Alan Newton was convicted of rape in New York City in 1984, spending over 20 years in jail before DNA testing proved that he could not have been the man who committed the rape. As shocking as the wrong conviction itself is the fact that he first requested DNA testing back in *1994* (and no, that’s not a typo), but was denied for 10 years because the city couldn’t find the evidence taken at the time of the rape. If it hadn’t finally been found in storage, chances are Mr Newton would still be behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.
Amazingly, Mr Newton hasn’t been embittered by his experience. Since his release, he has earned a degree, works with disadvantaged people, and is considering a career in law. A jury has just awarded him over $18 million in compensation.
Mr Newton was freed with the help of the Innocence Project, which uses DNA testing to free the wrongly convicted. DNA testing is only applicable in some types of crimes (others, such as drive-by shootings, leave no DNA traces that can be used). Even when testing clould potentially be used to exonerate someone, the evidence may have been ‘misplaced’ as in Mr Newton’s case, or destroyed outright. In other cases, peoople may have already exhausted all the available avenues for appeal.
In spite of these obstacles, the Innocence has freed over 250 innocent people from jail through DNA testing. The average time these people have spent in prison is 13 years, with the longest being 35 years. Approximately 61% are African American, 8% Latino, 1% Asian, and 30% White. Relative to their numbers in the population, Blacks are 10x more likely to have been wrongly convicted than Whites. Over a third of those wrongly conviocyed were between 14 and 22 when they were arrested.
Naturally though, both the Innocence Project and those they free face smears from those who either will not face the reality of how badly the “Justice” system can screw up, or have a vested interest in keeping things they are. A couple of comments on the story about Mr Newton illustrate the point nicely.
“So he went in an innocent man but he certainly isn’t anymore. 22 years in prison will change a man and I’d keep an eye on this guy. Prison doesn’t reform criminals, it perfects them.” (My italics).
“the police dont pick ramdom pictures out of some fashion mag, or website and have all his info…they use pics of other criminals so there is a better probability of catching someone…you think they throw there family members in the line up…friends…co-workers…no…the point of my comment was who is really at fault…you can point the finger at the cops…the city…whatever…but the “victim” is the one who was certain…3 TIMES…thats fu**&d up…try solving a he said she said case…not so easy…like i said before…im not a fan of the cops…but if the woman says its so then thats what happened…at least in rape…abuse…whatever”
The best way to counter this kind of thing is to emphasis over and over and over again the good work the Innocence Project does. Spread the word, donate to them, and help them get the system cleaned up. There are many more innocent people in jail, count on it. Closing your eyes just guarantees they’ll stay there.