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Friday, July 7, 2006

Man free 21 years after wrongful rape conviction

Alan Newton - wrongfully convicted of rape 21 years agoA women wrongly accused Alan Newton of rape 21 years ago. She had picked Newton out of a police photo array a year after she was savagely attacked. Newton was then picked up and put in a lineup. The victim again identified Newton as the attacker.

But before the 1985 trial the victim told prosecutors that she wasn't still sure if Newton was the man who had raped and then stabbed her in the eye. However, prosecutors forged head, using the victims initial statements as the key evidence against him.

Mr. Newton insisted he was innocent and that he was with his fiancee in Queens the night of the attack. The jury did not believe him.

Alan Newton was convicted of rape, robbery, and assault. He was sentenced to up to 40 years in prison. He became eligible for parole after 10 years. However, because he steadfastly refused to admit his guilt and enroll in any sex offender program he was denied parole. Mr Newton said:

I never considered taking any type of program because I knew I was innocent...You've got a lot of other brothers in the system that are truly innocent also.
Mr. Newton was then victimized again in 1994 when he filed an appeal requesting his DNA be compared to the physical evidence in the rape kit from 1984. The police said they had lost the evidence from his case. This happened again to his appeals in 1997 and 1998.

While he was in prison Mr. Newton's mother died. Newton's sister, Juanita, said: "That killed her, because she knew he was innocent...She died of a broken heart."

Finally last year after a renewed request by the Bronx District Attorney's Office, which included a copy of the original evidence-room voucher, the evidence was found exactly where it was supposed to be.

Thursday a judge in the Bronx exonerated Alan Newton after reviewing the DNA evidence from the savage 1984 crime.

The Bronx District Attorney issued a statement saying it regrets Newton's wrongful imprisonment.

How do you give a man back 21 years of his life?

The New York Times reported:
At least 17 other people who have been convicted of serious crimes in New York City, and who maintain that they are innocent, have been unable to obtain DNA testing because the authorities say they cannot find the evidence, said Vanessa Potkin, a staff lawyer with the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in Manhattan, a legal clinic that helps convicts get DNA tests.

By the Innocence Project's tally, the city has one of the worst records in the country for finding old evidence when it is sought by people seeking to clear their names:

Of the New York City cases that the project has been unable to resolve, 50 percent involved DNA evidence that had been lost or destroyed, compared with an average of 32 percent nationally.

"It has been much more difficult for us to locate forensic evidence in New York City than any other jurisdiction," Ms. Potkin said. "Mr. Newton could have been proven innocent in 1994."

sources:
Man free 21 years after wrongful rape conviction [MSNBC, July 6, 2006]
DNA Evidence Frees Man Convicted Of Bronx Rape 21 Years Ago [NY1, July 6, 2006]
New York Fails at Finding Evidence to Help the Wrongfully Convicted [NY Times, July 6, 2006]

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