Steven Barnes served 20 years in NY for rape and murder.
Timothy Cole died in 1999 in Texas while serving 25 years for rape.
Kennedy Brewer was on death row for murdering a child.
Jeffrey Pierce served 14 years in Oklahoma for rape.
Richard Rachell served 5 years in Texas.
Luis Diaz served 25 years in Florida for a series of rapes.
Herman Atkins served 11 years in California for rape.
Byron Halsey served 19 years in New Jersey for the murder of his children.
Bruce Godschalk served 14 years in Pennsylvania for rape.
Jimmy Ray Bromgard served 14 years in Montana for rape.
Only one problem: None of them committed the crimes they were convicted of.
Only one solution: Exoneration, through the work of the innocence project
Steven Barnes was convicted based in part on unvalidated forensic science – including soil comparison and an imprint that the victims’ jeans supposedly made in dirt on the side of Steven’s truck.
Timothy Cole was posthumously exonerated in 2009 when DNA testing implicated the real rapist.
Kennedy Brewer’s DNA now shows he had nothing to do with the crime he was accused of. His conviction rested on bite mark testimony that has since been shown to be false.
Jeffrey Pierce and at least two others were exonerated by DNA testing after being wrongfully convicted based on the false or misleading testimony of Oklahoma City forensic analyst Joyce Gilchrist.
Although DNA testing was available at the time of Ricard Rachell’s arrest in 2003, no testing was conducted before his trial. DNA testing proved his innocence and led to his release in December 2008. His case is proof that wrongful convictions are still happening even today, when DNA testing should be readily available.
Luis Diaz was convicted based on erroneous eyewitness testimony. DNA proved his innocence.
Herman Atkins was just 20 years old when he was wrongfully convicted based on an eyewitness misidentification.
Byron Halsey falsely confessed to a brutal double murder of children in New Jersey. DNA proved his innocence and was freed in 2007.
A jailhouse informant testified falsely at Bruce Godschalk’s trial that he had confessed to committing a rape while they shared a jail cell. He was exonerated.
Jimmy Ray Bromgard’s attorney at trial did no investigation, hired no expert, gave no opening statement and failed to file an appeal after Bromgard’s conviction.
They’re all innocent.
Actually, that’s wrong. Oh, they were all innocent. None of them committed the crimes for which they were convicted. All have been exonerated, through the work of the [the innocence project http://www.innocenceproject.org/]. But …
*I* am innocent. I’ve not been accused of any crimes; I’ve never been arrested. I’ve never been tried. I’ve never been convicted. I’ve never served time. I’m innocent, and I’m free, and that’s as it should be. In our criminal justice system, we don’t find people ‘innocent’ – we find them “guilty” or “not guilty”, and, while there is a very good reason for that – the burden of proof is on the prosecution – it plays a subtle psychological game. Once you’ve been on trial, you are no longer ‘innocent’, only ‘not guilty’.
But the people with whom the Innocence Project works are more than *not guilty* and more than *innocent* – they are *victims*. Victims of a system that is supposed to keep the innocent safe, not just from criminals, but from the law. We are all threatened by criminals; but we are all also threatened by the law.
It could happen to you. Remember, these people are not guilty. Like you, they did nothing illegal. You could be arrested because you look like someone who did something; or because (like one exoneree) you had pissed off the local sheriff by wrecking his car; or because someone had a grudge against you; or because a criminal picked your name from somewhere. Or, like another exoneree, you could be a Black with paraplegia, riding peacefully on a bus, and when they find drugs on the bus, someone says “the Black wheelchair guy had them”. You are entitled to a lawyer, but you might be assigned a district attorney who had previously tried to convict you. It could happen. It *has* happened.
DNA testing proved Darryl Hunt innocent in North Carolina in 1994, after he had already served almost 10 years. It would take another 10 years for him to be freed.
Jeffrey Deskovic was wrongfully convicted in upstate New York at age 17 despite the fact that DNA test results before his trial pointed to his innocence. He falsely confessed after hours of interrogation and was convicted in spite of the DNA results. The same DNA profile would later match the real perpetrator in a database, leading to Deskovic’s freedom.
Marvin Anderson served 15 years in Virginia prisons, and another five years on parole, before DNA finally exonerated him. When a white woman said she was raped by a black man, Anderson became a suspect because he had a white girlfriend. Six years after Anderson was wrongfully convicted, a man came forward to confess to the crime – and 14 years later, the DNA testing that exonerated Anderson apparently confirmed the man’s confession.
But it can be put right. We can set these people free. One group is working, and working hard, to set the innocent free. And sometimes, it can go spectacularly right:
Chris Ochoa, who served 11 years in Texas prisons for a murder and rape he didn’t commit, was freed in 2002. He attended the University of Wisconsin Law School and today works as a defense attorney in Madison.
Rickie Johnson served 25 years in Louisiana’s Angola prison for a rape he didn’t commit before DNA testing proved him innocent in late 2007. He became a master leatherworker while in prison and opened a leather goods store in Louisiana in early 2009.
Larry Peterson narrowly escaped the death penalty and served 17 years in New Jersey prisons for a murder he didn’t commit. After he was exonerated through DNA testing, he resolved to help fix the criminal justice system responsible for his wrongful conviction. Alongside Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck, Peterson testified at legislative hearings to repeal the death penalty in New Jersey. Many legislators said they were moved by his testimony; within months, the state became the first in several decades to pass legislation repealing capital punishment
One group is working to set things right. That group is the Innocence Project. They’ve helped exonerate 238 people since it was founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld. They want to do more.
You can donate
here are 10 things you can do to help exonerate the innocent and reform the criminal justice system
You can get email updates
They have their own Blog
You can even twitter
There’s a lot more info on that website. Go. Explore. And, if you can, please give.