News


 

 May 31, 2018

FEDERAL JUDGE FREES LOUISIANA PRISONER CONVICTED BY NON-UNANIMOUS JURY IN 2003

Work by SMU Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center leads to Troy Rhodes’s release to transitional reentry housing before retrial

 

Today, U.S. District Judge Jane Triche-Milazzo ordered the State of Louisiana to release Troy Rhodes from prison. In 2003, a non-unanimous jury voted 10-2 to convict Mr. Rhodes of armed robbery and attempted second-degree murder. Judge Triche-Milazzo had previously ruled that Rhodes had not received the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
 
Rhodes was thankful for a second chance at justice and the opportunity to spend time with his wife, children and grandchildren. “I’ve been looking forward to this day for a long time,” he said. “I thank God for this decision. I know it’s not over yet, but this is in the Lord’s hands.”
 
The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law has been working on the case and petitioned for Rhodes’s release.
 
“We’re grateful for the judge’s decision,” said Professor Pamela R. Metzger, Director of the SMU Deason Center. “We believe this decision, along with recent steps taken by the
Louisiana legislature, show the promise of criminal justice reform.”
 
Earlier this month, the Louisiana House of Representatives voted 82-15 to place a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot and let voters decide the fate of a law that allows juries to return non-unanimous verdicts in felony trials. The Louisiana Senate passed a similar bill in early April.
 
Rhodes has been released to The First 72+, a New Orleans nonprofit that helps formerly incarcerated people reacclimate to their new lives outside of prison. The SMU Deason Center will continue to handle legal matters pertaining to Rhodes’s case.
 


May 24, 2018

Statement from Pamela Metzger, Director of SMU’s Deason Center for Criminal Justice Reform, Regarding the Sterling Brown Video
 

 The Deason Center for Criminal Justice Reform at SMU Dedman School of Law supports our friend and fellow SMU Mustang, Sterling Brown, in his quest for justice and change. The video of Sterling being verbally and physical abused, and subjected to a stun gun over a parking violation depicts the ugly reality of racial bias and discrimination that can exist in law enforcement.

Incidents like this one breach the trust between police and their communities.  They also tarnish the reputations of the many brave and honorable police officers, across the country, who serve their communities with dignity and fairness and in pursuit of equal justice for all. The Deason Center is committed to disrupting broken systems in criminal justice and engineering constructive new policies that restore justice, balance and compassion to law enforcement and criminal justice.
 
We proudly stand behind Sterling Brown and support him in his pursuit of justice and change.
 


May 1, 2018

SMU Dedman Law Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center Seeking Prisoner Release After Federal Judge Overturns Conviction

Case highlights importance of quality public defense and need to address Louisiana’s controversial rule permitting conviction by non-unanimous jury vote 

 

 (DALLAS) Today, the Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law announced that it is seeking the release of Troy Rhodes in a case that amplifies the need for justice reform. In 2003, a non-unanimous jury voted 10 to 2 to convict Mr. Rhodes of armed robbery and attempted second-degree murder, based largely on the testimony of a single eyewitness.  Last month, a federal judge ruled that Mr. Rhodes had not received the effective assistance of counsel guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment.
 
“This case is emblematic of why a well-funded public defense system is essential,” said  Pamela R. Metzger, Inaugural Director of the Deason Center and Professor Law at SMU Dedman School of Law. “All defendants should have representation from an attorney who performs their job effectively under the law.”  Read more.
 


April 2018

SMU DEDMAN LAW DEASON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM CENTER LAUNCHES PROSECUTORIAL CHARGING PRACTICES RESEARCH PROJECT  

Nation’s leading criminal justice researchers partner for the Center’s first data-driven research initiative
 

  • April 16, 2018: Featured in American Association of Law Schools LEGAL EDUCATION IN THE NEWS
  • April 6, 2018: DALLAS (SMU) – The Deason Criminal Justice Reform Center at SMU Dedman School of Law is partnering with some of the nation’s leading criminal justice researchers to conduct the Prosecutorial Charging Practices Project, the Center’s first data-driven criminal justice research project. READ MORE.

February 21, 2018
Dallas Morning News

NON-VIOLENT DRUG SENTENCING HAS LEFT THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE BURIED ALIVE IN PRISON

Dallas attorney Brittany K. Barnett is best known for her work representing clients pro bono in their quest to break free from disproportionate sentencing. She has won the release of 10 people, including Sharanda Jones, a Terrell woman who served more than 16 years of a life without parole sentence as a first-time nonviolent drug offender. Barnett has just launched the Buried Alive Project, aimed at eliminating life without parole for federal drug offenses.

A lot of Americans remember the Obama administration's clemency initiative and believe that corrected out-of-proportion federal drug sentences.  What's the real story and why have you stayed involved?

Over 30,000 men and women in federal prison applied for clemency, and President Barack Obama granted clemency to 1,715 people [including Jones]. Thousands of people who are just as deserving of a second chance were left behind. Of the 185,000 people in federal prison today, 46.2 percent of them are there for drug offenses. Nearly half of the people in federal prison serving life without parole are serving this fundamental death sentence for drug offenses and 80 percent of them are people of color. READ MORE.

Feb. 22, 2017

NOTED LEGAL ADVOCATE, SCHOLAR TO LEAD SMU DEDMAN LAW’S DEASON FAMILY CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM CENTER

DALLAS (SMU) – Nationally respected criminal justice scholar Pamela R. Metzger has been named director of SMU Dedman School of Law’s new Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center.

Beginning July 1 Metzger will oversee the new center’s independent research and its development of educational opportunities focused on issues ranging from wrongful convictions to over-incarceration. The overarching goal of the Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center will be to promote the fair, ethical and compassionate treatment of people involved in every stage of the criminal justice process. READ MORE.

April 21, 2016

SMU ANNOUNCES DEASON FAMILY CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM CENTER IN DEDMAN SCHOOL OF LAW  

New center, supported by $7 million in gifts, to conduct innovative research and educational programs to address need for reforms in US criminal justice system

DALLAS (SMU) – SMU is launching the new Deason Family Criminal Justice Reform Center in its Dedman School of Law, where scholars will undertake independent research and develop educational opportunities on topics such as the causes of wrongful convictions and over-incarceration, and ensuring the fair and ethical treatment of individuals at all stages of the criminal justice process. READ MORE.