When someone is convicted of sexual assault in New Jersey, do we really know if he or she committed the crime? Many of us assume that he or she did because a judge or jury found him or her guilty, but can't they make mistakes? And, if they do make mistakes and people are sent to prison for crimes they never committed, how often does it happen?
It is likely impossible to know exactly how many people have been wrongfully convicted of a crime, but as new evidence emerges, there are many people in Essex County and the rest of northern New Jersey who may be clamoring for new trials. And, if there is a chance that they have been wrongfully convicted, don't they deserve a new trial?
For 11 years and three months a Tennessee man was held in prison after being convicted of raping a 12-year-old girl. The problem is, however, that he never actually raped her, but it took DNA evidence to prove his innocence. Though he is from Tennessee and that is where the crime took place, stories like this unfortunately happen here, too.
Even after DNA cleared his name, however, it took three years before the man was finally released from prison. It took three years more before prosecutors finally chose to drop the charges, meaning that he was not at risk of having to go back to prison.
Interestingly enough, the evidence that may have led to this man's conviction was that the 12-year-old girl named him as her rapist. While juries and judges often take victim's identifications as definitive proof that a defendant is guilty, it is always important to remember that following a traumatic event like rape, some people have difficulty identifying the correct person.
Source: The Tennessean, "TN exoneration joins growing number of innocence cases," Brian Haas, June 2, 2014