Friday, May 5, 2017

Crime in the News... Yesteryear Edition

Dateline 1979... Not that big a trip in the wayback machine, but definitely not a current event.

A pregnant woman is brutally raped and beaten  She loses the baby and sustains a major head injury.  After the fact, she cannot remember the attack or the events leading up to it.  Months later, she has a flashback of sorts and suddenly, she is certain her husband is the culprit.  He stands trial and, based on her testimony, he is found guilty and sentenced to 15 - life.

He maintains his innocence.  (But don't they all, right?)  He swears he was out getting burgers at the time of her attack and came home to find her afterwards.  He says he saw a man getting into a vehicle and leaving the area when he got home from his burger run.  None of that matters because his wife swears he's the one who attacked her. 

Flash forward to 1996 when DNA technology was in its infancy but already becoming a major tool in crime investigation.  They test the rape kit from the attack.  The DNA matches... a serial rapist who had been hunting that area during the time of her attack and is in prison for raping and attacking other women.  After 16 years in prison, the husband is exonerated.

Three years later, he is awarded over $600K for his wrongful imprisonment.  Two months after that, he settles a lawsuit with his now ex-wife who is still sure he had some measure of responsibility in the death of their baby.

Umm... yeah.  There are so many things wrong with this, I'm not sure where to begin. 

Oh, I get why he was convicted.  Kind of.  She said he did it.  She, who had sustained brain damage during the attack, giving her all the joys that come with that shit, took the stand and pointed at him.  It should've been a defense attorney's field day.  In the couple occasions where I might've been called upon to testify for the prosecution, I worried that some defense attorney might bring up my own brain injury as a weapon to use against my testimony.  In her case, I suspect someone was helping plant those memories in her shattered head. 

Plus, back in 1980, they only had blood type to go on with regard to evidence.  He had O+, the attacker had O+.  (The most common blood type, btw.)  Bingo bango bongo, he's guilty.  Except when he isn't.

And I get why he settled the lawsuit.  After all both he and she had been through, he didn't want to drag them both through a court battle.  Hell, he probably feels some measure of displaced guilt because if he hadn't left her home alone that night, the whole thing might not have happened. 

I don't get why she brought the lawsuit in the first place.  Except he'd just come into a boatload of money.  Which is kind of sick, in my opinion.  Using the tragedy of all that occurred to squeeze cash out of a man who'd already paid for something he didn't do with 16 years of his life.  Feh.

Anyway, as people (as in The Innocence Project) look into more and more of these older crimes using newer technology, we're seeing more and more cases get overturned.  Cases that today would never end in a guilty verdict.  And one hopes that as the old crimes age and disappear, we'll stop seeing this kind of miscarriage of justice.  Technology is an awesome thing.

1 comment:

  1. I hope he only gave her nuisance value. Yeah, they both got a raw deal but... I suspect someone was pushing her--like new husband or her family, or the same person planting ideas all those years ago. And yeah, amazing what new technology is doing in the criminal justice system.