There is some comfort in knowing that others have made the same mistake you have made, but we would add that it depends on the mistake. There is, for example, little comfort in knowing that others have made the same very big, life-altering mistake you have made. In those cases, it is hard to feel relief, especially if the mistake has something to do with the criminal justice system.
A case out of New Orleans reminds us, once again, that North Carolina’s problems, particularly the issues we have had with the state’s crime lab, are not unique. The case we have been talking about involves a man who spent 34 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
In our last post, we talked about the problems with the investigation of the crime — a murder — and the fact that the prosecution and the police withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense. During the trial, the investigating officers added perjury to the list of misdeeds.
They testified that the department had never discovered a weapon in the accused’s case and that there were no other suspects in the case. They may also have repeated their false testimony at the accused’s retrial in 1990. He had won the new trial on a procedural error but lost again.
Earlier this year, the accused’s attorneys asked the district attorney to review the case once again, and the DA’s office agreed. It took just 10 days for the DA to sign onto the motion to dismiss the charges and to vacate the sentence. The accused is now free.
And what about the prosecutors whose intentional concealment of evidence helped to convict the innocent man? They are out of reach now. One passed away, and one is in jail — he became a judge, but a federal investigation into judicial corruption ended badly for him.
Source: ABA Journal, “Man is freed after 34 years in prison; DA agrees to vacate sentence based on ‘shameful’ misconduct,” Debra Cassens Weiss, May 13, 2014