And yet another one

Like I have stated before; every 6 months or so we hear about another man who has been freed after DNA testing has proved their innocence.  The latest person is Willie Pete Williams.  Most of these men spend from 10 to 20 years in jail before the truth comes out.  So tell me, where is the outrage from America?  The whole world almost came to a complete stand still when the Duke Lacrosse players were falsely accused.  Pete Williams is today’s news and gone today.

I understand that the witnesses in this case lied so how do we fix this?  The system is run by humans so there will be errors, so should we do away with the death penalty?

20 Responses

  1. Ironically, Mr. Williams would not have been determined innocent without the research of Nobel winner James Watson.

  2. I think the people (jury, judge, prosecutor) who decided and influenced this verdict should be punished.

  3. Can you imagine how many innocent people like Willie have been accused, tried, and sent to their deaths? I mean, you always here of a “killer” right before he’s about to be executed that he’s innocent. How many of those “killers” were actually telling the truth?
    I hope, like using DNA testing, there are more concrete ways to prove that someone is guilty before a person goes to jail for 20+ years or gets the death penalty for a crime they didn’t commit.

  4. Jon:

    now that is irony….

  5. The people at fault are not the prosecuters, judges or jury members. The people at fault are the witnesses, often including the victim. The justice system is fine it is once again the falibility of humans that is causing the problem. There is one major difference between the Duke case and this one, in the Duke case the woman lied in this case people were simply mistaken. If it can be shown that the witness lied I think they should be sent to prison for the same length of time as the accused would have served.

  6. native son: fyi, here are race statistics on exonerations:
    Of the 208 exonerees:

    125 African Americans
    58 Caucasians
    19 Latinos
    1 Asian American
    5 whose race is unknown
    (from Innocence Project)

  7. Govt should be responsible for executing such wrongful verdict. Witness is nothing but the part of Govt and law. It’s the Govt and Law who believed witness. He already lost his 20 years, and now he is going to struggle his whole life for money to support himself. Govt needs to give him full support for rest of his life.

  8. Please see the film “After Innocence” about the issue

  9. Jason,

    Although I understand your point, as someone who was formerlly a member of the criminal justice system (worked within it), prosecutors, judges, and particularly the investigators, I can assure you, are not blameless. Nor are the eyewitnesses entirely at fault; most times, the witnessess are given line-ups (or “show-ups”) that are less-than-benign, and with no intent, are “steered” into picking the suspect that the police believe is the assailant. Until you change these sometimes-suggestive procedures, good people will make mistakes. And there is research to prove that the double-blind methods do work, but police are reluctant to adopt them. Why? There really is no valid reason, other than the unstated on that witness identifications (and consequently convictions, erroneous or otherwise) will decline. Much like the business world, it often is “all about numbers” in the criminal justice system (conviction rates, etc.). Sad but true.

  10. Mr Williams lost 22 years of his life because 3 people lied, pointing the finger at him and swearing that he was the rapist. Mr Williams is certainly due compensation for his loss. Why are these 3 liars not forced to compensate Mr Williams for the life they took from him?

  11. The fact that Scheck’s organization won’t disclose how often their DNA testing CONFIRMS guilt is very telling. Don’t get me wrong, I feel horrible for Mr. Williams, and agree with previous posters that he is owed some compensation. However, the justice system is a human system, and thus it is flawed. Sometimes the guilty go free, and sometimes the innocent do not. This is not, however, a reason to go demanding DNA testing on every criminal case in the country. For every Willie Williams out there, there are at least 50 legitimately guilty people who would walk if we demanded DNA in every case, simply because DNA evidence couldn’t be found, or the tests couldn’t be performed. Getting innocent people out of jail is undoubtedly a wonderful thing, but Scheck’s refusal to fully disclose the project’s results (i.e. confirmations of guilt) speak volumes about his motivations in the innocence project. After all, if truth is what we’re after here, why not disclose ALL of the testing results?

  12. I am normally in support of the death penalty (for certain instances of murder), but cases like this make me really wonder sometimes:
    a) How many innocent men have been put to death so far in America?
    and b) What can you possibly say to a man’s family if the man is executed, then DNA testing later proves he was innocent?

  13. Bill,
    just because he got convicted on faulty eyewitness testimony doesn’t mean the people lied. Some people just make honest mistakes when it comes to this stuff.

    And in some cases overzealous law enforcement personnel can unduly influence a victim or witness to pick a particular person out of a lineup (sometimes purposely, sometimes not) .

  14. Baumstark,

    I don’t think any reasonable person is advocating DNA testing for “every criminal case in the country”. That’s just untenable. However, in situations where (1) DNA evidence has been properly preserved, and (2) such testing could (given the nature/facts of the case), definitively prove guilt or provide exculpatory (and every proscecutor/good defense Atty knows what these parameters are), they certainly should be conducted. Furthermore, the Innocent Project and other similar organizations go through a very rigiorous case screening process, proferring only those cases where there is a very strong likliehood that a mistake (or worse) has been made. Now, you say that for every Williams “there are 50 legitimately guilty people that would go free if we demanded DNA in every case”…that’s simply as mistatement of fact. For the vast majority of violent crime cases, as you know, there is no DNA evidence at the scene (and for “old” cases, much of the DNA is no longer viable) so of course no one could demand a DNA test for evidence that does not exist. I don’t think anyone is advocating a systems whereby you set free the convicted if no DNA evidence is found…that’s simply illogical and coutnerintuitive. The point is, where there IS dna evidence available, and the circumstances are such that it could affirm conviction or exculpate, there should be testing. Think how much taxpayer money could be saved on erroneous-resulting trials, appeals, etc. if the testing were done up front (in new cases), and how many wrongly convicted could be freed (in old cases). It’s a moral duty, if not a legal one.

  15. The Observer:

    Great point. I have changed my stance over the years on the Death Penalty for exactly this reason. Do certain persons, in my opinion, deserve death penalty? Yes, without a doubt. However, when you look on the bigger picture, given the flaws in our justice systems (and flaws is a kind characterization), it’s better to err on the side of caution and support/enforce long sentences for violent crimes rather than death, which cannot be “undone” if a mistake is made. Again, I know we can all rattle of cases where we’d all agree that the heinous nature of the crime calls for the death penalty, and where their really is little-to-no doubt about the guilt of the defendant (the two recent child murder cases out of Florida come to mind – those two defendants never claimed they didn’t kill those two little girls – unrelated cases, by the way – and even the most left-leaning people will understand why a death penalty was warranted in that case). However, greater good….again, not speaking for anyone but me.

  16. What some may say is an innocent mistake I question. Take a look at the actual perpetrator of this crime, and the photo of Mr. Williams. They don’t resemble each other in any way.

  17. Dwayne Allen Dail, 39 was also wrongly convicted of rape and spent 18 years behind bars.Now he is free because of DNA evidence.He is now being sued for back child support payments. He is white. Mistakes happen. People go to prison for crimes they didn’t commit,but alot more go for crimes they did commit.There are innocent people in prison.No system is foolproof but I believe that we do the best we can, but it is not perfect. I believe that Mr. Willie Pete Williams should get compren$ion,but honestly I think it is a crappy way of making money.(Time in prison wise).Now I don’t think we should be mad at the justice system,the jurors or witnesses. The only person that should get our anger is Kenneth G. Wicker. The real rapist.

  18. It’s a shame these people are freed and then left to fend for themselves! I think it should be federal law that exonerated prisoners receive compensation from the civic entity that unjustly convicted them. Perhaps then we’d see REAL reform in the way prosecutions are handled! Of course, this will never happen, but it would be true justice…

  19. Sean,

    If you don’t believe that there are plenty of people out there who will NOT convict someone without DNA evidence, you need to get yourself into a courtroom. Its a little thing we in “the business” like to call “the CSI effect”. I have multiple panelists, every time I conduct a voire dire, who indicate that they could not convict someone without DNA evidence, whether they were caught in the act and arrested on the spot or not. Just because YOU may not be suggesting DNA testing in every case, that does not mean that it is not being suggested. Now, there’s another thing that I’d like to know. The article is mum about Mr. Williams’ past criminal record. Maybe he has one, maybe he doesn’t. I could tell you this, however, my office has pursued the innocence project and released people who where exonerated by DNA evidence. In the case of one man in particular, the local press went on to make a saint out of the defendant, never once noting that he had other convictions for rape – ones that weren’t overturned. In other words, in the case of this man who I speak of (who is NOT Willie Williams, for clarification), he WAS a rapist, he just didn’t rape the particular woman for whom he was serving time. Why didn’t the press report it? Because it made the story a hell of a lot less sensational. Think about it- which reads better “Innocent man released from prison after 20 years” or “Rapist didn’t do this particular rape, so I guess we let him out”? Its irresponsible journalism, that could very easily result in more crimes being perpetrated if someone was to rely on the press to disclose everything. They don’t. I am sorry for Mr. Williams, and I do not know about his criminal history, but I do know this – until the press, and the innocence project, decides to start disclosing everything, instead of solely what makes for a sensational headline, I won’t be believing the hype. I invite you to do the same.

    I worked in a state correctional facility for 8 years and I am sure a few of the inmates may have been innocent. The vast majority is as guilty as all hell. How do I know? 98% had a rap sheet with multiply convictions. I have read many of the case files and I sleep peacefully at night knowing they are locked up. For the few that may be innocent, we as a society cannot repay that debt.

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