. It is bizarre to think that anyone who believes he has been erroneously arrested should automatically disregard his rights and try to appeal to the people who just effected the arrest."

She adds, "While most defendants do waive their Miranda rights, a person who truly believes he has been improperly arrested for a serious crime might actually decide that he needs the assistance of counsel before interacting further with the police." (Laurie L. Levenson, "The Problem with Cynical Prosecutor's Syndrome," 20 Berkeley J. Crim. L. 335, 359 (2015))

Studies have also shown that guilty suspects may be more likely to waive Miranda rights "when they have strong world beliefs that cause them to comply with social standards." (Kyle C. Sherr & Andrew S. Franks, "The World is Not Fair: An Examination of Innocent and Guilty Suspects Waiver Decisions," 39 Law and Hum. Behav. 142, 148 (2015))

(To learn more about the case of Efrén Paredes, Jr. or how you can support his campaign for justice visit http://Bitly.com/FreeEfren and http://fb.com/Free.Efren.)

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Mich. Supreme Court Makes Significant Ruling for Juvenile Lifers

by Necalli Ollin

"Government improprieties should not find an oasis within the court system." (Robert M. Bloom, "Judicial Integrity: A Call for Its Re-Emergence in the Adjudication of Criminal Cases," 84 J. Crim. l. & Criminology 462, 501 (1993)

The Michigan Supreme Court issued an important ruling January 17, 2020 in the case of People v. Tykeith Turner, 2020 Mich. LEXIS 99, which will impact dozens of prisoners previously sentenced to life without parole (LWOP) when they were juveniles ("juvenile lifers").

In 1995, Tykeith Turner, a 16-year-old from Detroit, was convicted of first-degree murder, assault with intent to commit murder (AWIM), and carrying a firearm during the commission of a felony (felony-firearm), for his role in a drive-by shooting that killed a man. He shot at another person and missed during the same incident, according to court records.

For the crimes Turner was originally sentenced to life in prison without parole for first-degree murder, life in prison with the possibility of parole for AWIM, and a term of two years' imprisonment for felony-firearm.

In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court held in Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460, 465 (2012), "that mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on 'cruel and unusual punishments.'"

Four years later, in 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that Miller must be applied retroactively. (Montgomery v. Louisiana, 136 S. Ct. 718, 736 (2016)). Because Turner received a sentence of mandatory life without parole for his first-degree murder conviction, he was entitled to resentencing.

When returning to the trial court for resentencing in 2016 Turner requested to be sentenced for both the first-degree murder and the AWIM charges. He argued that his entire sentence was invalid since both his charges were part of a single event, and the U.S. Supreme Court had determined that the mandatory life-without-parole sentence was unconstitutional.

It also made no sense that Turner could be resentenced for the charge he originally received the most time for (first-degree murder) and receive a lesser sentence for that charge when resentenced than for the sentence he was serving for the lesser charge of AWIM.

The trial court noted that, although speculative, Turner's sentence of life imprisonment with the possibility of parole for AWIM could negate Miller and Montgomery because Turner could serve his full prison term for first-degree murder but be denied parole for AWIM.

Lastly, the trial court agreed that the sentences Turner received were invalid based on a misconception of the law, and went on to resentence Turner to 25 to 60 years' imprisonment for first-degree murder, and 20 to 27 years' imprisonment for AWIM.

The Wayne County Prosecutor subsequently appealed the trial court's new sentence for AWIM. In 2018 a three judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals heard the appeal and rendered a new judgment in the case.

Justices Peter D. O'Connell, Joel P. Hoekstra, and Kirsten Frank Kelly agreed with the prosecution and reversed the new 20-year sentence imposed on Turner by the trial court for AWIM. They also reinstated a life in prison with the possibility of parole sentence for the charge.

After a three year court battle, January 17, 2020 the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the 2018 judgment by the Court of Appeals stating in relevant part:

"A sentence is invalid if it is 'based upon ... a misconception of law ... .' People v. Miles, 454 Mich. 90, 96; 559 N.W.2d 299 (1997). In the Miller context, a concurrent sentence for a lesser offense is invalid if there is reason to believe that it was based on a legal misconception that the defendant was required to serve a mandatory sentence of life without parole on the greater offense."

The state's high court also remanded the Turner case back to the Wayne County Circuit Court to reinstate the December 21, 2016 judgment of sentence of 25 to 60 years' imprisonment for first-degree murder and 20 to 27 years' imprisonment for AWIM.

Among the Michigan juvenile lifers impacted by the new Michigan Supreme Court ruling who remain entangled in the lengthy resentencing process is Efrén Paredes, Jr. of Berrien County. The invalid sentence he received was even more egregious than one received by Turner.

Efrén was 15-years-old at the time of his arrest. He was convicted three months later and received two life in prison without parole sentences for the shooting death and robbery of a store manager. He also received a life in prison with the possibility of parole sentence for the charge of armed robbery. The sentencing guidelines for the robbery charge were three to eight years at the time.

Efrén's case is the subject of the 2019 documentary film installation titled "Half Truths and Full Lies" produced by award-winning filmmakers Tirtza Even, Meg McLagan, and multimedia producer Elyse Blennerhassett. His case was also featured in the 2015 documentary film "Natural Life" produced by Tirtza Even.

For over three decades Efrén has proclaimed his innocence. Four alibi witnesses have corroborated he was home with his family when the crime occurred. Witnesses have also come forward stating under oath that some of the prosecution's witnesses provided false statements to police and offered perjured testimony at his trial.

Despite the evidence exonerating Efrén that continues to mount in his case he must still go through the same process  to be resentenced as the other 366 Michigan juvenile lifers. Innocence is not an issue that courts generally consider during juvenile lifer resentencing hearings, though in a recent Wayne County case it did.

Efrén has accomplished numerous things during his incarceration. He helped create a charter school in the Los Angeles Unified School District; co-founded Presente.org, the largest online Latinx social justice organizing digital platform; and has worked tirelessly on issues such as prison reform and raising awareness about mass incarceration.

There are 200 remaining Michigan juvenile lifers awaiting their day in court aching for the opportunity to one day realize freedom again. Like Efrén, the vast majority of them are not "irreparably corrupt" or "incapable of change," and are deserving of term-of-year sentences -- not life in prison without the possibility of parole.

This is the standard for resentencing juvenile lifers plainly stated by the U.S. Supreme Court in its landmark rulings dates back to 2012 when it counseled sentencing bodies against imposing the draconian sentence stating:

"Deciding that a juvenile offender forever will be a danger to society would require making a judgment that [he] is incorrigible -- but incorrigibility is inconsistent with youth and for the same reason, rehabilitation could not justify that sentence.

"Life without parole foreswears the rehabilitative ideal. It reflects an irrevocable judgment about [an offender's] value and place in society, at odds with a child's capacity for change." (Miller v. Alabama, 132 S. Ct. 2455, 2465 (2012))

Before abolishing mandatory life-without-parole sentences for juvenile offenders in 2012 the nation's high court made a ruling in Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010), mandating that non-incorrigible juvenile offenders should receive a meaningful opportunity for release.

In his peer-reviewed academic journal article titled, "A Meaningful Opportunity for Release: Graham and Miller Applied to De Facto Sentences of Life Without Parole for Juvenile Offenders," 60 B.C. L. Rev. E. Supp. 332, 348 (2019), Anton Tikhomirov writes:

"Graham's concern with the limitations of a life-without-parole sentence, combined with its focus on a defendant's ability to achieve self-fulfillment clearly demonstrates an intent that non-incorrigible juveniles have an opportunity to participate in society beyond living out the last few years of their lives following release."

He added, "To realize Graham's mandate of a 'meaningful opportunity for release,' one must be afforded 'hope' and a chance of 'fulfillment outside prison walls,' 'reconciliation with society,' and 'the opportunity to achieve maturity of judgment and self-recognition of human worth and potential." (Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, 79 (2010))

Decision-makers are abusing their power and undermining U.S. Supreme Court rulings resulting in time-consuming and costly appeals at taxpayer expense. Their actions are steadily eroding public confidence and trust, and impugning the integrity of the criminal justice system.

The public cannot be expected to respect or adhere to institutions that are not impartial and lacking integrity. Instead, they will begin to reject them. In the words of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis:

"For good or for ill, [the Government] teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the Government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy." (Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438, 485 (Brandeis, L., dissenting) (1928))

Over 100 juvenile lifers in Michigan have been resentenced and released in the past few years. Of that number not a single one has reoffended or returned to prison. They have been receiving average sentences of 29.5 years when being resentenced and many of them have spent decades behind bars.

Michigan has earned the dubious distinction of becoming the state with the highest number of juvenile lifers in the country. It has done so while twenty-eight states have abandoned the extreme death-by-incarceration sentence.

The number of states banning the sentence has quadrupled in the last five years. ("States That Ban Life Without Parole for Children," The Campaign for the Fair Sentencing of Youth, available at https://fairsentencingofyouth.org/media-resources/states-that-ban-life/.)

It is long past time that juvenile lifers like Efrén and the other remaining 200 people languishing in Michigan prisons with unconstitutional sentences the past eight years receive their new sentences and we end this chapter of injustice.

(To learn more about the case of Efrén Paredes, Jr. people can visit http://Bitly.com/FreeEfren or http://fb.com/Free.Efren.)

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Efrén Invites Prosecutor to Participate in Youth Deterrent Program

[The following is a proposal sent to Berrien County Prosecutor, Michael Sepic, from Efrén Paredes, Jr. in September 2019 inviting his office to participate in the creation of a youth deterrent program to help prevent and reduce youth violence in the county. To date Efrén has received no response to his proposal.]

RE: Youth Deterrent Program Proposal

Dear Mr. Sepic:

I am writing to invite your office to consider participating in the creation of a Youth Deterrent Program ("YDP") to assist at-risk youth in Berrien County.

Last month I moderated an event at the Lakeland Correctional Facility ("LCF") where we hosted DJ Hilson, Muskegon County Prosecutor and outgoing President of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM). It was a very positive event that was widely attended and well received by Mr. Hilson, prisoners, and facility staff who were present.

At the event I asked Mr. Hilson to consider partnering with us to create a YDP which could be helpful to at-risk youth in his county. He expressed that he really liked the idea and accepted the invitation. I am currently gathering background and supporting documentation about similar evidence-based programs in the state to share with him.

YDPs currently exist at three Michigan prisons. They consist of representatives from various prosecutors' offices, members of law enforcement, and/or social workers accompanying a small group of at-risk youth to engage in dialogue with prisoners. They convene for a couple hours each month in a prison visit room where the public visits prisoners when the space is available outside of regularly scheduled visiting hours.

During YDP dialogues prisoners encourage youth to remain in school and avoid a criminal lifestyle. They also share stories about their lives, the consequences of making poor choices, and the harsh experience of incarceration. Prisoners are carefully screened to participate in the YDP by prison administrators. Close supervision by the team of people who escort the youth to the prison is present at all times.

The curriculum for training participants of the program is based on the work of Dr. William Glasser, Jr. His widely recognized training program was developed over 50 years ago. The primary components of Dr. Glasser's training program that would be utilized in our YDP include Choice Theory and Reality Therapy which are available in the book, "Choice Theory: A New Psychology of Personal Freedom."

All prisoners involved in YDPs are unpaid volunteers who donate their time and service to be a part of the program because they choose to. The benefits they accrue from their participation is helping transform the lives of young people, making our communities safer, and giving back to society by helping repair the harm they caused.

Participating also helps prisoners become better returning citizens by developing a deeper sense of humanity and appreciation for the sanctity of life on their journey to redemption. It not only aids in the transformation of their own lives, it also helps them model that transformation for many at-risk youth who embrace the belief that they can't be what they can't see.

According to Bureau of Justice statistics, 95% of all prisoners return to the community one day. Cultivating a working relationship between your office and prisoners from the county can help build an important bridge that provides the community -- and your office -- with important assets and resources. They can also become invaluable entry points into areas of the county you otherwise wouldn't have when they are eventually released.

If the proposed version of a YDP isn't feasible other options you may wish to consider include arranging to have prisoners speak to at-risk youth in real-time via video teleconferencing, over the phone, or forming a group of prisoners to write them letters or messages. Combinations of these could also be helpful.

In 2015 I was selected as one of 20 prisoners to participate in the Michigan State University My Brother's Keeper Program taught by Dr. Austin Jackson. In the program we received training to mentor at-risk youth in Grades 6-8 in the Detroit Public Schools. We also developed a peer-to-peer mentoring program to help young prisoners already in the carceral system.

I co-created and facilitated a conflict resolution workshop in 2013 alongside a psychologist, three social workers from Mental Health Services, and a prison counselor as then-President of the National Lifers of America ("NLA"). The workshop was instrumental in reducing violence in the prison and helping transform the distorted thinking and dysfunctional behavior of hundreds of prisoner participants of all ages and races.

That same year I helped develop the curriculum for the "Peer Enrichment and Parole Readiness" workshop, along with the Director of American Friends Service Committee, Natalie Holbrook, and a group of 15 other prisoners. The workshop is now being taught at six different prisons across the state.

My experience growing up between the ages of 15 to 46 behind bars and interacting with thousands of prisoners of all ages, races, and classes; and the knowledge I have attained from decades of researching criminal thinking, trauma, violence, adolescent development, toxic masculinity, and cognitive behavioral therapy, will be helpful making the creation of a YDP a reality.

Also helpful will be the skills I have developed mentoring at-risk youth inside and outside of prison; completing numerous self-help and rehabilitative programs; and voluntarily participating in over 100 therapy sessions with licensed mental health professionals during the past nine years.

With the rising tide of gun violence around the country by the hands of troubled young men I believe it is imperative that we tirelessly work to combat the scourges of racism, misogyny, and toxic masculinity. We can ill-afford to wait for additional acts of senseless violence to ravage our communities using weapons of war before exploring sensible alternatives to help solve the problem.

Simply jailing offenders after they have committed crimes, coupled with ignoring their dignity and redemptive qualities, has proven a dismal failure to preventing criminality. It is a reactionary response after harm is inflicted on undeserving members of the community.

Preventing the infliction of harm to themselves and the community is more prosocial and sensible than trying to repair the wreckage of recklessness and destruction of its aftermath. Waiting for crime to happen before acting often proves too late.

If incarceration alone truly prevented crime we would have eradicated it long ago and be the safest country in the world. No nation in human history has imprisoned more of its citizens with the frequency and duration that we have. Though we are 5% of the world's total population we house nearly a staggering 25% of its incarcerated people.

A large number of troubled youth are impervious to guidance from counselors, members of law enforcement, and even their own parents. Many of them, however, will listen to incarcerated -- and formerly incarcerated men -- who share their lived experiences and have traveled through the same corridors of criminality.

Proactive evidence-based programs like YDPs are effective because youth are able to interact with prisoners who can share stories with them about the horrors of incarceration and the consequences of making poor choices. They can also offer them myriad reasons they should change the trajectory of their lives and open the door to transformation.

An abundance of research shows that intrinsic motivation is nearly always a more reliable driver and durable predictor of positive behavior than anything extrinsic. This is among one of the many reasons it is so important to reach and provide troubled youth with much needed identity, purpose, and direction before it's too late.

The vast majority of prisoners want to help heal their communities from the pain and devastation they once caused. This is evidenced by several formerly incarcerated friends of mine who were originally sentenced to life without parole who have subsequently been released and returned to their communities.

Today they are mentoring youth, gainfully employed, pursuing college degrees, feeding the homeless, and some are even working closely with law enforcement to help make their communities safer. These men are no longer the dangers to society they once posed as impetuous, reckless, risk-taking teenagers.

Each day they are proving that no one's life experiences can be reduced to a single story. Prisoners are no more defined by their greatest accomplishment than they are by their worst mistake. It is a culmination of their lived experiences that defines them. Not a snapshot in time.

Men like this can help you reach troubled youth and detour those headed in the wrong direction. They can also help them explore the possibility of new horizons through engagement and helping them develop critical thinking skills, impulse control, and the value of emotional intelligence and sound consequential thinking.

Formerly incarcerated citizens who have spent decades behind bars gain a deeper appreciation and respect for freedom and the sanctity of life. By carving out opportunities from hardships they learn, grow, and change during years of separation from society, and by engaging in deep introspection which helps transform them in profound ways. Rather than only learning to do less of the bad, they also learn to do more of the good.

According to Stacey Abrams, thought leader and author of "Lead from the Outside": "The best ideas and policies are typically collaborative and those that succeed are the product of a community." This wisdom can help rescue our troubled youth, heal our communities, and replace the specters of intolerance and wrath with compassion and second chances.

I am hopeful you will give thoughtful consideration to this proposal and/or share it with any agency in the county receptive to seeing it materialize. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. I am receptive to having a thoughtful dialogue with you. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Sincerely,


Efrén Paredes, Jr.
#203116
Lakeland Correctional Facility
141 First Street
Coldwater, MI 49036