The Mail


The Mail

Letters from our readers.

Jailhouse School of Law

In 2011, I was sentenced to life without parole in New York State and am currently mounting a legal case to prove wrongful conviction. So I was heartened by Jennifer Gonnerman's article on Derrick Hamilton, a jailhouse lawyer who succeeded in getting his own conviction overturned after more than twenty years of effort ("Home Free," June 20th). It was my good fortune that Hamilton was the law clerk at the Auburn prison when I arrived. He taught me how to use the law library, how to obtain my legal certificate, and much more. Although I was not a member of his Actual Innocence Team, a group of prisoners who worked together to prove their innocence, I had many legal conversations with men who were. When Hamilton won his landmark case, People v. Hamilton, he established something that hadn't previously been recognized by the New York appellate courts: a free-standing claim of "actual innocence." This entitles some defendants who were convicted of a crime, if they have a plausible claim of innocence, to present evidence at a hearing. For those wrongfully convicted prisoners who can be exonerated by DNA evidence, organizations like the Innocence Project are a godsend. But many others rely on other forms of evidence or witness testimony presented after trial in order to prove their innocence. Thanks to Hamilton, many more wrongfully convicted prisoners in New York will now be able to use an actual-innocence claim to gain their freedom.

Michael Mosley

Auburn Correctional Facility

Auburn, N.Y.

Hamilton's story of resilience, courage, and determination was an inspiration. However, as a former public defender in Washington, D.C., and assistant federal public defender in Alabama, I was concerned that people might think that jailhouse lawyers are more successful than they actually are. …

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