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When a Witness Recants: Legal and Ethical Duties Arising from Wrongful Convictions

January 26, 2022 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
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In her recent New Yorker article, staff writer Jennifer Gonnerman wrote about a criminal case from Baltimore in which a 14-year-old provided eyewitness testimony in a murder trial resulting in the convictions of three innocent boys. Thirty-six years later, the witness recanted.

Join us for a conversation with the writer and legal experts to discuss the legal and ethical issues that arise when a witness recants. What safeguards could prevent such a situation from happening in the first place? How can prosecutors better ensure the integrity of convictions? How should the court system deal with recantations by a trial witness whose testimony was essential to the conviction? 

This event is sponsored by the Stanford Criminal Justice Center, the Stanford Center on the Legal Profession, and the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society.

Public virtual event. RSVP.


Darwin Crabtree, exoneree, Northern CA Innocence Project

In 1991, Darwin Crabtree was convicted of sexually molesting his two sons who were 12 and 8 at the time of his trial. In 2008, the sons, now adults, recanted their testimony and apologized to their father for what they had done when they were too young to understand the consequences. By that time, Crabtree had been tried, convicted, served his sentence, and completed his parole. Crabtree served over 9 years in prison, was released in 2001, and finished parole in 2004. In September of 2017, with evidence of the sons’ recantations, NCIP filed a motion to vacate Crabtree’s conviction in the Butte County Superior court. On January 17, 2018 Crabtree’s 1991 conviction was vacated by the Butte County Superior Court and the District Attorney dismissed all charges.

Jennifer Gonnerman, staff writer, The New Yorker

Jennifer Gonnerman has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 2015. Her first piece for the magazine, “Before the Law,” documented the story of Kalief Browder, a teenager who spent three years on Rikers Island without being convicted of a crime. The story was a finalist for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in feature writing. Jennifer has also written for the magazine about the Philadelphia district attorney’s struggle to remake his office; the efforts of a jailhouse lawyer in New York to free innocent people from prison; and the impact of corrupt police officers on the residents of a housing project in Chicago. Her first book, Life on the Outside: The Prison Odyssey of Elaine Bartlett, chronicled the homecoming of a woman who spent sixteen years in prison for a first-time drug offense under the notorious Rockefeller drug laws. The book was a finalist for the 2004 National Book Award and helped persuade New York legislators to rewrite the state’s drug laws.

Marilyn J. Mosby, Baltimore City State's Attorney

Marilyn J. Mosby is the 25th State’s Attorney for Baltimore City. She was the youngest chief prosecutor of any major American city at the time of her election in 2015. A first-generation college graduate, State's Attorney Mosby earned her Bachelor's degree from Tuskegee University and her J.D. from Boston College Law School . State's Attorney Mosby's passion has always been to effectuate change by driving a more just, efficient, and fair criminal justice system. Her Conviction Integrity Unit has successfully exonerated nine wrongfully-incarcerated men since she took office. She is a member of the Association for Prosecuting Attorney's (APA), and was an integral contributor to the APA's reform proposals provided in the 21st Century Principles of Prosecution of Peace Officers.

Lauren Lipscomb, Deputy State's Attorney, Baltimore City State's Attorney's Office

Lauren Lipscomb is Deputy State’s Attorney within the Baltimore City State’s Attorney’s Office. Within this role, she oversees the office’s most progressive units, including the Conviction Integrity Unit, Public Trust and Police Integrity Unit, Sentencing Review Unit, Evidence Review Unit, Investigations Unit, and Economic Crimes Unit. In an effort to broaden the awareness and collaboration around conviction integrity work in Maryland, Lauren founded the MD Conviction Integrity Working Group whose inaugural meeting was held in November. The effort has brought together three Maryland jurisdictions as well as technical advising funded through the Bureau of Justice Affairs and participation by the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project who all work toward a common goal of further developing the prosecution area of conviction integrity. Lauren also currently serves on the Peer Review Committee for the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission.

Linda Starr, Exec Director, Northern CA Innocence Project

Linda Starr is the co-founder and Executive and Legal Director of the Northern California Innocence Project (NCIP) and clinical professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law, where she oversees all of NCIP’s advocacy efforts, including litigation and legislative efforts. She also teaches the NCIP clinical course. Under her leadership, NCIP has celebrated 33 victories and educated over 800 law students. Before co-founding NCIP in 2001, Starr had her own indigent post-conviction practice. She clerked for the California Court of Appeal and worked as an assistant district attorney in the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office handling post-conviction matters and as a supervising attorney in the Sex Crimes and Special Victims Bureau. Starr received her J.D. from the University of Southern California Law Center.


Lawrence Marshall, Professor of Law, Stanford Law School

Lawrence Marshall has been widely recognized for his lawyering, activism and teaching. Much of his scholarly and legal work has focused on issues surrounding legal ethics, appellate practice, criminal law, wrongful convictions and application of the death penalty. Marshall is a recognized expert in Legal Ethics and Professional Responsibility, a field in which he has researched and taught for more than two decades. He has frequently served as an expert consultant and witness on an array of matters pertaining to lawyers’ responsibilities. He has an active pro bono practice through which he represents individuals in criminal appeals and post-conviction proceedings.  He is a recipient of the American Bar Association’s prestigious Pro Bono Publico Award, as well as awards from many other organizations.

Public virtual event. RSVP.

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