• Earlier this week, a Connecticut judge overturned the conviction of Michael Skakel, a nephew of Ethel Kennedy, who was convicted in 2002 of murdering a young women named Martha Moxley in 1975. Skakel deserves a new trial, the state judge concluded, because his trial lawyer, Mickey Sherman, had failed to provide him with adequate representation. Here is the link to the lengthy court order.

  • WASHINGTON, DC - On Thursday, October 24, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) will host its 17th annual Frederick Douglass Awards Dinner, the signature fundraiser of the Atlanta based organization. As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 50th anniversary of the landmark decision Gideon v. Wainwright, SCHR is pleased to present the 2013 Frederick Douglass Human Rights and Equal Justice Awards.

  • With images from courtroom sketch artists on the evening news in mind, many laypersons must be surprised when they discover the prevalence of television cameras and other media in and around Georgia courtrooms.  Unsuspecting jurors summoned to the courthouse no doubt are concerned about maintaining their privacy and anonymity.  Many likely assume publicity hungry lawyers and judges encourage such intrusions.  The reason instead is that Georgia has embraced a policy of openness and transparency in all branches of government, including the judiciary.  

  • A southwest Georgia county has been collecting unauthorized court costs from hundreds of criminal defendants, many of whom are poor and unable to afford their own lawyers, a federal lawsuit alleges.

    The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Albany, seeks to stop Grady County State Court from collecting “administrative costs” from defendants without any legal basis to do so. In 2011 and 2012, the county illegally collected almost $297,000 from about 540 defendants, the suit said.

  • The Southern Center for Human Rights on Wednesday filed a federal lawsuit accusing the state of negligence in the murder of Damion MacClain.

    MacClain was an inmate at Hays State Prison, a high-security facility in northwest Georgia. The lawsuit, filed on behalf of his mother, accuses the state of knowing for years that security at Hays had deteriorated to “unconstitutional levels” where cell door locks didn’t work or were easily defeated, allowing some of Georgia’s most violent prisoners to roam free at night.

  • The mother of one of four prisoners killed at Hays State Prison in Trion, Ga., wants corrections officials held accountable for ignoring a "crisis in security" that her attorneys say led to her son's death.

    The Southern Center for Human Rights, on behalf of RoHonda MacClain, filed a civil rights lawsuit Wednesday against eight Department of Corrections officials, from state corrections Commissioner Brian Owens to former Hays Warden Clay Tatum and the two guards on shift when 27-year-old Damion MacClain was slain in December 2012.

  • The Southern Center for Human Rights is quite the bane of the Georgia Department of Corrections existence. They’ve managed to do a good job of thwarting Georgia’s executions by lethal injection, and today they’ve filed a lawsuit on behalf of a mother whose son was killed while an inmate at Hayes State Prison. Damion MacClain was one of four inmates murdered over a seven week period. The lawsuit alleges negligence.

  • A DeKalb County judge said he removed a sign that barred children from his courtroom after the state judicial disciplinary agency alerted him to its presence.

  • A Fulton County Superior Court judge this week issued a standing order barring anyone from posting signs that would restrict entry to his courtroom, threatening to punish violators with contempt.

    Judge Christopher Brasher's order followed a warning last week from the county court administrator that the state Judicial Qualifications Commission had launched ethics investigations of judges who had posted signs on their courtroom doors that restricted public access.

  • Troubled by reports that judges are barring members of the public from courtrooms across the state, the Judicial Qualifications Commission on Wednesday declared that, except in rare circumstances, public access to Georgia courtrooms shall be “unfettered and unobstructed.”