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Innocence Project Frees Thirty One People in 2013

Thirty one people were exonerated by the Innocence Network in 2013. Three of them were women. All total, these prisoners served 451 years of illegal incarceration.

Bennie Starks spent 20 years behind bars after being wrongfully convicted of raping a 69-year-old woman. Even though Starks had an alibi and did not match the description of the attacker two forensics experts offered false testimony that assisted in getting Starks convicted.

The Innocence Project showed in 2000 that the DNA evidence belonged to another man but the courts refused to give Starks a new trial. In 2004 the Innocence Project found more evidence that excluded Starks and in 2006 the Illinois Appellate Court for the Second District finally overturned Starks conviction. Still, it was not until 2013 that the state finally dismissed all charges against Starks.

Kristine Bunch served 17 years in an Indiana prison for a murder she did not commit. On June 30, 1995 Bunch’s house caught on fire killing her 3-year-old son. An arson investigator testified that he found evidence of an accelerant proving that the fire was deliberately started. A forensic analyst corroborated those findings. Bunch was sentenced to 30 years for arson and 60 years for murder.

In 2006 the Center for Wrongful Convictions subpoenaed the trial records and successfully showed that contrary to the expert testimony no accelerant was found anywhere in the house. In March 2012, her conviction was overturned and in December 2013, all charges against her were finally dropped.

George Allen Jr. served more than 30 years in a Missouri prison for a murder/rape that he did not commit. In February 1982 Mary Bell, a court reporter, was found murdered and raped in her home. Detective Herbert Riley focused his investigation entirely on Allen. Even after it became obvious that Allen was innocent Riley chose to hide exculpatory evidence from defense attorneys.

In September 2011 the Innocence Project filed a petition to overturn Allen’s conviction based on serological and fingerprint evidence that excluded Allen as a suspect. Yet even in light of overwhelming evidence of Allen’s innocence the Attorney General still fought to keep him in prison. On January 13, 2013 all charges against Allen were dismissed.

Probably the most compelling example of a miscarriage of justice is the story of Daniel Taylor. Convicted of a double murder Taylor spent twenty years illegally incarcerated in an Illinois prison even though records proved that he was in police custody at the time the murders took place. In spite of having a time-stamped bond slip that showed Taylor was not released from jail until an hour after the murders took place two policemen testified that the time-stamp must be wrong. He was sentenced to life in prison.

All total the thirty-one people exonerated spent 451 years illegally locked away. And it is only fitting to remember that the people who love them also suffered for 451 years. Wives, husbands, children all endured an irreplaceable loss of time and family because a group of people within the legal system has embraced the use of deception as a legitimate means of locking away innocent citizens.


Source: Innocence Network Exonerations - 2013

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