At 11 this morning, a law student from Chicago named Lauren Kaeseberg will be standing alongside Barry Scheck -- and other attorneys with The Innocence Project -- in the court of Judge Robert Francis. They will be presenting new evidence in an exoneration hearing in the case of James Curtis Giles.
Along with two other men, Giles was convicted in 1982 of a gang rape and sentenced to 30 years in prison. The Innocence Project's team, including Kaeseberg, determined through DNA testing that another man named James Giles -- James Earl "Quack" Giles -- was the true culprit. They, along with lawyers from the Dallas County District Attorney's Office, will present evidence asking for the exoneration of Giles. The victim is in favor of Giles' exoneration.
The hearing will bring the number of men exonerated by DNA in Dallas County to 13. So far, Dallas has the highest rate in the country.
Kaeseberg, who will graduate from Cardoza Law School this May, worked on the Giles case for months. "What stands out to me about the Giles case was the real perpetrators were right under everybody's nose the whole time," Kaeseberg tells Unfair Park.
Giles was convicted along with Stanley Gay Bryant and Michael Anthony Brown. Kaeseberg says Bryant fled Dallas after the savage attack on a pregnant woman and gave Indianapolis police a statement at the request of Dallas police. "He gave a statement that pointed directly to James and Michael, and gave all this information, phone numbers, where they lived," Kaeseberg says. "That statement was never turned over to James Curtis Giles' defense team. It could have showed they had the wrong guy and have led directly to the people who did it."
Last summer Kaeseberg came to Dallas with Vanessa Potkin, one of the lawyers involved with the Innocence Project. "It was a great experience for me as a law student," she says. "We found and interviewed witnesses and prepared affidavits. It was a really interesting hands-on experience that doesn't come along too often for a law student."
But the best thing was meeting the client -- Giles, who was out on parole. "Most of our clients are incarcerated," Kaeseberg says. "I'm really excited about being there on Monday."
Kaeseberg says they still don't know how the statement incriminating the real Giles as perpetrator didn't surface during the trial.
"My understanding is that that the Dallas police were investigating the crime," she says. "There was some inner communication that indicates they knew about the statement." But it was never turned over to Giles' defense attorneys.
Now a teaching assistant, Kaeseberg has seen the Giles case progress over two years. She's noticed a new attitude at the district attorney's office under District Asttorney Craig Watkins.
"From a law student perspective, it's great to see the prosecutors are doing the right thing and able to give James the justice he deserves," Kaeseberg says.
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When she graduates, Kaeseberg will be going to work for The Innocence Project in New Orleans, which handles "DNA-plus" cases in which other evidence may figure more heavily than DNA. "Previously all the cases I had worked on were straight-up DNA," she says.
Meanwhile, the man she helped exonerate will be going to Austin on Tuesday to testify with three other "exonerees." James Waller of Dallas, Chris Ochoa, exonerated in Austin, and Brandon Moon, exonerated in El Paso, will join Giles to support three bills designed to improve the criminal justice system statewide.
Eric Ferraro, communications director for The Innocence Project, says they will testify in support of three bills: SB 263, which would create an Innocence Commission to investigate the causes of wrongful convictions and develop remedies to prevent them; SB 162, which would increase the amount of compensation for people who have been wrongfully convicted; and SB 799, which would enhance eyewitness identification procedures.
Law students at Texas Wesleyan have signed on to investigate hundreds of other cases tried in Dallas County in which DNA testing has been requested. They will have their hands full. --Glenna Whitley