Back in August 2010, the Second Circuit issued an amazing opinion in the habeas case of Friedman v. Rehal. In the opinion, the court denied habeas relief, but took the nearly unprecedented step of requesting that the DA's office conduct a reinvestigation of the case because "[t]he record here suggests 'a reasonable likelihood' that Jesse Friedman was wrongfully convicted." Shortly thereafter, the DA's office announced that it would.
The opinion knocked my socks off. I wrote multiple posts about the decision and the reinvestigation (1, 2, 3, 4, 5 -- read number 4 if you want to get a flavor of my excitement at the time). I even wrote an article about it. It was fantastic stuff. I described it as a "once-in-a-blue-moon PPL* intersection in habeasland. *What is PPL? P=pop culture; P=politics; L=law -- three of my favorite things." The pop culture aspect of it was the "Capturing the Friedmans" documentary that set the whole habeas case in motion. The politics was the fact that the DA who ordered the reinvestigation was running for higher office (she lost). The law part is obvious.
Last Sunday, the New York Times had a really interesting article about the status of the reinvestigation. Sounds as if a lot of favorable evidence has been found, mostly in the form of recantations. And it sounds like the Panel that was formed by the DA's office to review the case is going to issue its conclusions in the near future.
I did a search of the internets and it turns out that the story has been all over the news lately (including a Village Voice cover story) in anticipation of the report. Reading between the lines of the statements from the DA's office in the Times article, I am thinking that the DA's office is not going to agree to vacate the case on its own. That won't be the end of the story, but it will mean that Friedman will have to fight it out in court if he wants to get the conviction vacated.
One thing I discuss in my article about the case is whether it's a good thing overall to have the DA's office conduct a reinvestigation of one of its own cases. I will wait until the report is issued to make an assessment of that question in this particular case. It sounds as if Friedman's attorneys and supporters did not just rely on the DA's reinvestigation, but continued their own investigation. That is not always going to be possible for the defense. It was also not clear from the article (or else I can't quite remember) if some of the more improtant recantations were found by the prosecution or the defense. Hopefully, the report will make that clear. Looking forward to reading it.
In the meantime, here was Friedman's attorneys July 2012 submission to the reinvestigation Review Panel.