August 17th, 2009
11:12 PM ET

Innocent man freed from prison after 23 years

Program Note: Tune in tonight to hear more about Ernest Sonnier's case on AC360° at 10 p.m. ET.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/17/art.vert.ernest.sonnier.jpg caption="Ernest Sonnier was sentenced to life but was released from prison after 23 years because DNA testing proved he was wrongfully convicted." width=292 height=320]

Gary Tuchman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Ernest Sonnier was 23 when he was arrested and charged with rape and kidnapping. He was taken in handcuffs from his Houston home and didn't leave prison for another 23 years.

A week and a half ago, at the age of 46, Sonnier was freed after essentially being told by prosecutors, sorry – but we now inform you that DNA evidence we've just gotten around to checking indicates you did not commit this crime.

And get this – when the DNA that was examined was compared with other specimens in police possession, it came up positive for two other men already in the system. Men who are felons, but are no longer in prison.

As you wonder whether or not authorities will arrest those other men, we can tell you the answer is no. It won't happen because the statute of limitations has expired. That's just some of the discouraging news about this case.

Also discouraging, is this: Ernest Sonnier is now the sixth person to be freed from prison after allegations of shoddy work from the same crime laboratory, which is run by the Houston police. Over the years, the lab has been accused of ineptitude, corruption, and has even suffered flooding and water leakage which led to the corruption of genetic materials.

Now, the District Attorney, who is relatively new, has pledged that all cases that involved DNA in Houston will be reviewed. That means hundreds of cases will be re-examined. This all raises two serious questions: how many innocent people are behind bars because of poor lab work, and how many guilty people are not behind bars where they deserve to be?

Ernest Sonnier was identified by his victim in court in 1986. Prosecutors said lab tests showed hair found in the victim's vehicle was consistent with his. Shortly after Sonnier's trial, DNA testing became routine.

The DNA from the hair and bodily fluids found in the car and on the victim has been available for years. But the lab's backlog was endless, and there was no mechanism for verification. A national group that tries to help the wrongly convicted, the Innocence Project, got involved in Sonnier's case, and the testing was completed.

Sonnier, who has no idea how to operate a cell phone and marvels over satellite TV, is now a free man.

He says he will forgive, but he can't forget.

Sonnier is staying at home with his grateful mother and father. He hugs great nieces and nephews he has never been allowed to touch.

He has not officially been exonerated. He had a criminal record before his arrest (which likely diminished any credibility he might have had with police and prosecutors.) He is now on supervised release.

So the district attorney and her investigators say they will spend weeks or months investigating his past. But unless they find out something new, Ernest Sonnier will officially be cleared. And the real criminals will continue to count their lucky stars that Sonnier took the rap for them.

Filed under: 360° Radar • Crime & Punishment • Gary Tuchman
soundoff (265 Responses)
  1. Denise

    I normally try and give people the benefit of a doubt, but this has an undeniable racist undercurrent. I don't care what this man's criminal record was 23 years ago...he didn't commit the crime he's served over two decades for...and I'm sorry, but as a white woman I'm FULLY aware of the attitudes toward black men with criminal records. It's shameful. This man lost 23 YEARS for nothing, and now they are MONITORING him???? Are you kidding me???? They should be issuing a public apology and yes, the true perps should at the very least be named...Mr. Sonnier, godspeed, and I hope you find justice.

    August 17, 2009 at 4:42 pm |
  2. Kelley

    On August 17th, 2009 1:13 pm ET, Curious wrote:

    "Slightly off-topic:
    Shouldn’t the statute of limitations and potential prison terms be similar? For example, if Sonnier had committed the crime, he would still be serving time, right? So why is it that if the real perpetrators can avoid being caught during a shorter statute of limitations they can’t be prosecuted? If the crime is bad enough for someone to serve a prison term of X years, then the statute of limitations should be at least X years, shouldn’t it? Or is the crime not as bad if the perpetrators aren’t caught?"

    EXCELLENT point. This story illustrates perfectly why the Statute of Limitations pertaining to all manner of violent crimes is in desperate need of a common-sense overhaul...

    August 17, 2009 at 4:41 pm |
  3. Faye L. Nicholson

    To Kar – Take a real educated guess why no white men are found innocent of alleged charges. Mainly because they are not represented by overworked Public Defenders and the presumption of guilt based on race. How many similar crimes that are committed by whites are allowed bond and given probation whereas the non-white is given a high bond and shipped right off to prison? Have you heard anything else about the person who killed many cats in Florida or the person killing horses? Yet the news is flooded with news of Michael Vick and how he is still being persecuted for his crime after serving his time. What about all those priests who molest hundreds of young boys still living their lives as usual and being moved to other locations to molest again. Where are the demonstrators? WHY IS THIS!!!!!

    August 17, 2009 at 4:40 pm |
  4. jimmy

    We live in a country where the law has all of the power and the citizens have really none. Only if you have money can you deal with the overwhelming forces of law at work here. I agree that this gentleman should indeed sue the prosecutor for overzealousness, the lab for shoddy work, the suposed eye witness for false identification, and his orriginal lawyer for an incompetent defense. By the way, white folks are exonnerated as well, but the liberal media sees fit to only publicize the cases involving black individuals. It makes for better press.

    August 17, 2009 at 4:38 pm |
  5. iigw.org

    Absolutely ridiculous.

    I wouldn’t even know how or where to start.

    I would probably move to another country.

    Is this a racial case? Who knows..

    But one thing is for sure, this man has endured 23 years of h*ll he will never get back.

    I do think the jail system should compensate him for the time lost, so he can have a chance to live and see what they took away from him so long ago..

    August 17, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  6. Lisa

    ". . .when the DNA that was examined was compared with other specimens in police possession, it came up positive for two other men already in the system. Men who are felons, but are no longer in prison."

    Not one match, but TWO. Is there such a thing as someone having the same DNA as you?

    "Over the years, the lab has been accused of ineptitude, corruption, and has even suffered flooding and water leakage which led to the corruption of genetic materials."

    Wouldn't that mean that we cannot be certain of this man's innocence or guilt? The lab should be shut down. Any previous evidence should be inadmissible, and all crimes determined by this lab's evidence should be null and void.

    August 17, 2009 at 4:29 pm |
  7. Paterfamilias

    Isn't it possible to make this a civil matter? There's no statute of limitations, right?

    While no amount of money can replace the loss of 23 years, the bracing effect of a lawsuit might make folks think twice. The men who let him take the fall for their action should pay his way for the next 23 years. The DA, the prosecutors, and the evidence lab that goofed up should help out.

    It might not have been malpractice to make the mistake in the first place, given what was known at the time, but it's malpractice now to not review ALL the old cases to be as sure as we can be that no more innocent people remain locked up. There's nothing to stop the city from putting on a second lab to just review old cases, except that it's not currently a priority. So make it a priority. Via lawsuit if necessary.

    August 17, 2009 at 4:26 pm |
  8. D.M. Taylor

    David,do you know me are you hiding from me?

    August 17, 2009 at 4:25 pm |
  9. Jen

    This is like the case in Wisconsin where a man was freed from prison after DNA results came back that he wasn't guilty. I believe his name is Steven Avery. He worked in/owned a salvage yard. A woman went up there to take pictures of his cars and he ended up killing her and hiding the body. So he went back to prison because of that crime. He hadn't really been in trouble much before that either. Prison can change even the innocent so hopefully Mr. Sonnier can go on a live a productive life outside of prison. Even if he was wrongfully sent there, it can harden or break down a person.

    August 17, 2009 at 4:24 pm |
  10. Sean

    Don't get angry, get even, Mr. Sonnier. I hope Mr. Sonnier hires a good lawyer who will secure a lucrative settlement for him. Because of the buffoonery of the DA's office, Mr. Sonnier should be set for life.

    August 17, 2009 at 4:18 pm |
  11. notsoquick

    Not one person considers that DNA isn't the end all?

    I don't trust just DNA-only results either, because it also can be contaminated, switched, fixed in order to free guilty people.

    In every system there are errors, but to come to results based on just one aspect of a crime investigation is wrong also.
    Crime TV shows have created an erroneous focus on DNA as the single deciding factor in criminal cases. The judicial system should absolutely look into each case found "innocent" based on DNA.
    And those basing these kinds of cases for leverage in eliminating the death penalty, think of those others that sit in overcrowded prisons for DECADES draining resources that should be going to feeding and housing and better educating those of whom crime is no part of their lifestyle.

    August 17, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  12. Donna

    Thank God there is an afterlife that lasts for eternity. This man at least has something to look forward to. I hope he gets to enjoy the rest of his life in this "hell-hole" of a world, though. I'm sure he will never trust ANYBODY again. And will be afraid to do anything that would send him back to prison. But he's black, so he's already got one strike against him.

    August 17, 2009 at 4:15 pm |
  13. Chris, Charlotte

    Well lets hear it for Texas, another feather in their cap of stupidity. I hope this guy hires a world-class legal team and make Houston pay thru the nose. That's the only way to get there attention

    August 17, 2009 at 4:12 pm |
  14. Albertus

    Curious has it right! – 'Shouldn’t the statute of limitations and potential prison terms be similar?' This is the best question. Right on topic. Here's a very simple idea that most sensible people can understand, yet the US justice system (INDUSTRY) is so inept it's never talked about on the federal level. This issue seemes to vary from state to state. For example, from the Louisiana Criminal Code;
    LA. CODE CRIM. PROC. art. 571 Crimes for which
    there is no time limitation
    No time limit for any crime for which the
    punishment may be death or life
    imprisonment, or for forcible rape
    (§ 14:42.1)

    Here's an international example;
    In Spain, the statute of limitations is 10 years for offences for which the prison sentence is over 5 years, 5 years if the prison sentence is between 3 and 5 years and 3 years if the prison sentence is less than 3 years.
    Simple yeh?

    You Americans call your congress/reps on this and change it. I cant as I'm a EU'r.

    August 17, 2009 at 4:11 pm |
  15. Richard

    First I would like to say that no one should do time for a crime that they did not commit. I think this man should be compensated for this tradgedy. But lets be clear, that the problem with this case was the timing (DNA testing was not available or as advanced as it is today) and unfortunately the victim identified him as the suspect. This shows that eye witness testimony is not always reliable and additional evidence should be required for prosecution. However, law enforcement and prosecutors do make judgements in many cases based on their victims. Today, if a victim picked out the suspect and DNA is present then DNA testing would be conducted in a timely manner and would support or dispute the eye witness identification. I would hoped that additional evidence was present but in many cases (its not like on TV) there is not much to go on. So juries sometimes don't have the smoking gun type evidence and must determine if the evidence presented is beyond a reasonable doubt. Now, I am a firm believer that I would rather see someone guitly go free than to convict an innocent person. But understand that if you held the legal system to a higher standard then very few criminals would be off the street.

    August 17, 2009 at 4:10 pm |
  16. Chargers Fan

    This dude SHOULD get a monetary settlement that will set him up for the remainder of his life. Of course, he probably won't.
    Would a pile of money give back 23 years that were stolen from him? No. But it would make the remaining time he has on Earth a bit easier. It seems like society more than owes him some serious compensation.

    August 17, 2009 at 4:03 pm |
  17. Kaas Baichtal

    I never thought about it before, but why do we have sentences that can last longer than statute of limitations for the same crime? Not sure that makes sense.

    August 17, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  18. Javed

    The prosecutors should be jailed for this mistake. This undermines our justice system.

    Let's start putting the prosecutors in jail and then I assure you such mistakes will not occur.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:58 pm |
  19. Ron

    Government officials who do wrong things that as a result ruin a persons life should be treated the same as a malpractice cases.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  20. Charles

    To me it's not about black and white. It's about RIGHT and WRONG. Evidently Houston P.D. and a lot of other police department CSI unit’s needs to go back to school and learn how to do their job. I also feel that if evidence is available, even after a conviction, that this evidence should be examined. Witnesses do make mistakes when they identify alleged criminals. As far as the Statute of Limitations is concerned, no charges were ever filed and these people who committed this crime SHOULD be charged, regardless of when the crime happened. They should be forced to pay for the crime that someone else was blamed. This man deserves vindication and retribution. He lost half of his life.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:57 pm |
  21. John

    This man should live like a KING off of Houston for the rest of his life.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  22. VLY

    For those of you who say it is the victim's fault for identifying him, remember that after such a trauma, it is difficult to accurately identify someone. That is why the criminal justice system is supposed to rely on good investigations and independent verifications, rather than only the testimony of emotional and frightened victims. After an experience like that, I'd probably be imaging that every face was "his" as well for a while.

    peter peterman iii – the article clearly indicates "when the DNA that was examined was compared with other specimens in police possession, it came up positive for two other men already in the system." So the reporting and indeed the eventual DNA testing seems to have covered your -concern- that he might have been the perp after all.

    This is a tragedy. One that is all to frequent. It may have a racial element (there is certainly a track record), but it may not. Either way, it is tragic and awful. Nothing can give Mr. Sonnier his life back. Even going forward it will never be the same. But as a society, we should be ready to help people who are exonnerated after false convictions.

    Someone should propose a law...

    August 17, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  23. joe

    Have the prosecutor and lab techs spend the rest of their lives in jail, they are an extreme danger to society. They are the very definition of a terrorist. These are the types of people prisons are built for.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  24. Ursu47us

    There are two victims, neither of which has received any justice. The Houston, and the Dallas DA office are full of problems like this. It almost begs that every case from these two areas be reexamined. In the meantime, the real bad guys are having a good old time and other innocent people are sitting in jail mr Sonnier will have a diffiuclt time putting his life back together, I hope and pray that he is sucessful, and for the woman that was victimized also.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  25. sadlyunkown

    This man will never know the real world. For 23 years prison has been his world. The real world that he is getting ready to enter into is worst than the world he was taken out of 23 years ago. His life will never be the same, his former friends and family mind set will never be the same either. He is has seen isolatation, humiliation and disrespect for 23 years, because of this it will be hard for him to find kindness in others.

    Even if he did press charges agains the state and all that were in involved in his case it will never change who this man really is.

    He has to learn a whole new system of everything, language, social skills, economics, basicaly is he starting all over again thanks to the crimminal justice system!

    My prayers are with you MR. ERNEST SONNIER (no longer imate number xxxxxxx)

    August 17, 2009 at 3:53 pm |
  26. hhk

    I love how this turned into a racial issue according to these comments.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:52 pm |
  27. Phillip Stephens

    It's not quite as simple as some of you seem to believe. Courts are notorious for delaying trials. I know that years ago I was attacked by a kid with a 2 x 4 (at night) who came up behind me and tried to cave in my skull so he could rob me. I went to the emergency room with a broken arm. No big deal. But here is what is important - it was approximately one year later I was called in to identify (from photographs) my attacker. There were 3 photos of boys of all approximately the same build and facial features. After a year had passed I had all but forgotten what someone looked like that I had seen for only what? 3-5 minutes out of a lifetime? I had a hard time trying to identify him after all that time. Furthermore there are cases on record where the police "prompt" a victim on who to accuse. Eye witness testimony is notorious for inaccuracy because of the passage of time and memory fades, etc.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:50 pm |
  28. indymom

    So let me understand. He is on supervised release because he had priors. Yet the scum who committed the crime that he was accused walk free. Statue of limitations. I think that 23 years should resolve any prior legal issues.
    God bless

    August 17, 2009 at 3:45 pm |
  29. Jackie

    Why would they investigate his past. What past , if they don't know what he's been doing for the last 23 years it's obvious to everyone else and after 23 years what does it matter.......

    August 17, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  30. WLS

    The biggest shame is the Lab that made this mistake obviously knew it was a mistake that is why it took so long. Also why is this Lab still open for business? Why is run by the Police Department who can influence test results. Why not independent. TEXAS Justice.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:43 pm |
  31. TL

    A lot of people on here are turning this into a race thing, forget about color, we are all human!!! We breathe the same dang air, let it go! The big issue here is that someone is getting a life back and 2 other people are going to be able to live their lives when they should be locked up for life. I think the county should have to pay for his house, car, and train him on how technology works today and compensate him so he doesn't ever need to work since he will be so far behind. That would be fair, but it will never get back his 23 years.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:42 pm |
  32. PegE

    ... I hope Mr. Sonnier can move forward with his life ... nothing can make up for the injustice he was a victim of ... even if the statute of limitations has expired on the guilty - I pray the system is keeping them in their sights ... i'm so sorry this happened. And yes, def changes my mind on the death penalty....

    August 17, 2009 at 3:36 pm |
  33. Cap

    I am a 20 law enforcement veteran who is totally disgusted with the state of our criminal justice system. My entire career I always followed the single rule of doing what was right and ethical. Yet I have seen many Prosecuting Attorneys that do not review a case, but just file anything coming across their desk. Actually making the statement, they can't afford to fight us, we'll get a plea bargain. Then there are the officers who shade a report in the direction they want to case to go. I didn't realize the state we have gotten to until I myself went through prosecution over lies from a fellow law enforcement officer. My hat is off to the many good officers doing the right thing. We as a people and nation need to take a serious look at where our criminal justice system is headed.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:31 pm |
  34. Witchy women

    Nothing like having all your eggs in one basket. How did a jury convict this man without DNA.

    No type of science is exact. I’m sure there are many people that have been wrongly convicted for things they didn’t do. Unfortunately in this case it looks like the DA’s office just took their own sweet time in really looking at the DNA evidence. 23 years is a long time to sit waiting for justice to prevail. Hopefully Mr. Sonnier can go on with his life and not let anger ruin it. But I would sue them if I was him

    No one should be checking his background this man servered time for a crime he did not commit

    August 17, 2009 at 3:28 pm |
  35. Jim

    Gee, I wonder how many people were put to death because of this same ineptitude and corruption.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:27 pm |
  36. Lisa

    I do believe Barry Scheck has a place in heaven, and I think the District Attorney for Houston deserves some praise for starting this project in Houston. If it wasn't for people like Barry Scheck who convinced the American Judicial System to look at DNA despite convictions, people in the shoes of Mr. Sonnier would just rot in prison innocent of the convictions that put them there. When cases rest on something like the hair found at the scene was "consistent" with the defendant and eye witness identification now understood as not being very reliable, it is not surprising we have so many wrongfully convicted people in this country. But now that we have DNA technology maybe there will be less people in the shoes of Mr. Sonnier. Nothing can restore 23 years erroneously taken away from Mr. Sonnier.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:25 pm |
  37. sam

    In 1986, DNA testing was not used, it was a relatively new concept. Serology was probably what was conducted which only looks at blood type and a few other things. DNA testing in crime labs began in the early 90's. It's still sad to know that there are many people locked up that are innocent.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:24 pm |
  38. Michelle

    Here's the problem. It's not because the man is African American or Hispanic. It is because the parents of these children are not changing anything in their lives to improve the life of their children's futures. Most sit around feeling sorry for themselves and continue to struggle in poor communities, with high crime. Rather than screaming feel sorry for the black man, feel sorry for the Mexicans (which I am Mexican), start doing something to help those communities. Whining gets you no where! Join groups that help educate these suffering kids, stuck in bad environments/situations. You can do this by donating your time, helping in educating or counseling young gang members, etc. Just stop screaming racism. It doesn't get you anywhere. We need to focus on the real problem of education, and income for these families. My parents both grew up in the projects in Gary, IN. They got educated and moved on. They moved on, and you know what? We have had a wonderful life in CALIFORNIA! If states don't want to support all their races, then move on and watch that state struggle financially. Yes, there is help out there if one truly wants it!

    August 17, 2009 at 3:23 pm |
  39. bee jay

    the bad part about this is that this man spent 23 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit(sounds like illinois) and now the very people who are responsible for this is investigating his PAST!!!! for what? whatever crime he committed in the past, short of murder has been paid for. he was free at the time of his arrest so somebody needs to pay dearly for that.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:23 pm |
  40. Dreamer of Pictures

    The over situation has a few glimmers of hope. One, Mr. Sonnier was freed (and yes, I hope he gets a huge settlement from Texas and the lab). Two, the US Supreme Court says that criminal defense has the right to subpoena and question the human producers of all forensics reports. The labs will have to spend MUCH more time defending their analyses, which itself will force them upgrade their analytic procedures. Three, the Innocence Project has won again, and will probably rake in more donations to continue their good work. Four, prosecutors can see the handwriting on the wall, and will (I hope) continue to apply new tech to old cases simply so that they can been seen as taking the initiative to clean up human failings of their predecessors. Fifth, just maybe the statute of limitations will be modified. The purpose of the statute is to establish a conclusive legal presumption that all evidence beyond a certain age is too stale to be useful, but now we know in some cases DNA can persist long past the duration of human memory. Indeed, DNA has been recovered from bodies of victims of the 1918 flu virus (buried in permafrost in Alaska).

    August 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  41. Bob Bobertson

    USDOJ estimates wrongful convictions at 14%. The lions share of them are in 'high profile' crimes such as rape and murder(got the number right off their website btw). Prosecutors operate on a 'let the jury sort it out' philosophy and most law enforcement agency's don't like DNA because its making them look bad.

    It just goes to show that Plato was right. the worst crimes are committed by people wearing badges.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:22 pm |
  42. uriah

    i thought they get some type of compensation for being wrongly accused???...i thought thats how its works???

    August 17, 2009 at 3:20 pm |
  43. Freddy

    What a shame that a man has been the best years of his life locked up for something that he was not responsible for! And what a travesty for the laboratory to just be able to say, "Oh well, our mistake...sorry."
    In my estimation that just isn't good enough. This man should be allowed to sue the responsible parties for unseen amounts of money, then this crime lab should be shut down and closed forever! It appears that their past record alone is enough to justify this already. Why is it that when a citizen in this country does something wrong, they are appropriately punished, but when it is a government agency that is at clear fault, nothing ever seems to happen?

    August 17, 2009 at 3:18 pm |
  44. Erik

    There needs to be some compensation for individuals like this - perhaps 75,000 dollars, tax free, for each year spent in prison. Under those guidelines, Mr. Sonnier would receive $1,725,000. I think that would be fair. Each state needs such a standard and the federal government needs to pass legislation that such reimbursements are tax exempt.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  45. JT

    He was in prison for 23 years for a crime he didn't commit. Probably kept him from committing more crimes (he was already a convicted felon). You people act as if he were the local Sunday School teacher who took in the homeless and fed the misbegotten..come on, the guy was already a former convict, not a goody-two shoes. Just for grins AC do an article in 12 months on how Mr. Sonnier is adjusting.....go on and visit him in prison where the chances are about 70-30 he will be back there in that amount of time......
    They get out and find life is not bearable here on the outside so they commit some terrible crime that assures them of a trip back, never to get out.
    Sound cold hearted? I guess none of you people have ever visited the real world. Happens everyday.....in Dallas there have been numerous reversals and people released after being wrongly convicted......over half of them are already back in the slammer.....
    These folks aren't Eagle Scouts wrongly convicted of a crime after being on a street collecting alms for the poor. Most are bad bad dudes.......free publicity making them look innocent.....And we are outraged...sheesh.....

    August 17, 2009 at 3:16 pm |
  46. Natalie

    wowwiepop, The prosecuters are supposed prove their case, not the other way around, aren't people supposed to be innocent until "proven" guilty And if you think the poor and black get a trial by a jury of their peers, or that prosecuters won't go to any lenths to conjure up evidence to win, then you need to step out of Oz for a minute and actually see what really going on in this country. The prison industry thrives in cities and towns where traditional industry is gone. To keep up with the demand for prisoners, people are incacerated on fabricated or exagerated "evidence" all the time. Who provides the labor in these legal modern day slave camps are the poor an black and brown; then oops we got it wrong, 23 years later. I suppose you call that justice?

    August 17, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  47. Janice

    As I am reading this story I am so thankful it was not my son, brother, father, husband. None of us are safe from these mistakes. Please let this man spend the second half of his life without worrying if he will be sent back to prison tomorrow. I cannot imagine being incarcerated and knowing 24 hours a day that I am innocent.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:15 pm |
  48. Nicole

    Ok, sorry but the color of his skin has nothing to do with this. I am sure that a lot of white people are also behind bars. This man must have done something wrong for them to believe he did the crime. Anyone who is in jail, had to have done something for them to be charged. Sorry if you do not want to believe it, but that is true.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:14 pm |
  49. Caleb G


    A rather racist comment, don't you think?
    Black and white have nothing to do with it. I believe DNA testing and innocent vs. guilty are the topics of discussion. I'm certain there are plenty of innocent whites, Asians, Hispanics, etc. in prison.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
  50. carowe

    Boy, I really like the idea of making the statute of limitations jive with the maximum possible sentence, so in just such a case as this, if there are guilty parties out there, they are not immune by the clock until after this poor guy's sentence would have been over. But, indeed, if there were some sort of penalty that could be exacted against the prosecutorial / law enforcement agencies if malfeasance or negligence is demonstrated – and mandated by law so that they always have to make sure they have ruled out any exculpatory evidence BEFORE putting someone away – they would be far more careful. Prison overcrowding isn't only because innocent people were mistakenly put there – much of it comes from the absurd overzealous "three strikes you're out" laws for even relatively minor offenses, many of which are not violent crimes. Personally I think prison should only be for violent offenders or really egregious nonviolent offenses (Bernie Madoff, for instance). The others could be under house arrest or wear tracking devices or be forced to watch Jim Carey movies.

    August 17, 2009 at 3:12 pm |
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