Rape Exonerations: The Number Grows

Arrested for a crime? Surely with good reason.

Convicted and jailed? Most certainly guilty. 

At least, that's what most Americans once believed.

But the last 30 years have challenged those assumptions; forced us to acknowledge mistakes are made, innocent people imprisoned - and sometimes even freed - by the irrefutable evidence of DNA.The Innocence Project lists nearly 350 DNA exonerations.  Among them: Rodney Roberts of Newark.

On this two-part edition of "Due Process": the growing phenomenon of DNA rape exoneration - but only after an average 14 years in prison.

We tell Roberts' harrowing story, including his 10 years of forced post-prison civil commitment, then explore the need for meaningful reform with Rutgers Law Prof. Laura Cohen and John Jay Psychologist Dr. Matthew Johnson.

Next week, in Part II, we delve deeper into the abuses of civil commitment in New Jersey, which has put 2,000 men thought to be sexual predators into an extra-judicial lockup that may last their whole lives.

Civil Commitment

It's imprisonment reserved for just one type of offender - with no set sentence and no guarantee of release.

And, right now, here in New Jersey, there are nearly 500 men, who've already served their time ... but remain locked up ... because the State deems them too dangerous to release.

It's called Civil Commitment and the state says it's a treatment program, but the residents call it a prison. 

And Rodney Roberts, for 10 years, was one of them.

If you were with us last week, you saw Rodney's story: A guilty plea born of fear, a maxed out sentence of 7 years - and on the day of release, not a ride home, but a surprise transfer - to civil commitment.  He would be held there, as an incorrigible violent sex offender, for a full decade - although it would later be proven that he had been innocent from the start.

On Part II of our series on the tragedy of wrongful rape convictions, Rodney reveals the truth about civil commitment - and the 10 years he lost to it.  Joining him in the Rutgers Law moot courtroom: Professor Jenny-Brooke Condon, director of Seton Hall Law School's Equal Justice Clinic, which sued the state on behalf of the hundreds locked up, indefinitely ... In civil commitment.

It's a "Due a Process" that will open your eyes - and break your heart.  The kind of TV you won't see elsewhere.  

Community Court: A Kinder, Gentler Way?

Imagine a judge who scolds and chides as if she were your mother; offers help with your problems and applauds your success.


She's Victoria Pratt, presiding in Newark's Community Court, sometimes called the "social work court."


It's part of what's called "procedural justice, " a new, more creative, more effective way of dealing with low level repeat offenders.


Here, there's help with addiction, with housing, with employment - for those who are ready to receive it.


A possible way out of crime, without the punishment; a new way of seeing the role of the court - with a whole new kind of judge.


Featuring Judge Victoria Pratt and Rutgers Criminal Justice Prof. Todd Clear, author of "The Punishment Imperative."

Marijuana: A Country Divided

Marijuana: It’s one of the issues that divides America.


Eight states have now voted to make marijuana legal, but the federal government still classifies pot as a Schedule I drug, like heroin or LSD.


Will the Trump Administration - and its attorney general, who is ardently anti-marijuana - target legalization? 


Sandra King with guests Zeke Edwards of the ACLU and Diane Litterer of NJ Prevention Network.

From Harlem to Harvard

Khalil Gibran Muhammad, scholar, author and great-grandson of Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad.  He earned his PhD at Rutgers, but his national reputation at New York's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.


Now, after five years as president of the prestigious Schomburg, Muhammad - author of the prize-winning "Condemnation of Blackness: Race, Crime and the Making of Modern Urban America" - is returning to the academic life as a tenured professor at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.


So, on this edition of "Due Process," we reprise my wide-ranging interview with Khalil.  Our talk runs the gamut from the historic criminalization of black men to the modern bias in urban policing, from the legacy of his great-grandfather to the need for ongoing reform.


If you missed it the first time around, you'll want to join me for this one.


Thanks for watching!

Ebony and Ivy

After a school year filled with black protest on campus, Princeton issued its decision: Woodrow Wilson's name would remain in its place of honor.


Although the students and their faculty supporters had documented the virulent anti-black, pro-Klan positions taken by Wilson as President of Princeton and, later, of the United States, the student demands have been largely rejected.


So what better time to welcome MIT Professor Craig Steven Wilder, author of "Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities," to "Due Process?"


Years of seminal research into the centuries-long links between slavery and the American Academy, links whose effects are felt still, led to his important, award-winning book.


On this edition of "Due Process," Wilder reveals the extent of academic complicity in this country's shameful past - placing the Princeton demands in historical perspective.


It's a "Due Process" you won't want to miss.

The Body Cam

Video images are powerful.  Just this week, a woman's quick use of her cell phone recorded the fatal shooting of her boyfriend - by a Minnesota cop - and launched yet another national outcry.


But cell phones are no longer the only cameras recording interaction between citizens and police.


The body worn camera, too, is increasingly on the scene; attached to an officer's chest, providing video evidence of stops, searches, arrests and more.


Advocates say it promotes greater accountability.  Police say it protects them from false accusations.  Civil liberties groups say the cameras are only as good as the rules that control them.


On this week's Due Process: getting the full picture of the body cam, from the street and in the studio.  Guests include: Udi Ofer of the ACLU-NJ, Essex Sheriff Armando FontouraState Sen. Linda Greenstein, Rutgers Law Dean Ron Chen and Ryan Haygood of the NJ Institute for Social Justice.

Peter Harvey: Monitoring Newark Police

In 1967, Newark exploded in a rebellion fueled by generations of neglect and abuse, inequality and bias - and none of it more corrosive than the racism and violence of those paid to enforce and protect.


So unmet demands for reform of Newark police go back more than half a century.  But, at last, a devastating Justice Department report and court-approved consent decree have led to the advent of a federal monitor.


He's former New Jersey Attorney General Peter Harvey, who once took on racial profiling at the State Police.  Now, he faces a task at least as tough.


Harvey sits down with Sandy King for a candid in-depth interview, his first since his appointment.

Three Strikes Revisited

I first met Kevin Paulk 16 years ago in Trenton State Prison, where he'd been imprisoned under New Jersey's Three Strikes Law.  He's still there, and is likely to remain for the rest of his life - for three holdups with a toy gun.

On this edition of Due Process, I return to Trenton and find Paulk still hoping someone will realize his sentence is more severe than that drawn by most convicted murderers.

The Three Strikes Law: an effective deterrent, or a draconian tough-on-crime mistake?

Please join me for our chilling conversation inside a maximum security lockup - and a spirited studio debate between Public Defender Jennifer Sellitti and former Morris County Prosecutor Bob Bianchi.

Frank Askin: A People's Prof

A fond farewell to teaching rarely brings kudos from the nation's highest court. But Frank Askin, though he's leaving the Rutgers Law classroom after half a century, is no retiring professor.  So among the tributes as he leaves teaching: a warm public sendoff from old friend and colleague Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.


On this week's edition of Due Process: A video profile and studio conversation with the dean of New Jersey's civil rights bar and long-serving general counsel of the national ACLU.  


Frank's passion for fairness - and his lengthy FBI file, earned during years of fighting for racial justice - came long before he thought he'd be a lawyer.  Still he's leaving his mark on New Jersey law, on how law is taught throughout the country, and on 50 years of students he inspired.

SCOTUS Update 2016

The death of a justice, an empty seat so, now, it's an eight-member Court.  And, despite the President's push to fill the chair long held by Antonin Scalia, a recalcitrant Republic Senate seems determined to keep the number at eight for the rest of this term - and in to the next.


So there's new attention on a philosophically divided court, where eight has already tended - no surprise - to split four-four.

Still at stake: critical questions of abortion and affirmative action, immigration and Obamacare.


On this edition of Due Process, our annual Supreme Court update.  And, as always, when we want the inside story of what's happening at The Court, we turn to Court expert, Steve Shapiro, national legal director of the ACLU, for what it all means.


This year more than ever, it's a Due Process you won't want to miss!

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