Kevin Richardson of the Central Park Five takes a deep breath after 25 years spent in prison for a wrongful conviction
According to the National Registry of Exonerations at the University of Michigan, 1,569 men and women in the United States, most of them African American, have been completely exonerated after being wrongfully convicted and sent to prison. The number of people exonerated for wrongful convictions actually broke a record high in 2014 with 125 exonerations, including six people who were actually on death row awaiting execution.Less than every three days in our country, some man or woman is released back into society after spending a tragic portion of their life behind bars for a crime they never committed. Few injustices can compare to the horror of spending one hour in prison for something you didn’t do.
Ricky Jackson of Ohio spent 341,640 hours, or 39 years, behind bars before he was exonerated. Just a teenager when he was convicted, he was nearly a senior citizen when he was released.
Jonathan Fleming was serving the 25th year of a 25-year sentence when he was finally exonerated after a wrongful conviction.
Glenn Ford, on death row for 30 years in Louisiana, was 64 years old when he was released and was exonerated. Stricken with lung cancer, he was only expected to live a few more months.
One study determined that nearly 10,000 people are likely to be wrongfully convicted for serious crimes annually. Another study estimates that as many as 340 people are likely to have been executed in the United States before they were properly exonerated.
This is a travesty. Anyone who says otherwise is sick.
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But the conversation should not end at our conclusion that these wrongful convictions are a travesty. It appears, though, that an entire section of America refuses to believe that police or prosecutors can ever do any wrong at all. Except they do. Often.
Detective Louis Scarcella of the NYPD is accused of framing suspects, forcing fake confessions, and using the same single eyewitness for multiple murders. Many men who were wrongfully convicted under his watch have recently been exonerated and 50 of his cases are under review.
Chicago has now been called the “false confession capital” as more and more details are uncovered on how the city’s police officers are torturing men and women to confess to crimes they didn’t commit. They were so good at it, in fact, that Detective Richard Zuley was brought from Chicago to Guantanamo Bay to directly oversee one of the most brutal torturing operation in modern history.
The prosecutor of Glenn Ford, shipped off to death row at Angola State Prison in Louisiana in 1984, now openly admits that he was “sick … arrogant, judgemental, narcissistic and very full of myself” when he sought the wrongful conviction of Ford, who spent 30 years of his life in one of the most brutal prisons in the world.
Four police officers in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, were just caught sending texts to one another about “killing nigg*rs” and giving them the “early death penalty.”
This is not okay.
Our justice system is altogether broken. This brokenness, though, must not be understood in some abstract way. It’s broken because the people leading it are often sick, disturbed racists who care very little for those on the receiving end of their sickness.
It’s not good enough to simply give wrongfully convicted men an insufficient check and an apology. We must repair the broken system so these instances go away for good.