On March 19, Pulitzer Prize winner Edward Humes joined the California Innocence Project to talk about his book Burned: A Story of Murder and the Crime That Wasn’t. In the book, Ed explores the case of our client, Joann Parks, and the flawed forensics that ultimately convicted her of killing her three children in a house fire.
The Project’s Staff Attorney Raquel Cohen, who has been actively litigating Joann’s case for four years, was also a featured speaker at the March event. Raquel talked about the issues with the original investigations in the case, and how modern science proves the fire was likely a tragic accident.
The event panelists also included Alan Gimenez, one of the Project’s freed clients. Alan spent 24 years wrongfully incarcerated. “My heart goes out to Joann, because I know from first-hand experience what she’s dealing with,” Alan said.
Like Joann, Alan was convicted on junk science. His infant daughter, Priscilla, was very ill after her birth. She died at just 49-days-old. The symptoms Priscilla exhibited at death were, at the time, believed to be indicative of Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS). Making matters worse, Priscilla’s troubled medical history was never disclosed or discovered by Alan’s attorney at trial, and Alan was convicted. Today, research and science shows that the evidence used against Alan has many other innocent explanations. After 24 years of wrongful incarceration, Alan was released on parole in 2017.
Maureen Cavanaugh moderated the discussion about these “unsettling” issues, as she referred to them throughout the talk. Maureen is host of KPBS Midday Edition.
When asked how Joann is doing today, Raquel Cohen remarked, “Joann may be the strongest person I know and have ever met.”
Joann Parks was convicted in 1993. Nearly 30 years later, she’s still in prison.
See more photos from the event on our Facebook page.
Listen to a recording of the event, or watch it on YouTube: