Tag: wrongful convictions

Exonerated Innocent Man Describes 21 Year Prison Nightmare

Kenneth Ireland of Connecticut was 17 when he was arrested for raping and killing a woman. During his police interrogation, he maintained his innocence. He was 18 when he was tried and convicted. 21 years later, in 2009, he was freed after DNA evidence showed he did not commit the crime, and the real perpetrator was identified, tried, convicted and sentenced.

A state commissioner will decide Ireland's compensation, which may be up to $8 million. During testimony this week Ireland described the horror he experienced daily in prison.

I wish it were an actual nightmare ... because then I could have woken up instead of spending 21 years in a tiny cell with the most violent criminals who targeted me because I was a convicted sex offender."


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NYC to Pay $40 Million to Central Park Five Defendants

Some justice at last to the Central Park Five -- New York City agreed to pay $40 million to the five Black and Latino men wrongfully charged as teens with the rape of a Central Park jogger in 1989.

Kharey Wise, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana and Yusef Salaam were exonerated in 2002. They filed their lawsuit in 2003. It has taken the city 12 years to finally pay up.

Four of them served 7 years in prison and one served 13 years. Their convictions, largely the product of false and coerced confessions, were overturned when the true perpetrator, Mattias Reyes confessed. DNA evidence confirmed he was the rapist, and although he could not be charged due to the statute of limitations, by the time of his confession he was already serving a 33 year to life sentence for other rapes. More background here. Also see When Justice is a Game and Marked as the Enemy, and New Light on Jogger's Rape Calls Evidence Into Question.[More...]

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Al Jazeera America Series on U.S. Criminal Justice System

Al Jazeera America has just begun airing an 8 part series on the flaws in our criminal justice system. The first episode aired last night, and addressed coerced and false confessions. The remaining topics:

  • Episode 2: Mandatory Sentencing
  • Episode 3: Flawed Forensics (FBI Lab)
  • Episode 4: Eyewitness Identification
  • Episode 5: Parole
  • Episode 6: Juvenile Justice
  • Episode 7: Broken Windows: Policing Strategies
  • Episode 8: Prosecutorial Integrity

Reuters has more on the show here.

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Wrongfully Convicted Inmate Freed From Death Row in Lousiana

The 141st wrongfully convicted death row inmate in the U.S. was released from jail today after serving 15 years for a crime he didn't commit. Damon Thibodeaux, now 38, left prison today. The cause of his wrongful conviction: A false confession. Later DNA testing excluded him as the perpetrator of the crime.

Nationally, DNA has freed 18 wrongfully convicted death row inmates.

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CA Judge Frees Wrongfully Convicted Gang Member After 19 Years

John Edward Smith, imprisoned for the past 19 years for a murder he did not commit, walked out of court a free man yesterday.

It was not DNA evidence that freed him, but perjured testimony at his trial. The sole eyewitness at his trial admitted lying.

Prosecutors told the judge they were convinced that the lone eyewitness to the 1993 shooting had lied at Smith’s trial, naming him as the gunman. Smith maintained he was at his grandmother’s house when the shooting occurred several blocks away.

The witness said said he was pressured by police to identify Smith as the shooter. [More...]

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Ill. Inmate Freed by DNA After Serving 32 Years

Andre Davis, now 50 years old, left a maximum security prison in Illinois today, after serving 32 years for a rape and murder that DNA evidence has proven he didn't commit.

A federal court overturned his conviction when DNA tests not available at the time of his trial came back with a finding that the blood and semen found at the crime scene were not those of Davis.

Prosecutors earlier today said they will not recharge him. Did the DNA tests sway them? Not much.

[Prosecutor] Reitz said that while she didn't doubt the results of the DNA tests, she decided not to retry Davis because of the difficulty in taking a 32-year-old case to trial — not because of those tests.

Davis requested the DNA testing in 2004. Why did it take 8 years to free him?

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DNA Mixup in Las Vegas: Innocent Man Served 4 Years

Dwayne Jackson served four years in prison for a robbery it turns out he did not commit. An "accidental switch" of DNA samples at the Las Vegas lab, or "human error" as the news puts it, was responsible.

The state has admitted the error and a settlement has been reached. Jackson was freed from prison in 2006.

More than 200 cases will now be reanalyzed to determine if other such errors were made by this lab tech, who has been placed on administrative leave.

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Innocent TX Man to Be Cleared After Serving 30 Years

Via the Innocence Project: Cornelius Dupree served 30 years in prison for a rape and robbery new DNA tests show he did not commit. A judge is expected to exonerate him tomorrow. He was paroled in July.

His co-defendant, Anthony Massingill, is also expected to be cleared at a later hearing tomorrow. The primary cause of the wrongful conviction: Faulty eyewitness identification. Misidentifications account for 75% of wrongful convictions. Innocence co-director Barry Scheck says:

Cornelius Dupree spent the prime of his life behind bars because of mistaken identification that probably would have been avoided if the best practices now used in Dallas had been employed.... most counties in Texas do not have these best practices in place.

This must be remedied in the next legislative session by the adoption of an eyewitness identification reform bill that had the votes needed for passage last session but not enough time to get enacted. Let us never forget that, as in the heartbreaking case of Cornelius Dupree, a staggering 75% of wrongful convictions of people later cleared by DNA evidence resulted from misidentifications.”

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NY to Pay $9.9 Million To Man Framed By Corrupt Detective

New York City has agreed to pay Barry Gibbs $9.9 million. Gibbs served 19 years in jail as a result of being framed by a corrupt detective.

....Barry Gibbs, had served 19 years in prison when his conviction was overturned in 2005 after questions were raised about how his case had been handled by Louis J. Eppolito, a New York City police detective, one of the notorious “Mafia cops” serving life in prison for taking part in mob-related killings.

.... “They are permanent scars,” he added. “It’s been a long road. I’ve been through a lot, and it was very traumatic for me.” Mr. Gibbs, 62, who has recently wrestled with severe health problems, previously received a $1.9 million settlement from the state.

The victim was a prostitute, and at the time of her murder, Gibbs was a postal worker with a drug problem who had had a relationship with her. [More...]

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Tim Masters Gets $4.1 Million for Wrongful Conviction

Larimer County, Colorado has agreed to pay Tim Masters $4.1 million for the ten years he spent in prison, wrongfully accused and convicted of murder.

Masters was 15 when Fort Collins, Colorado, police began investigating him in the murder of 37-year-old Peggy Hettrick, who was found murdered and sexually mutilated in a field near Masters' family home. He was convicted largely on circumstantial evidence and the testimony of an expert witness who said he fit the profile of a sexual predator.

Two prosecutors, Terrence Gilmore and Jolene Blair, were found to have withheld exculpatory evidence. Both are now judges, and opposed the settlement, saying they didn't have a chance to defend themselves. [More...]

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Man Freed After 4 Years, Victim Admits False Rape Report

Biurny Peguero claimed three men kidnapped and raped her. She swore to it under oath at the grand jury and at the trial of William McCaffrey, a construction worker. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years. He went to prison. Four years later, McCaffrey was officially cleared today.

How did it happen? His attorney was able to get new DNA tests on bite marks on Peguero's arms. The reports at the time of the trial were inconclusive. The new testing showed the bites didn't come from McCaffrey but from two women who had fought with Peguero.

Peguero later confessed to a priest and then to the DA's office that she made the whole thing up. She wanted people to feel sorry for her.

She claimed she was raped because she wanted her friends "to feel badly" for her, and then was afraid to back down from her story as the case continued, prosecutors said in court filings this fall. She thought McCaffrey ultimately would be acquitted because of a lack of other evidence, prosecutors said.


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Court Frees NY Man After 26 Years : "Compelling Innocence" Case

Dewey Bozella was convicted twice of a brutal murder. He served 26 years. His conviction was overturned yesterday and he was immediately freed. DNA evidence did not play a role. What convicted him:

The prosecution relied almost entirely on the testimony of two men with criminal histories, both of whom repeatedly changed their stories and both of whom got favorable treatment in their own cases in exchange for their testimony.

What freed him: A retired police officer who had saved his file, "who said it was the only one he kept after retirement, figuring that the conviction was so problematic lawyers might want it someday." In the file was evidence the prosecution had failed to turn over to the defense. [More...]

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