According to the Innocence Project, a few studies have estimated that around 2.3%-5% of all U.S. prisoners are innocent. There are a few common themes that connect these cases to one another such as racial issues, poverty, eyewitness misidentification, invalid forensic science and law enforcement officers that are too eager to solve the case. An increasing number of stories are coming up about innocent people sent to jail on charges they never committed. Here are 5 such cases that compel us to think twice about our justice system:
Ryan Ferguson was sent to prison in 2005 for 40 years for first degree murder of a sports columnist. There was no physical evidence linking Ferguson to the case or the crime. On the fateful night that the crime occurred, Ferguson was out with a friend, Chuck Erickson. Erickson was questioned by the police, who had no recollection of the night, and got him to admit that he committed the crime along with Ferguson. Ryan was released after he spent a decade in prison.
Deon Patrick was only 20 in 1992 when he was arrested with 7 other men for the death of a prostitute and a drug dealer in Chicago. Although there was no physical evidence that linked him with the murders and even though he continued to say he was innocent, he was interrogated for 30 hours without a lawyer. Patrick eventually broke down and confessed to a crime he never committed. He had to spend 21 years in jail before he was finally released.
Bain was a teenager in 1974 when he was convicted of kidnapping and rape. He spent 35 years in jail and was released at the age of 54. The police arrested Bain even though he had an alibi supporting his claims that he was home that night watching television. He was prosecuted only because the victim identified Bain from a photo lineup.
Michael Evans was 17 when he was arrested with Paul Terry in 1976 for the rape and murder of a 9 year old girl in Chicago. He was charged for murder, kidnapping and rape by the Cook County only based on lineup identifications by a witness that proved to be unreliable. DNA testing in 2002 managed to exclude Evans and Terry of the crime but they were only released in 2003.
Louis Taylor was locked up in prison for over 40 years. He was arrested in 1970 for starting a fire in the Pioneer Hotel in Arizona that killed 29 people. Although he continued to profess his innocence, he was sentenced to 28 life sentences. In fact, reports indicated that Louis Taylor was actually helping the trapped individuals escape the fire that night. Taylor believes that he was convicted wrongfully because of his race by a jury that was all white. After spending more than 40 years in jail, he chose to plead “no contest” to get out of prison instead of waiting for 3 or 4 more years for a new trail. The “no contest” deal means he will never be able to sue for compensation.
Image Credits: Kamira/BigStock.com