Our newest film, made in collaboration with our wonderful client, The Constitution Project, was screened last Friday evening at the Department of Justice! Check out this photo of Attorney General Eric Holder introducing segments of “Defending Gideon” to member of the DOJ.
N-Map and our partner, The Constitution Project, just finished producing, Defending Gideon, a short documentary narrated by Martin Sheen. The film profiles personal stories that illuminate one of the most significant human rights problems in the United States today: lack of access to lawyers for poor criminal defendants – and, as a result, the denial of a fair trial to thousands of Americans. Segments of the film were screened on Thursday at the Department of Justice, introduced by Attorney General Eric Holder – and the full film will screen tonight at the DOJ, and on Tuesday in Congress presented by Congressman Scott.
50 years ago, Justice Hugo Black, speaking for a unanimous Supreme Court, wrote: “Reason and reflection require us to recognize that, in our adversary system of criminal justice, any person haled into court, who is too poor to hire a lawyer, cannot be assured a fair trial unless counsel is provided to him.” The landmark case had a transformative effect on the country’s many criminal justice systems –for the first time, states were constitutionally required to provide lawyers to every defendant in a felony case who could not afford an one.
Unfortunately, 50 years later, it has become clear that the country has not lived up to the great promise of the Gideon case. Although there are many dedicated, talented, and tireless defense lawyers working heroically in very challenging conditions, the overall system has failed profoundly to provide adequate counsel for many defendants. This has resulted in an explosion of guilty pleas and, in the worst case, wrongful convictions.
The Constitution Project and its National Rights to Counsel Committee are fighting to change this. Their thoughtful analysis of ethe issues facing indigent defense systems and a call for reform can be found in this report: Justice Denied.
The Constitution Project asked N-Map to produce a documentary about Gideon and the right to counsel to be released on the 50th Anniversary of the Supreme Court’s decision. For the last few months, we have been working with them to tell the stories of the eminent lawyers and journalists involved with the case, as well as many other judges, defense attorneys, prosecutors, and defendants for whom the issue of adequate counsel is of paramount importance.
Start taking action now. Watch the video. Share it with your networks. Follow the conversation at #defendinggideon. Help us realize the great promise of Gideon and ensure the right to a fair trial for all Americans.
By Debbie Sharnak
On February 13, 2013, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) held a private hearing to monitor Uruguay’s compliance with the Gelman v. Uruguay judgment from February 24, 2011. In this important ruling, the IACHR held Uruguay responsible for forced disappearances committed during the 1970s dictatorship for the first time. The case continues to serve as a representation and opportunity for justice, not only for the Gelman family, but also for the thousands of victims who have never had chance to have their claims heard in court. This hearing aimed to uncover the progress Uruguay has made in instituting the directives for accountability that the IACHR judges made in the decision almost two years ago.
In 1976, María Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman was abducted in Buenos Aires while seven months pregnant. As a result of Operation Condor, wherein Southern Cone dictatorships coordinated their repressive activities to eliminate dissidents, María Claudia was transferred soon thereafter to Uruguay. In a Montevideo prison, her daughter, Macarena, was born. No one ever heard from or found María Claudia again, but her daughter, Macarena, was adopted by a family associated with the Uruguayan Police Force. Macarena’s experience was not an isolated incident; according to human rights groups, as many as five hundred children in Argentina and Uruguay were taken from their imprisoned parents and given to childless military or police couples who the military regimes favored. After years of searching for his missing granddaughter with the help of the Las Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, poet Juan Gelman, Maria Claudia’s father, finally found Macarena in 1999, and brought the case of the disappearance and illegal adoption before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
Michigan voters came together on November 6, 2012 to strike down Prop 1, a proposal that would have upheld the undemocratic Michigan law, Public Act 4. In conjunction with Michigan Forward and the Advancement Project, N-Map created a video to support a signature campaign to get this issue on the ballot.
The law, which took affect in 2011, allowed the Governor to unilaterally appoint an “emergency manger” to struggling districts in Michigan. The law essentially displaced and dismantled local government by allowing emergency managers to make dramatic, unilateral decisions, without community participation.
Not only would Prop 1 have allowed emergency managers to shape curriculum within local schools, the law also threatened to dissolve local government in struggling cities like Pontiac, Michigan.
Stand Up for Democracy collected over 200,000 signatures in order to ensure that Michigan voters would be able to vote on Public Act 4 as a referendum in Tuesday’s election. Together, we amassed enough awareness and opposition to defeat the law 52% to 48%.
This win demonstrates the power of awareness and mobilization in today’s political climate. While this is a huge win for grassroots organizations and unions in Michigan, it is even a bigger win for the fight to preserve democracy and civil rights.
Hopefully, the defeat of Prop 1 will discourage other states from pushing similar laws that restrict democracy.
Congratulations to the Advancement Project and Michigan Forward!
N-Map’s team just returned from an epic two-week production trip to the Caucsues, where we worked with a number of courageous local NGOs on a variety of advocacy campaigns. For our first trip to the region, we were very ambitious. We worked on four different campaigns and conduct four trainings for civil society and NGO groups.
Many of the issues were new and different for N-Map. We worked with Open Society Foundations – Armenia and the Women’s Resource Center of Armenia on a campaign to support the right to palliative care. We developed a campaign on unlawful evictions, targeting the Armenian government, evictees themselves, as well as the European Court of Human Rights, which sometimes delays eviction and property-rights cases. Related to the evictions project, we worked with a local photographer, Hayk Bianjyan, to address the problem of the unlawful destruction of Yerevan’s cultural heritage. In Georgia, we started a campaign with a number of local disability right groups, with a focus on ensuring wheelchair accessibility in Tbilisi, as the city continues to renovate and restore its historic buildings.
We will post more on the substance of of each of these issues. For now, enjoy some photos of us at work, including N-Map’s first experience shooting outside during a furious snowstorm!
Check out this preview of one of N-Map’s latest projects – an advocacy campaign with the Innocence Project and John Thompson and the issue of prosecutorial misconduct in the U.S. John is a death row exoneree – he spent 14 years on death row for a murder that he had nothing to do with because his prosecutors hid exculpatory evidence. He sued his prosecutors under sec. 1983 – a jury awarded him $14 million in damages ($1 million for every year he spent on death row). The Court of Appeals affirmed the award twice, but the Supreme Court then reversed it in a 5-4 judgment last term. We are helping John and the Innocence project in their efforts to improve accountability for prosecutors who violate the Constitutional rights of defendants.
Here is the rough cut of our first video produced as part of the collaboration. It is still a rough cut (i.e. in progress) and we’d be curious to hear your feedback on the video as we continue to develop the final piece.
We look forward to your thoughts and ideas, and stay tuned for more…
Update: Final version of the video posted.
N-Map’s team just returned from Haiti, where we were assisting the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), and the Bureau des Avocats Internationaux (BAI) in their efforts to hold the United Nations accountable for creating a cholera epidemic in Haiti. We also worked alongside our old clients and friends, Partners in Health (PIH).
Yes, that’s right, MINUSTAH, the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, failed to screen its Nepali peacekeeping troops for Cholera, then also failed to ensure that their waste treatment was functioning well. They literally dumped contaminated sewage into a tributary of the Artibonite River, the longest and most important river in Haiti. This has resulted in a massive outbreak of Cholera, leaving over a million people infected and thousands dead.
We are helping the IJDH and BAI pressure the United Nations to fix the problem that they caused. This presents us with an interesting challenge: our opponent in this case is supposed to be the good guy! We like and support the UN, and want to help it live up to its ideals. So our goal is craft a message of accountability without painting the United Nations as a villain. That would be counterproductive by alienating the UN, as well as the people whose support we, and more importantly the Haitian people, need. It’s an interesting puzzle – we’ll show you what we come up with in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, here are some resources on the case, as well as some photos from our trip.
For additional press and resources on the legal case, please visit: http://ijdh.org/cholera-litigation#News Articles
At long last, here is the main piece that we produced with Ensaaf. The most interesting aspect of this project was its capacity-building component. We trained Ensaaf’s courageous field researchers to shoot high quality video interviews so that they could get visual stories of the families of the disappeared. They served as our production assistants in the field as we integrated our production plan into their normal research work. They did a fantastic job, as you will see.
We’re hard at work finishing up our videos for Ensaaf, on accountability for mass violence committed against Sikhs in Punjab in the 1980s and 1990s.
Here are a few of the videos. More to come.
N-Map teamed up with the Advancement Project and Michigan Forward to create a video to help them raise awareness about Public Act 4, a law that permits the Governor to unilaterally appoint an “Emergency Manager” to essentially displace local government – including elected officials like mayors, city council members, and school boards. The law is really appalling – if most Americans can agree on one thing politically, it’s accountable government – that we should at least have the right to vote out of office someone you don’t like. This law destroys that possibility.
Take a look at our video here, and some more info about Public Act 4 below the fold.