Nathaniel E. Epps and Percell F. Warren loudly protested their innocence when they were convicted of raping and beating a woman in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1996. Two decades later, DNA testing has just proven conclusively that they could not have been the perpetrators, but the truth is confirmed too late for Warren who died of cancer in 2012 – while still incarcerated for crimes he did not commit.
If ever there was a textbook case to demonstrate the dazzling array of unacceptable problems with our criminal justice system, it is the case of Sandeep “Sonny” Bharadia. Eyewitness misidentification, law enforcement incompetence, perjured testimony and bad lawyering all played a part in sending this obviously innocent man to prison for life without the possibility of parole. And in spite of recent DNA evidence that would surely exonerate him, he has been denied a new trial on the basis of a loophole in Georgia state law.
On Wednesday April 6 of this year, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring made the announcement that a man previously convicted of rape and murder was innocent. The man, Keith Harward, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Jesse Perron, and the rape of Perron’s wife.
Anyone who still thinks that overzealous, conviction-hungry prosecutors and police do more good than harm should take a look at the case of Michael Morton, a man from Texas who spent 25 years in prison after being wrongful convicted for murdering his wife, Christine, in 1986.
In 2002, Carl Chatman was falsely accused and wrongly convicted of rape. Finally exonerated after 11 years in prison, he has filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Chicago, the Chicago police department, and others involved in this travesty of justice.
Although many prosecutors go to great lengths to cover up evidence that suggests a wrongful conviction has been obtained, some make an effort to do the right thing. As seen in a recent case involving state’s attorney Richard Schmack.
If God forbid, one of your loved ones was killed by another human being, would you want the true killer to be brought to justice? Or would you settle for someone who the government says is the perpetrator but is actually innocent?
Another win for the Conviction Review Unit in the Brooklyn D.A.’s office. Overzealous prosecutors who care more about defending the system than keeping innocent people out of prison should take careful note of this D.A.’s words, because the way that you preserve the integrity of the system is by convicting the actual perpetrator and exonerating the wrongfully convicted.