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Another wrongful conviction cleared up after almost 3 decades

Wrongful conviction has long been a trope used in movies. The innocent man, sent to a prison for a crime he didn’t commit, must clear his name by bringing the real culprit to justice or must make a daring prison escape.

While wrongful conviction stories make for great fiction, they should not be an issue facing the American criminal justice system in 2014. Yet this year alone, the news has been filled with dozens of stories about wrongfully convicted individuals who have been exonerated through DNA evidence or merely a closer look at the details of their case.

Among the most recent is a case from New York, where a judge agreed to vacate the convictions of two men for a murder committed in the mid 1980s. Sadly, only one of the two men was alive to hear the good news. The other died in prison in 2001 from a heart attack. He was just 31 years old.

This case appears to share many traits common to other cases of wrongful conviction. Defendants are often African-American, poor, young, uneducated and/or cognitively impaired. They also tend to be unaware of their criminal defense rights and may have received ineffective representation from a public defender.

As in other cases, these two men were convicted despite a lack of DNA evidence, other physical evidence or credible testimony. The prosecution mainly relied on things the men said during interrogation. But their accounts of what happened did not match one another, and more importantly, they did not match the details of the crime.

Because of the exoneration, a 45-year-old man recently walked free for the first time since he was just 16. While justice is better late than never, we must remember that wrongful convictions do not have to happen. They are preventable, and we all have a vested interest in making sure that all defendants have the legal advocacy they need to ensure a fair trial.

Source: The New York Times, “2 Brooklyn Murder Convictions From ’86 Are Vacated,” Colin Moynihan, Oct. 15, 2014

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

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