Friday, October 26, 2007

What would u do if you were this man?

From CNN.

I probably sue left, right and center of everyone who was involve with the case. 22 years of his life gone, wasted because of overjealous cops and proscuting lawyers.

Innocent man shares his 20-year struggle behind bars

ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Willie "Pete" Williams had no idea when he was pulled over by police that the criminal justice system was about to steal away half his life.


Willie "Pete" Williams, 45, spent half of his life behind bars for a 1985 rape he did not commit.

1 of 3 Sitting in the flashing glow of Atlanta squad car lights along Georgia State Road 400, the 23-year-old part-time house painter didn't know police were looking for a rapist who had struck nearby three weeks earlier.

Police questioned -- and then arrested Williams, triggering a series of mistaken witness identifications that led to his unjust conviction for rape, kidnapping and aggravated sodomy.

It was 1985 and Williams was sentenced to serve 45 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. "I felt betrayed. ... I felt like these people had taken my life for something I didn't do. I felt like I was being treated unfairly. ... I felt very, very angry towards everybody," said Williams last week, a free man after nearly 22 years behind bars.

He said he spent many of those years stoking that anger by fighting guards and inmates, while his childhood friends were developing careers and raising families. Watch Williams offer more details about his prison nightmare »

Earlier this year, after DNA science proved his innocence, the 45-year-old with a graying mustache stood again before a judge -- who this time exonerated Williams.

Williams' troubling story provokes discomfort in a nation that prides itself on a justice system where the accused are innocent until proven guilty. So far, DNA evidence has directly exonerated 208 wrongly convicted people in the United States, according to the Innocence Project. It's unknown how many prisoners now locked up in American jails could be freed by new testing of DNA evidence.

A jury of Williams' peers convicted him in the April 5, 1985, rape, kidnapping and aggravated sodomy of a woman in Atlanta's Sandy Springs neighborhood.

The victim told police her attacker first approached her to ask if she could help him find someone named Paul. Then he produced a gun and forced her into her car, according to police. They then drove to a dead-end street where the assault occurred.

Because the science behind each person's unique DNA signature was new to police in 1985, the key evidence that sealed Williams' fate was the testimony of three eyewitnesses who mistakenly said they recognized him.

"Mistaken eyewitness identification has long been the single biggest factor in the conviction of innocents," said Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project.

"That has got to be important to everybody, because if we can reform identification procedures, it will keep more innocent people out of jail and convict criminals who really commit the crimes."

As a new prisoner Williams said he fought a painful struggle against the raw deal the world had dealt him. When board members denied him parole the first of three times Williams said, "they had to escort me to 'the hole' [solitary confinement]."

"I couldn't function out there around the other inmates," Williams said. "I was mad, I was bitter. I felt the whole world just gave me up."

It wasn't until 1997 -- more than a decade after he was locked away -- that Williams' own voice freed him from the grip of his anger. At Valdosta State Prison, a close friend named Charlie Brown helped him join a Christian choir -- leading him to accept Jesus.

"Singing was like being out here, in a sense. It freed me from all the things, from all the fights, from the officers who were cruel, prison, stabbings," said Williams, who especially embraced the hymn "Amazing Grace."

After singing got a hold of Williams, he said the hardest part of his heart started to dissolve.

"I didn't feel angry anymore -- or any hate."

Witness ID
Sequential double-blind lineups are standard in:



New Jersey

Suffolk County, Massachusetts

Northhampton, Massachusetts

Madison, Wisconsin

Hennepin County, Minnesota

Ramsey County, Minnesota

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Santa Clara County, California

Virginia Beach, Virginia

Source: Innocence Project
To prevent more tragedies like Williams', innocence projects in many states, including Georgia, have begun pressing lawmakers to adopt special witness ID procedures called sequential double-blind lineups. Such lineups are administrated by officials who don't know who the suspect is and present each member of a lineup one-by-one instead of simultaneously.

Witnesses who see several potential suspects simultaneously are more likely to choose a person who looks most like the perpetrator -- but who may not actually be the perpetrator, according to the Innocence Project. The group also cites research that says misidentification is reduced if the person overseeing the lineup is "blind" to which person in the lineup is the suspect.

Georgia's Legislature held hearings Monday in Atlanta to study the research and the proposed standards, which have been adopted by New Jersey and jurisdictions in Minnesota, California and elsewhere.

Louis M. Dekmar, vice chair of the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies is skeptical of the research, but said the issue deserves further study.

"I don't believe the research is so compelling that we need to make swings and changes that don't bode well for criminal investigations and the criminal justice process," said Dekmar, a 30-year law enforcement veteran and chief of police for LaGrange, Georgia.

Dekmar argues investigators should be allowed to administer lineups to gauge reaction while they look at witness faces, to see if a witness is "stressed, weeping, nervous -- all those reactions that help detectives formulate whether this is a strong identification or a weak identification."

Williams' Case

April 5, 1985: Woman raped, kidnapped in Atlanta, Georgia



Williams arrested: April 28, 1985


Sentence: 45 years in prison

Freed: January 23, 2007

Exonerated by DNA evidence: February 13, 2007


February 10, 2007: DNA tests result in arrest and eventual conviction of Kenneth G. Wicker for the 1985 rape


Sources: Innocence Project, Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Williams was convicted on the identification of three witnesses who first singled him out from a photo lineup, according to the Georgia Innocence Project.

More than 20 years later, Georgia Innocence Project attorneys arranged to compare Williams' DNA with DNA evidence collected from the 1985 rape. It was not a match, proving that Williams was not the attacker and opening the door to his release.

Shortly after Williams' exoneration, DNA science again played a role in the case when a genetic match resulted in the conviction and imprisonment of Kenneth G. Wicker for the crime that Williams had been wrongly convicted of. Years earlier Wicker had served four years in prison for another rape and two attempted sexual assaults, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

As Scheck's Innocence Project marks its 15th year, the 1995 O.J. Simpson defense attorney describes it as a movement for criminal justice as well as human rights.

"I think that it's going to be remembered for getting innocents out of jail, but also for changing the paradigm in the criminal justice system," said Scheck.

"There is a greater understanding now that sound scientific and critical research can go a long way toward proving injustice and prosecuting the guilty."

Sometimes an Innocence Project client is confirmed to be guilty by DNA evidence, but the group doesn't make the number of those cases available. Theoretically, If key DNA material in a case is properly preserved, there's no time limit on revisiting old cases, according to the Innocence Project.

Critics accuse the group of denying closure to communities and victims' families by giving new life to old cases. To that, project spokesman Eric Ferrero said, "Victims are not served by the wrong people being convicted."

Perhaps the most important victory for the project has been its role in sparing the lives of 15 people condemned to death. In 2000, 13 condemned prisoners were exonerated by a group of Northwestern University students affiliated with the Innocence Project.

Some of the innocent prisoners were freed through DNA testing, others were exonerated after new trials were ordered by appellate courts.

Those spared lives prompted then-Illinois Gov. George Ryan to declare a state moratorium on all executions and later, a blanket clemency of all 167 death row prisoners.

The moratorium remains in effect while Illinois authorities consider proposed reforms to the system.

Back in Georgia, during the ten months since Williams' friends and family welcomed him home with hugs and kisses, he's been taking his time rejoining society, attending electronics classes and dealing with his top complaint: 21st century traffic.

Williams has found a home in a church congregation and plans to join its choir, holding on to the spiritual anchor he formed in prison.

Money is tight for Williams, and, according to the Innocence Project, only 45 percent of those exonerated by DNA evidence have been financially compensated. He expects some compensation from Georgia, although the state has no law guiding such cases.

Regaining his freedom has renewed Williams' belief in the power of prayer, but he said it has done little to repair his faith in the nation's justice system. He wonders how many other Americans are still suffering injustices like his own.


"When I see someone on television when they say, 'this is a suspect,' I have a difficult time believing that that actually is a suspect," Williams said.

"That's how I'm affected now."

6 comments:

Cat Cat said...

I would do the same, nightwing.
Tak pasal2 sit in the jail for so long... I will make sure I get compensation for the year lost being locked-up. I feel sorry for William..

kayatan said...

sad

Nightwing said...

Helo Cat,

Ya, thats true. Wasted years...he could have been a some one by now.

------------------------------
Helo Kayatan,

Yes, its indeed sad. Thanks for dropping by.

Ms eNVy said...

He should be and must be compensated.. much is to be said in regards to the justice system .. something has to change but change is taking way too long!

Nightwing said...

Hi Ms Envy,

Ya, takes a while for change to occur...hope it will be a fast one after this incident.

Danny Vice said...

In the United States, restitution for those incarcerated is certainly not guaranteed. In fact, in many states, there are more government resources for those released on parole than there are for those who have been wrongly incarcerated and later exonerated and released.

Currently, an overwhelming number of people who have been exonerated of a crime are not compensated for the toll the incarceration took on their lives socially and economically.

Thus far, only 22 states in the US have laws in place to provide some level of compensation for those who were wrongly convicted. This means a majority of those who went back to court and proved their innocence are then required to sue for this compensation.

This process utilizes significant resources that a recently released inmate typically does not have. For those who do have the knowledge or financial ability to bring a case, the enormous cost of the additional legal wrangling involved may soak up much of the payout.

Many victims of this outrageous process are handed the more daunting challenge of simply restoring their name, let alone consideration of a lawsuit that may or may not result in restitution for the time that has been lost.

What's more, the payout often times received is meager in comparison to what is usually lost. Marty Tankleff for example was sentenced to a New York state prison after being wrongly convicted of killing his parents. Although his case was recently overturned, Marty just recently visited his parent's graves for the first time since their deaths.

Ronnie Taylor, a Houston man who was recently exonerated of a crime he didn't commit was engaged to be married before his arrest in 1993. DNA testing proved his innocence 14 years later - allowing him to finally marry his bride Jeanette Brown. (source)

The Innocence Protect, one organization established in 1992 utilizes DNA testing as a means to force new hearings for those who are wrongly accused. It's website lists hundreds of cases of wrongly convicted individuals who's cases were overturned after a conviction.

While the Weekly Vice does not subscribe to every point of view of the Project's mission statement, one has to wonder where our culture would be without such advocates. Many wrongfully accused individuals have languished in prison for decades before their faulty convictions were tossed out.

Here are a few more examples of justice gone horribly wrong:

Dennis Brown from Louisiana was convicted of a 1984 rape and spent 19 years in prison before DNA testing confirmed that he could not have been the rapist.

Marvin Anderson became the ninety-ninth person in the US to be exonerated of a crime due to post-conviction DNA testing. Even when another individual confessed to the crime Lamont was accused of, the Judge upheld the conviction until DNA evidence finally confirmed Lamont's innocence. He wasn't exonerated until 1992, nearly 20 years after his arrest.

Orlando Boquete's wrongful conviction of attempted sexual battery was vacated a staggering 24 years after his arrest back in 1982.

Robert Clark, wrongly convicted of rape, kidnapping and armed robbery in 1982, languished in prison primarily by mistaken eyewitness. Mistaken identity seems to be a common theme with the cases that later get overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence. Clark was finally vindicated 24 years later.

Luis Diaz was wrongly convicted in 1980 as the 'Bird Road Rapist', where 25 women were attacked, many of them sexually assaulted. Diaz was convicted for 8 of them. His case was overturned 25 years later in 2005.

Conclusion:

These are only a handful of the cases you can view HERE, however they are a sampling of the many instances where our legal system goes horribly wrong to such degree that compensation for one's life cannot be calculated as a mere loss of wages as most restitution awarding states provide.

The Weekly Vice supports tough sentencing guidelines for all sexual assault cases, particularly those of minor children.

We also believe however, that states should be equally aggressive with some level of state subsidy, restitution or other adjudged compensation that is deemed appropriate for each individual case. A dismal 22 states is not a goodwill showing for a nation who prides itself on a Justice For All philosophy.

Thanks For Accepting Comment-----

Danny Vice
The Weekly Vice
htt://weeklyvice.blogspot.com