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Imagine being falsely accused and spending years in a prison for a crime you didn’t commit. Sounds like the plot to an action film, but the program known as The Innocents Project has documented nearly 300 cases in the U.S.A alone. Men and woman serving as many as 25 years for someone else’s crimes. 300 may seem like a small number when considering the population but not when you consider the topic.
One example is Luis Diaz. Convicted as the “Bird Road Rapist” for sexual assault, kidnapping, and battery, he was sentence to life in prison due to eyewitness misidentification and improper forensic science. Diaz entered prison when he was 42 years old and was released at age 67. Imagine being shut away in the prime of your life, returning to an unfamiliar world as an elderly. All the memories that would be missed. All that life, unlived.
Jimmy Ray Bromgard was sentence to 40 years after a misidentification pinned him for the rape of an 8-year-old. Bromgard was convicted at 18, a time when his friends would have been graduating, starting college, jobs, and new families. Bromgard was not released until age 33.
Another case was Frank Smith who died of cancer on Florida’s death row after serving 14 years for a murder and rape he didn’t commit.
Of those released, 94 have yet to be compensated for their losses. Compensations takes time but there has to be a limit. Freddie Peacock from New York is one of the current 94. Convicted of a rape he did not commit in 1976, he has yet to be compensated. Some of these individuals exited the system without strong family support, tarnished names and without credible work experience or any savings. They are reduced to lives sometimes worse than prisons.
One group works on improving the system and help clear the names of those wrongly accused: The Innocence Project. They also help the public understand and support the cause. First, know your facts. It is estimated that 75% of wrong convictions are based off eyewitness misidentification. Other contributions include poor DNA testing, false confessions, which takes place in 30% of affected cases, government misconduct, and bad lawyering.
Second, get involved. Get connected to local innocents network organizations, take action, donate, reach out to media, become more knowledgeable about those wrongly convicted and spread the word. You can learn about local procedures and help improve them, work with prisoners and their families and communities, or host a local fundraising and educational event.
This may seem like it has nothing to do with you but learning about the consequences could help you one day, should you become a bystander to a crime which you would later be misidentified to have committed. Take a stand and help return the innocent to freedom sooner rather than later.
Image credit: The Innocence Project via Facebook.com