Thursday, June 3, 2010

The Possibly Transformative Case of Lamont Reese

This may be just another of several million blog posts that go down the cyber drain hole every day. On the other hand, this may be the post that launches the next phase of the actual innocence movement. Please keep reading.

There are approximately 60 innocence projects in the US. In a good year, some of them may help free one, rarely two, factually innocent people from prison.

There are somewhere between 20,000 and 200,000 factually innocent people incarcerated in the US. I'm working to substantiate and narrow that order-of-magnitude estimate, but for now I'll simply submit it in good faith.

While I always caution users against attempting math without formal training, the point here is painfully obvious. Innocence Projects, noble and praiseworthy as they certainly are, cannot possibly handle the workload that awaits them. Check with any of them. They are swamped, overloaded, deluged, inundated, barraged, engulfed and overwhelmed while being underfunded, understaffed and under-appreciated.

We need a new model for investigating potential cases of wrongful convictions, for setting right what we have, as a society, done wrong.

At this point, I formally propose nothing. I have, however, been thinking about thousands (rather than dozens) of innocence projects, each representing a single individual (rather than a large region of the country), each sharing its experience, skill, and talent with the others via the internet.

I am entertaining the idea of an Army of Davids Innocence Network.

I adopt here Glenn Reynolds' concept of an Army of Davids. From the Amazon description, I excerpt the following explanation:
In Army of Davids, author Glenn Reynolds, the man behind the immensely popular, provides an in-depth, big-picture point-of-view for a world where the small guys matter more and more. Reynolds explores the birth and growth of the individual's surprisingly strong influence in: arts and entertainment, anti-terrorism, nanotech and space research, and much more.

"George Orwell feared that technology would enable dictators to enslave the masses. Glenn Reynolds shows that technology can empower individuals to determine their own futures and to defeat those who would enslave us." -- Michael Barone

"Blogger extraordinaire Glenn Reynolds shows how average Americans can use new technologies to overcome the twin demons of corporate greed and incompetent government. Reynolds is a compelling evangelist for the power of the individual to change our world." -- Ariana Huffington

"Glenn Reynolds is an engaging, uniquely qualified guide to the do-it-yourself movements transforming business, politics, and media." -- Virginia Postrel
From personal experience, I have reason to believe that an Army Of Davids approach to innocence project efforts can work. From that same experience, I know that such efforts are not for the faint of heart, the easily discouraged, or those equipped only with good intentions. And based on my experience, I fear both failure and success.

So rather than simply jumping in, I've decided to dip my toe.

Now finally, after all this time, I am ready to mention Lamont Reese, the subject of this post. And now that I have mentioned him, I won't be speaking much more of him, at least for now. That's because I hope to work through his case with you, the readers of this blog. I want to see if we can work together to investigate the case of Lamont Reese and, if appropriate, set right what we may have done wrong.

I'm giving you an opportunity to become directly involved in the work of identifying and freeing those we have wrongfully convicted. I am giving you the chance to join an Army of Davids, to be among the very first to enlist in a ragtag team of actual innocence foot soldiers.

The first step, assuming you wish to participate, is to review the paltry evidence available on the internet. Usually I summarize these cases for you, but this is actual innocence boot camp, and you must do this yourself. Should any of you decide to investigate and to prepare a cogent summary of why one might be concerned about this case, I will be pleased to post your summary here, on this blog, under your name if you wish to reveal it. Email your summary to

Once we have a decent overview of the case, we will decide whether it's worth pursuing further and, if so, what we might do next. For now, however, you are on your own. I offer but two links to get you started.

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