Ithaca College  »  FLEFF  »  Blogs  »  Deindustrialized Spaces  » 

Blogs

FLEFF
Next » « Previous

Posted by Thomas Shevory at 1:33PM   |  1 comment
Evidence

Thomas Shevory, Ithaca College

This posting is part of an occasional series on the Nushawn Williams case:

The Williams case is becoming increasingly interesting in legal terms.  For one thing, Nushawn now has a competent lawyer, John Nuchereno, who seems determined to provide a strong legal defense, for the first time really.  The case has been progressing along two tracks. Track one has been an attempt on the part of Mr. Nuchereno to have Nushawn’s guilty pleas excised  and initiate a new trial   Track two involves the civil confinement issue.  Let’s take a look at track one here:

The motion to withdraw Nushawn’s guilty pleas is based on two very important pieces of evidence or, more accurately, lack thereof.  First, no written document exists showing Nushawn Williams’ HIV test results, nor, second, that he was told of that he was HIV positive by public health authorities. Nushawn’s attorney, Richard Slater--at the time that his picture was being posted up around Chautauqua County and he was being characterized in the media as an “AIDS Monster”-- advised him to plead guilty. Slater traveled to New York City, where Nushawn was in prison for a cocaine charge, to tell him to take the guilty plea or end up in jail for decades, once found guilty by a Chautauqua County jury.   

At a hearing held on January 20th, it became clear that none of the documents that would have been presumably essential for a conviction at trial exists, and there’s no reason to believe, at this point, that they ever existed. Hence, it’s likely that the state had no proof that Nushawn was HIV positive when he was said to have infected several young women, and that the state had no proof that he knew that he was HIV positive at the time.

Nushawn has always denied the state’s claim that he was informed of his HIV status while in a Chautauqua County jail (after being held there for stealing a car.)  And it’s clear now that there is no evidence to support that claim.  On the other hand, given the atmosphere at the time, it’s unlikely that facts would have deterred a jury from finding him guilty of something particularly egregious, perhaps even attempted murder, as Rudy Guliani suggested.  Taking a guilty plea, with the hope of being released in as soon as four years, was, no doubt, given the circumstances, a rational course of action. 

Of course, it’s also not clear that the atmosphere is much different now.  For example, the lead of a recent news story described  Nushawn as, “The man who said he knowingly infected as many as 13 women with HIV[.]”  This statement is simply false.

District Attorney David Foley’s response to Nuchereno’s presentation was to argue that its timing was suspicious.   Nushawn, he argued, could have brought this claim before, but he is only doing so now because he is facing civil confinement.  Foley apparently produced no documentary evidence to address the defense claims. But apparently it wasn’t necessary.

Last Monday, the judge turned down the motion for withdrawing the plea.  Of course, this was the same judge that accepted the original guilty plea.  Perhaps a court at the appellate level will be more willing to consider whether there was, in fact, an injustice committed here.  


1 Comment

The presence of evidence in any conviction is paramount to an individual's trial. If the status of the availability of evidence changed, this could very much change the length that Nushawn is held in prison for. Regardless of whether Nushawn personally knew that he had HIV at the time of conviction, if there was no evidence that he was infected or knew of his infection, than he legal sentencing can be subject to review.

The manner in which the legal system works is much like the news media or documentary film. If there is no footage or tangible evidence for any given story than the story has no validity. For example, if one were to take under consideration the film "Darwin's Nightmare" there is considerable filmic evidence present to prove Sauper's case. The camera captured evidence of drug smuggling, children sniffing glue, the effect of Capitalistic endeavors in Tanzania, the prevalence of prostitution, and children living without parents. If Sauper were to make a film with no actual footage of any of these things happening, his film would have been much less credible, and therefore he would not have been widely recognized for his achievement. He would not have the tangible evidence that was needed to prove his case regarding the effect of the global-political economy on third world countries. Likewise, if there was no evidence that Nushawn had been infected with HIV at the time of his conviction, his case lacks validity, and deserves to be reexamined.



Next » « Previous

You can follow posts to this blog using the RSS 2.0 feed .

You can see all of the tags in this blog in the tag cloud.

This blog is powered by the Ithaca College Web Profile Manager.

Archives

more...