After spending 11 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, an individual was finally freed on April 4 after DNA evidence demonstrated his innocence. This individual was accused of raping a 12-year-old girl in March 1999. And though the DNA evidence was already available in 2008, it took another three years before he was released from prison.
More and more individuals are being exonerated based upon new evidence being discovered. One study estimated that one out of every 25 individuals on death row is innocent. This at least demonstrates that mistakes do happen.
Exonerations for crimes have been documented back to 1989. Reversals have come about due to DNA determinations, evidence of perjury, recantations of testimony, unreliable eyewitness identifications, or evidence that was withheld by prosecuting attorneys or other officials. There have been 316 individuals exonerated across the country since 1992 due only to use of DNA testing.
The individual who spent 11 years in prison was originally sentenced to 20 years based upon testimony of the young girl and upon a supposed genetic marker. The genetic testing was later shown to have been flawed.
When someone is charged with a sex crime the automatic presumption can be that the person is guilty. This is a presumption we cannot afford to make. Wrongful convictions can come with a terrible price. This man lost close to 12 years of his life and was not able to visit his grandchildren until his name was cleared. His son committed suicide one year after this individual was put in prison.
Source: USA Today, “Man spent 11 years in prison for rape he didn’t commit,” Brian Haas, June 2, 2014