November 11, 2003

To: [foundation name]

Subject: Letter of Inquiry, Request for Funding

Dear Ms. Cord?va-V?zquez:

The founders of Justice Watch present this letter of inquiry for your consideration.

PURPOSE OF THE PROJECT FOR WHICH FUNDS ARE BEING REQUESTED - The goal of Project Open Gates USA is to exonerate and free innocent people who are not on death row from prison.

Millions of dollars in funding are awarded to victim?s rights organizations each year across the country. However, there is one class of victims of crime that has been overlooked: those who are wrongly incarcerated, those who are innocent in prison, are victims of an egregious crime: failure of due process of law. This crime robs them of their life and liberty just as surely as if they were kidnapped, raped or held at gunpoint. Of these victims, there are two categories: victims on death row and victims not on death row. Funding is plentiful for death penalty human rights organizations such as the Innocence Project. As of November 1, 2003 138 death row inmates have been exonerated in the United States through DNA evidence due to the efforts of the Innocence Project. Victims of the judicial system who are not on death row have a difficult time receiving the help they need. In fact, death row advocates refuse to assist non-death row inmates even though they have strong evidence of innocence. We at Justice Watch want to achieve exoneration and freedom for the innocent prisoners who are not on death row. This makes project Open Gates USA unique.

An alarming number of innocent people are victimized by the legal system. Hans Sherrer, an Associate Director of Justice Denied: The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted, in an article published by the Northern Kentucky Law Review, states: ?The magnitude of that violence is hinted at by the human toll manufactured by an average of at least one innocent man or woman being sentenced to prison every minute that courts are in regular session in the United States.? That staggering number shows the vital need in this society for social reform, legal reform, and legal assistance for innocent people who are swallowed up by the justice system and forced into prison for life sentences or indeterminate sentences (10, 15, 25 years to life).

In a stunning 10-part investigative report by Bill Moushey and Bob Martinson, local news editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, titled Government Misconduct in the Name of Expedient Justice, the headlines read ?Hundreds of times during the past 10 years, federal agents and prosecutors have pursued justice by breaking the law.? The objective of the justice system is to protect society from criminals. When an innocent person is convicted not only are they and their families constrained by laws designed to prevent correction of that error, but a guilty person is free to continue committing crimes. Once again, Sherrer succinctly defines the appalling lack of good public policy: ?There is no apparent concern by politicians, judges, and prosecutors that an innocent defendant is likely to be harmed by an ill-advised law that results from a public hysteria campaign, imposes procedural bars to their vindication and empowers the judge most biased against him or her to rule on the merits of a legal challenge to the conviction.? The founders of Justice Watch intend to continue pursuing Legislators for changes in these ill-advised laws.

The precedent-setting case decision, Herrera v. Collins, in the United States Supreme Court shows the irrelevance of innocence to the legal system. ?Judges discount actual innocence because it is not a Constitutional issue.? State and Federal courts cite Herrera as precedent when ruling on post-conviction relief claims before them. This decision and practice demonstrates that the judicial system considers innocence irrelevant. The consequence is a dereliction of public policy duty in this country by our courts of law.

PROBLEMS AND ISSUES THE PROPOSED PROJECT WILL ADDRESS — Justice Watch intends to focus Project resources on the following, inter-related components:

1. Raising public awareness
By the end of last year, 6.7 million people in the U.S. were under court supervision (probation, jail, prison, or parole). That number represents court supervision of 1 in every 32 adults nationwide. We have been studying the problems related to mass incarceration, the judicial system, tough-on-crime legislation, prosecutorial misconduct, political motivations, and corrections for over a decade. The public must be informed about the direction the judicial system has taken in recent years which is not only unjust, but also contrary to good public policy. We intend to communicate these issues through our website, articles submitted to other websites, editorials and articles submitted to newspapers, newsletters and magazines across the country. We also intend to communicate ill-advised laws to legislators for the purpose of amending laws that currently prevent the courts from reversing proven cases of actual innocent.

2. Education
Imagine an innocent person imprisoned for decades who has no opportunity to prove their innocence because the legal system limits the options that they have for post-conviction relief. The court system and tough-on-crime laws have circumvented the potential for proving innocence especially when the majority of inmates cannot afford an attorney to represent them. We must educate inmates and their advocates in order to be effective. We must teach them about the judicial system and the law so they may properly present their pro se (self-represented) cases to the courts. This will empower them to effectively work toward their deserved freedom when they cannot afford a post-conviction lawyer to assist them in proving their innocence. Each person who is educated will be enabled to educate others and in this manner more people would be helped. We will provide this information to key people through printed materials and seminars. These materials and seminars will be presented within the prisons as well as in communities where groups of interested people can meet. We intend to focus our efforts initially within the State of Alabama.

3. Post-conviction assistance
We must also argue in court to overturn convictions where the convicted has substantial proof of actual innocence. We intend to focus on cases that have a high probability of setting legal precedent. In this manner, innocence claims will be presented in a top-down approach, which will ultimately assist those people who are representing themselves in post-conviction relief. Justice Watch will provide manpower and resources to assist as many people as we can by using the project components stated above.

INFORMATION ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION CONDUCTING THE PROJECT — We began in 1996 as "People Aligned To Replace Injustice & Cruelty with Knowledge," Our focus was on reforming the judicial and prison system in the U.S. We funded projects out of our own pockets, working in the evenings, and on weekends, since we all work 40-60 hours per week at our other respective professions, which we refer to as ?our day jobs.? In our spare time, which commonly includes sleep time, we each work individually on legal research, post-conviction relief cases, educational efforts, conference organizing, and dissemination of information through rallies and conventions. The organization founders came to work closely together because their work efforts ultimately started interacting. Although we have been successful, our success has been limited due to available time.

In 2003, we decided to focus on the innocent in prison who are not on death row, and to seek funding for this effort so we may focus on these important issues more diligently as a full-time effort. We selected the most proficient, dedicated and reliable members of our organization and changed the name of the organization to Justice Watch. We are currently developing a web presence at

The founders of Justice Watch are dedicated prison reformers who have more than proven their dedication by already giving years of their spare time to this work. It?s time to do this full time. The flow of innocent people being sent to prison needs to be abated. The people who are actually innocent of any crime need to be released and reunited with their families. If we are granted the resources to do this work on a full time basis, we are confident that our efforts will contribute greatly to the promotion of good public policy. Our efforts will benefit every citizen in the United States because the course that the judicial system has taken has not made our streets safer but more dangerous. We must never forget that when an innocent person is in prison a guilty person is free to prey on people.


Description Proposed Budget
Operating budget (salaries for 5 officers below plus 1 Accountant, CPA) $1,215,000
Consumables (office supplies, telephone, fax, postage) $15,000
Non-consumables (office equipment) $15,000
Travel & Expenses (case associated) $30,000
Legal fees (expert testimony, forensic evaluations, investigations, court filing fees) $180,000
Temporary Help (hiring individual members for specific, one-time endeavors such as collecting court records, copying projects, phone calls, typing, etc.) $75,000
Advertising (brochures, newsletters, ads, campaigns, seminars) $120,000
Total (see attached detail breakdown) $1,650,000


The above estimate is for a 3-year start up period. The attached budget details our funding needs.


Below is a listing of the Justice Watch principals and their qualifications. Their curriculum vitaes (CV) or resumes are available for your review upon request.

Name Justice Watch Position Present Full-time ?day job? position
Sherry Swiney Director Project Manager/Construction Engineer, multi-million dollar construction projects (industrial and commercial) ‐ 15 years.
Candyce J. Hawk Deputy Director Legal Researcher and writer, Co-Owner BigSky Software LLC, technical writer and software developer – 15 years.
Wilson Myers Attorney Criminal Attorney, member of the Alabama Bar Association – 15 years.
Heather Guillen Public Relations Director and Press Secretary Founder ? Creating Social Justice and End Homeless Now
Terri Hinson Secretary/Treasurer Fire/Criminal Analyst, Owner/Operator – 15 years.
TBD Accountant, CPA Funding oversight, tax preparation.

Thank you for your consideration; we look forward to hearing from you regarding this important matter.

Respectfully submitted,

Sherry Swiney
P.O. Box 1891
Alabaster, Alabama 35007
Telephone (205) 621.7699

Enclosures: Proposed budget

Over the past fifteen years, the ACVCC program has received 18,337 applications from crime victims, and awarded more than $40,000,000.00 for services rendered them. — Alabama Crime Victims Compensation Commission at (retrieved on Nov. 2, 2003)

The Innocence Project at on Nov. 2, 2003)

Justice Denied at (retrieved on Nov. 2, 2003)

Hans Sherrer, "The Complicity of Judges in Generating Wrongful Convictions," 30 N. Ky. L. Rev. 539 (2003), p. 559.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette at (retrieved on Nov. 2, 2003)

See 28 U.S. C. ? 2255 (2000).
506 U.S. 390 (1993).
See Herrera, 506 U.S. at 404.

U.S. Department of Justice, at (retrieved on Oct. 30, 2003).

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