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Ronald Sullivan: How I help free innocent people from prison

Ronald Sullivan: Como ajudo a libertar pessoas inocentes da prisão

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O professor de direito de Harvard, Ronald Sullivan, luta para libertar pessoas injustamente condenadas da prisão. Libertou cerca de 6 mil pessoas inocentes ao longo da carreira dele. Compartilha histórias desoladoras de como (e por que) as pessoas acabam sendo presas por algo que não fizeram, e as consequências na vida dela e na dos outros. Assista a esta palestra fundamental sobre o dever que todos nós temos de tornar o mundo um pouco mais justo todos os dias, por qualquer meio que pudermos.

- Clinical professor of law
Ronald Sullivan is a leading theorist in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, trial practice and techniques, legal ethics and race theory. Full bio

00:12
So, imagine that you take
a 19-hour, very long drive
Imagine que você faz
uma viagem de 19 horas,
muito longa, a Disney World,
00:20
to Disney World,
com duas crianças no banco de trás.
00:21
with two kids in the back seat.
A cada 15 minutos
desta viagem de 19 horas,
00:24
And 15 minutes into this 19-hour trip,
as leis imutáveis da natureza
estabelecem a você a pergunta:
00:30
the immutable laws of nature dictate
00:33
that you get the question:
"Já chegamos?"
00:35
"Are we there yet?"
(Risos)
00:36
(Laughter)
Você responde a esta pergunta
mais centenas de vezes, facilmente,
00:38
So you answer this question
a hundred more times, easily,
de forma negativa,
00:42
in the negative,
mas finalmente chega lá.
00:43
but you finally arrive.
Faz uma viagem maravilhosa.
00:44
You have a wonderful,
wonderful, wonderful trip.
Dirige por 19 longas horas
de volta para casa.
00:47
You drive 19 long hours back home.
Quando chega lá, a polícia
está esperando por você.
00:53
And when you get there,
00:55
the police are waiting on you.
Acusam você de haver cometido um crime
ocorrido enquanto você estava na Flórida.
00:57
They accuse you of committing a crime
00:59
that occurred while you
were away in Florida.
Você conta a qualquer um
e a todos que queiram ouvir:
01:03
You tell anybody and everybody
who will listen,
"Eu não fiz isso!
01:06
"I didn't do it!
Não poderia ter feito!
01:08
I couldn't have done it!
Estava com Mickey, Minnie e meus filhos!"
01:10
I was hanging out with Mickey
and Minnie and my kids!"
Mas ninguém acredita em você.
01:14
But no one believes you.
No final, você é preso,
01:17
Ultimately, you're arrested,
julgado,
01:19
you're tried,
condenado
01:21
you're convicted
e sentenciado.
01:22
and you are sentenced.
E passa 25 anos na cadeia,
01:24
And you spend 25 years in jail,
até que alguém apareça e prove,
01:28
until someone comes along and proves --
tenha a evidência para provar
que você estava mesmo na Flórida
01:33
has the evidence to prove --
01:35
that you actually were in Florida
quando este crime foi cometido.
01:38
when this crime was committed.
Então...
01:41
So.
Sou professor de direito de Harvard
01:43
So, I'm a Harvard Law professor,
01:45
and the last several years,
I have worked on
e, nos últimos anos, tenho trabalhado
para conseguir a libertação
de pessoas inocentes
01:50
winning the release of innocent people
que foram injustamente condenadas,
01:53
who've been wrongfully convicted --
pessoas como Jonathan Fleming,
01:56
people like Jonathan Fleming,
que passou 24 anos e 8 meses na prisão
01:58
who spent 24 years, eight months in jail
por um assassinato cometido
no Brooklyn, em Nova York,
02:02
for a murder that was committed
in Brooklyn, New York,
enquanto ele estava
em Disney World com seus filhos.
02:05
while he was in Disney World
02:09
with his kids.
Como sabemos disso?
02:11
How do we know this?
Porque, quando ele foi preso,
02:12
Because when he was arrested,
entre seus pertences, no bolso de trás,
02:15
among his property in his back pocket
havia um recibo,
02:18
was a receipt --
recibo com data e hora, mostrando
que ele estava em Disney World.
02:21
time-stamped receipt
02:22
that showed that he was in Disney World.
Esse recibo foi colocado
no arquivo da polícia,
02:26
That receipt was put in the police file,
uma cópia foi colocada
no processo do promotor,
02:29
a copy of it was put
in the prosecutor's file,
e nunca foi entregue ao defensor público.
02:32
and they never gave it
to his public defender.
Na verdade, ninguém sabia
que estava lá, onde ficou por 20 anos.
02:35
In fact, nobody even knew it was there.
02:37
It just sat there for 20-some-odd years.
Minha equipe examinou
o arquivo, encontrou o recibo,
02:40
My team looked through the file,
and we found it,
completou a investigação, e descobriu
que outra pessoa havia cometido o crime.
02:45
did the rest of the investigation,
02:47
and figured out someone else
committed the crime.
O sr. Fleming estava
em Disney World, e agora está livre.
02:49
Mr. Fleming was in Disney World,
02:52
and he is now released.
02:55
Let me give you a little bit of context.
Darei a vocês um pouco de contexto.
Há cerca de três anos, recebi uma ligação
do promotor de justiça do Brooklyn.
02:57
So about three years ago, I got a call
from the Brooklyn District Attorney.
Ele perguntou se eu estaria
interessado em criar um programa
03:01
He asked whether I'd be interested
in designing a program
chamado "unidade
de revisão de condenação".
03:06
called a "conviction review unit."
03:08
So I said yes.
Respondi que estava.
Uma unidade de revisão de condenação
é uma unidade do Ministério Público
03:09
A conviction review unit is essentially
a unit in a prosecutor's office
onde os promotores
analisam seus casos passados
03:14
where prosecutors look at their past cases
para determinar se cometeram erros ou não.
03:17
to determine whether or not
they made mistakes.
Ao longo do primeiro ano, encontramos
cerca de 13 condenações erradas,
03:20
Over the course of the first year,
03:22
we found about 13 wrongful convictions,
pessoas presas havia décadas,
03:25
people having been in jail for decades,
e libertamos todas elas.
03:28
and we released all of them.
Foi a maior da história de Nova York.
03:29
It was the most in New York history.
O programa continua em andamento,
e libertou 21 pessoas até o momento,
03:32
The program is still going on,
03:34
and they're up to 21 releases now --
21 pessoas que passaram um tempo
significativo de vida atrás das grades.
03:37
21 people who spent
significant time behind bars.
03:42
So let me tell you about a couple other
of the men and women
Contarei a vocês sobre algumas pessoas
com quem interagi
no decorrer deste programa.
03:47
that I interacted with
in the course of this program.
Um deles é Roger Logan.
03:51
One name is Roger Logan.
O sr. Logan esteve preso por 17 anos
03:54
Mr. Logan had been in jail 17 years
e me escreveu uma carta.
03:57
and wrote me a letter.
Era uma carta simples, que dizia:
03:58
It was a simple letter; it basically said,
"Professor Sullivan, sou inocente.
04:00
"Professor Sullivan, I'm innocent.
I've been framed.
Fui incriminado.
Pode examinar meu caso?"
04:04
Can you look at my case?"
À primeira vista, o caso parecia evidente,
04:06
At first blush, the case seemed
like it was open and shut,
mas minha pesquisa mostrava
04:09
but my research had shown
que os casos de identificação
por uma única testemunha
04:12
that single-witness identification cases
estão propensos a erros.
04:15
are prone to error.
Não significa que ele era inocente,
04:17
It doesn't mean he was innocent,
significa apenas que devemos olhar
esses casos um pouco mais de perto.
04:19
it just means we ought to look
a little bit closer at those cases.
Foi o que fizemos.
04:22
So we did.
Os fatos eram relativamente simples.
04:23
And the facts were relatively simple.
A testemunha ocular
disse que ouviu um tiro,
04:25
The eyewitness said she heard a shot,
correu para o prédio vizinho, virou-se,
olhou e lá estava o sr. Logan.
04:29
and she ran to the next building
and turned around and looked,
04:32
and there was Mr. Logan.
Ele foi julgado, condenado
e preso por 17 anos.
04:34
And he was tried and convicted
and in jail for 17-some-odd years.
Examinamos esse caso
de testemunha única.
04:38
But it was a single-witness case,
so we took a look at it.
Enviei algumas pessoas à cena
do crime, e havia uma inconsistência.
04:41
I sent some people to the scene,
and there was an inconsistency.
04:44
And to put it politely:
Com todo o respeito,
Usain Bolt não poderia ter corrido
de onde ela disse que estava
04:49
Usain Bolt couldn't have run
from where she said she was
para o outro local.
04:53
to the other spot.
Certo?
04:54
Right?
04:55
So we knew that wasn't true.
Sabíamos, então, que não era verdade.
Não significava
que ele não havia feito isso,
04:58
So it still didn't mean
that he didn't do it,
mas sabíamos que havia algo
suspeito sobre essa testemunha.
05:01
but we knew something was maybe fishy
about this witness.
Examinamos o arquivo.
05:05
So we looked through the file,
Havia nele um pedaço
de papel com um número,
05:07
a piece of paper in the file
had a number on it.
05:10
The number indicated
that this witness had a record.
que indicava que a testemunha
tinha antecedentes criminais.
Passamos por 20 anos
de documentos não digitalizados.
05:13
We went back through 20 years
of non-digitized papers
para descobrir do que se tratava,
05:16
to figure out what this record was about,
e descobrimos
05:19
and it turned out -- it turned out --
que a testemunha ocular estava presa
quando disse ter visto o que viu.
05:21
the eyewitness was in jail
05:25
when she said she saw what she saw.
O homem passou 17 anos atrás das grades.
05:29
The man spent 17 years behind bars.
O último caso é sobre dois meninos,
05:33
The last one is a case about two boys,
Willie Stuckey, David McCallum.
05:38
Willie Stuckey, David McCallum.
Eles foram presos quando tinham 15 anos,
05:41
They were arrested at 15,
e a condenação deles
foi anulada 29 anos depois.
05:43
and their conviction was vacated
29 years later.
Este era um caso
05:48
Now this was a case,
que, mais uma vez,
à primeira vista, parecia evidente.
05:50
once again -- first blush,
it looked open and shut.
Eles haviam confessado.
05:53
They had confessed.
Mas minha pesquisa mostrava
05:55
But my research showed
that juvenile confessions
que as confissões juvenis
sem a presença de um dos pais
05:58
without a parent present
estão propensas a erros.
06:00
are prone to error.
Os casos de DNA provaram
isso inúmeras vezes.
06:01
The DNA cases proved this several times.
Examinamos com cuidado.
06:03
So we took a close look.
Analisamos a confissão,
06:05
We looked at the confession,
e descobrimos algo na confissão
que os meninos não poderiam saber.
06:07
and it turned out,
06:08
there was something in the confession
06:10
that those boys could not have known.
Os únicos a saber eram
os policiais e os promotores.
06:12
The only people who knew it
were police and prosecutors.
Sabíamos o que realmente tinha acontecido.
06:15
We knew what really happened;
Alguém mandou eles dizerem isso.
06:17
someone told them to say this.
Não sabemos
exatamente quem pediu,
06:19
We don't exactly know who,
06:21
which person did,
mas, de qualquer forma,
a confissão foi feita por coação.
06:22
but any rate, the confession was coerced,
Chegamos a essa conclusão.
06:25
we determined.
Voltamos e fizemos a perícia criminal
e uma investigação completa
06:27
We then went back and did forensics
06:29
and did a fulsome investigation
e descobrimos que outros dois,
06:30
and found that two other,
muito mais velhos, de alturas
e cortes de cabelo diferentes,
06:32
much older, different heights,
different hairstyle,
duas outras pessoas
haviam cometido o crime,
06:35
two other people committed the crime,
e não esses dois garotos.
06:37
not these two boys.
Fui ao tribunal naquele dia,
06:39
I actually went to court that day,
06:41
for what's called a "vacatur hearing,"
para a chamada "audiência de custódia",
onde a condenação é discutida.
06:44
where the conviction is thrown out.
Fui ao tribunal, eu queria ver
06:47
I went to court; I wanted to see
o sr. McCallum sair de lá.
06:49
Mr. McCallum walk out of there.
Fui ao tribunal, e o juiz disse algo
que os juízes dizem a toda hora,
06:51
So I went to court,
06:53
and the judge said something
that judges say all the time,
mas que tinha um significado
muito especial.
06:55
but this took on a really special meaning.
Ele levantou o olhar
após os argumentos, e disse:
06:58
He looked up after the arguments and said,
"Sr. McCallum",
07:01
"Mr. McCallum,"
disse cinco belas palavras:
07:03
he said five beautiful words:
"Você está livre para partir".
07:05
"You are free to go."
Conseguem imaginar?
07:10
Can you imagine?
Após cerca de 30 anos:
07:12
After just about 30 years:
"Você está livre para partir".
07:15
"You are free to go."
Então ele deixou a sala do tribunal.
07:18
And he walked out of that courtroom.
Infelizmente, seu amigo réu,
o sr. Stuckey, não teve esse benefício.
07:21
Unfortunately,
his codefendant, Mr. Stuckey,
07:24
didn't get the benefit of that.
O sr. Stuckey morreu na prisão,
07:27
You see, Mr. Stuckey died in prison
aos 34 anos.
07:30
at 34 years old,
A mãe dele sentou na mesa
do advogado no lugar dele.
07:32
and his mother sat
at counsel table in his place.
Nunca me esquecerei disso
pelo resto de minha vida.
07:36
I'll never forget this
the rest of my life.
Ela se balançava na mesa dizendo:
07:39
She just rocked at the table, saying,
"Sabia que meu filho não tinha feito isso.
07:42
"I knew my baby didn't do this.
Sabia que meu filho não tinha feito isso".
07:44
I knew my baby didn't do this."
E o filho dela não tinha feito aquilo.
07:46
And her baby didn't do this.
Foram dois outros rapazes que fizeram.
07:48
Two other guys did it.
Tenho aprendido, com este trabalho
de integridade de condenação,
07:51
If there's anything that we've learned,
anything that I've learned,
07:54
with this conviction integrity work,
que a justiça não acontece.
07:57
it's that justice doesn't happen.
As pessoas fazem a justiça acontecer.
08:01
People make justice happen.
A justiça não é algo que vem
de cima e torna tudo correto.
08:08
Justice is not a thing
that just descends from above
08:12
and makes everything right.
Se fosse assim, o sr. Stuckey
não teria morrido na prisão.
08:14
If it did, Mr. Stuckey
wouldn't have died in prison.
A justiça é algo que as pessoas
de boa vontade fazem acontecer.
08:19
Justice is something
08:21
that people of goodwill make happen.
A justiça é uma decisão.
08:25
Justice is a decision.
A justiça é uma decisão.
08:32
Justice is a decision.
Fazemos a justiça acontecer.
08:35
We make justice happen.
O assustador é que, em cada um
desses três casos que descrevi,
08:38
You know, the scary thing is,
08:40
in each of these three cases I described,
teria levado apenas um minuto a mais,
08:42
it would have only taken
just an extra minute --
um minuto a mais,
08:45
an extra minute --
para alguém examinar o arquivo
e encontrar este recibo.
08:47
for someone to look through the file
08:49
and find this receipt.
Apenas um minuto, para examinar
o arquivo, encontrar o recibo,
08:51
Just one -- to look through the file,
find the receipt,
entregá-lo ao defensor público.
08:55
give it to the public defender.
Teria levado apenas um minuto de alguém
08:58
It would have taken someone just a minute
para analisar a confissão em vídeo
e dizer: "Não pode ser".
09:01
to look at the video confession
and say, "That cannot be."
Apenas um minuto.
09:07
Just a minute.
E talvez o sr. Stuckey
estivesse vivo hoje.
09:09
And perhaps Mr. Stuckey
would be alive today.
Isso me faz lembrar
de um de meus poemas favoritos,
09:13
It reminds me of one of my favorite poems.
09:16
It's a poem that Benjamin Elijah Mays
would always recite,
um poema que Benjamin
Elijah Mays sempre recitava,
que ele chamava de "Minuto de Deus".
09:21
and he called it "God's Minute."
É mais ou menos assim:
09:22
And it goes something like this:
"Tenho apenas um minuto,
09:24
"I have only just a minute,
apenas 60 segundos nele,
09:26
only 60 seconds in it,
forçado sobre mim, sem poder recusá-lo,
09:28
forced upon me, can't refuse it,
sem o solicitar, sem o escolher.
09:30
didn't seek it, didn't choose it.
Mas cabe a mim usá-lo.
09:33
But it's up to me to use it.
Devo sofrer se o perder,
prestar contas se abusar dele.
09:34
I must suffer if I lose it,
give account if I abuse it.
Apenas um minutinho,
09:39
Just a tiny little minute,
mas que contém a eternidade".
09:42
but eternity is in it."
Se eu fosse cobrar
cada um de nós e todos nós,
09:45
If I were to charge
09:47
each and every one of us,
gostaria de dizer algo como:
09:49
I would want to say something like,
"Todos os dias,
09:53
"Every day,
todos os dias,
09:55
every day,
pegue apenas um minuto a mais
09:57
take just one extra minute
e faça alguma justiça".
10:01
and do some justice.
10:04
You don't have to --
10:06
I mean, some people spend
their careers and their lives,
Algumas pessoas passam
a carreira e a vida delas,
como defensores públicos,
fazendo justiça todos os dias.
10:10
like public defenders,
10:11
doing justice every day.
Mas, na vida profissional, no que fizerem,
reservem um tempo para apenas...
10:14
But in your professional lives,
whatever you do,
10:16
take time out
10:18
to just
fazer alguma justiça.
10:20
do some justice.
Façam um colega se sentir melhor.
10:21
Make a colleague feel better.
Se ouvirem algo machista,
10:24
If you hear something that's sexist,
não riam, rebatam.
10:27
don't laugh, speak up.
Se alguém estiver desanimado, animem-no,
10:30
If someone is down, lift them up,
um minuto a mais por dia,
10:32
one extra minute each day,
e este será um lugar maravilhoso.
10:36
and it'll be a great, great place.
Quero mostrar uma coisa a vocês.
10:38
I want to show you something.
Aqui em cima está uma foto
de David McCallum.
10:41
Now, above me is a picture
10:44
of David McCallum.
Esse é o dia em que ele saiu da prisão.
10:47
This is the day
he was released from prison.
Depois de 30 anos,
ele conseguiu abraçar uma sobrinha
10:50
After 30 years, he got to hug a niece
que nunca pôde tocar antes.
10:53
he had never been able to touch before.
Perguntei então a ele:
10:57
And I asked him then,
"Qual é a primeira coisa
que você quer fazer?"
10:59
I said, "What's the first thing
you want to do?"
Ele disse: "Só quero andar na calçada
11:02
And he said, "I just want
to walk on the sidewalk
sem ninguém me dizendo para onde ir".
11:04
without anybody telling me where to go."
Ele não estava amargurado,
11:07
Wasn't bitter,
só queria andar na calçada.
11:09
just wanted to walk on the sidewalk.
Falei com o sr. McCallum
há cerca de duas semanas.
11:11
I spoke to Mr. McCallum
about two weeks ago.
Fui a Nova York, e ele estava
comemorando dois anos de sua libertação.
11:15
I went to New York.
11:16
It was on the two-year anniversary
11:19
of his release.
Conversamos,
11:21
And we talked,
rimos, nos abraçamos, choramos.
11:22
we laughed, we hugged, we cried.
Ele estava muito bem.
11:26
And he's doing quite well.
Uma das coisas que ele disse
quando nos encontramos
11:28
And one of the things he said
when we met with him
foi que agora ele tem dedicado
a vida e a carreira dele
11:32
is that he now has dedicated his life
11:35
and his career
para assegurar que mais ninguém
seja preso injustamente.
11:36
to ensuring that nobody else
is locked up unjustly.
A justiça, meus amigos,
11:41
Justice, my friends,
é uma decisão.
11:45
is a decision.
Muito obrigado.
11:47
Thank you very much.
(Aplausos)
11:48
(Applause)
Translated by Maurício Kakuei Tanaka
Reviewed by Leonardo Silva

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About the speaker:

Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. - Clinical professor of law
Ronald Sullivan is a leading theorist in the areas of criminal law, criminal procedure, trial practice and techniques, legal ethics and race theory.

Why you should listen

Professor Ronald Sullivan is the faculty director of the Harvard Criminal Justice Institute and the Harvard Trial Advocacy Workshop. Sullivan also serves as Faculty Dean of Winthrop House at Harvard College. He is the first African American ever appointed Faculty Dean in Harvard's history. He is a founding member and Senior Fellow of the Jamestown Project.

Sullivan has merged legal theory and practice over the course of his career in unique and cutting-edge ways. In 2014, he was tasked to design and implement a Conviction Review Unit (CRU) for the newly elected Brooklyn District Attorney. The CRU, designed to identify and exonerate wrongfully convicted persons, quickly became regarded as the model conviction integrity program in the nation. In its first year of operation alone, Sullivan discovered over 10 wrongful convictions, which the DA ultimately vacated. Some of the exonerated citizens had served more than 30 years in prison before they were released.

In 2008, Sullivan served as Chair, Criminal Justice Advisory Committee for then-Senator Barack Obama's presidential campaign. In this capacity, his committee made policy recommendations on a range of issues in an effort to put into practice some of the best research in the field. He also served as a member of the National Legal Advisory Group for the Barack Obama Presidential Campaign. Finally, Sullivan was appointed Advisor to the Department of Justice Presidential Transition Team.

In 2007, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, Sullivan was asked to create a system to solve a criminal justice crisis. More than 6,000 citizens were incarcerated in and around New Orleans without representation and with all official records destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Sullivan designed an indigent defense delivery system that resulted in the release of nearly all the 6000 inmates.

Sullivan still maintains an appellate and trial practice. He has represented persons ranging from politicians to professional athletes to recording artists to pro bono clients in criminal jeopardy.  Representative clients include: The family of Michael Brown, former New England Patriot Aaron Hernandez and the family of Usaamah Rahim. 

Sullivan is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Morehouse College and the Harvard Law School, where he served as President of the Harvard Black Law Students Association and as General Editor of the Harvard BlackLetter Law Journal.

More profile about the speaker
Ronald S. Sullivan Jr. | Speaker | TED.com