On August 20, 2014, William Lopez died after suffering a fatal asthma attack in his Bronx home.
Normally, such a death would not get the attention of anyone but the man’s family and closest friends. Sadly, most of those who knew Mr Lopez for the better part of two decades will not attend his funeral. They are in prison. Even more sad is the fact that Mr. Lopez barely got to know his daughter, who was an infant when he entered prison for the shooting of a drug dealer–a crime he did not commit. Adding to the sadness of this case, Mr Lopez died after spending a little more than one year of freedom AND ironically, the day after filing a lawsuit against the city of New York for wrongful conviction, claiming malicious prosecution.
What Can be Worse than Convicting a Man Wrongfully?
What can be worse than a wrongful conviction, of convicting the wrong person of a crime they did not commit?
Convicting two people of crimes they did not commit.
Unless we forget, it was just last year that David Ranta was likewise released after evidence was presented that the police had solicited fraudulent testimony–every witness had recanted their story years later, telling how Detectives stacked false evidence. In one instance, a convicted rapist was provided with a lighter sentencing deal if he would point Ranta out of a lineup. It does not take any stretch of the imagination to believe that the prosecutor knew of this deal and the misconduct taking place, but the evidence does not exist for such an accusation. But one cannot help but wonder, especially in light of this recent case involving William Lopez from the same era.
Sadly, the evidence is continuing to stack up against the NYC Police and DA’s office with the assistance of the Innocence Project, which has had more than 300 overturned convictions in NYC since 1989. The top issues they are finding, based on their overturned convictions, involve…
- wrongful eyewitness testimony
- invalid Forensics evidence
- false confessions
- incriminating statements
- informant testimony.
What Can be Worse than Convicting 300 Innocent Persons?
Unfortunately, the Innocence Project is limited. It started as a non–profit organization by law students in New York City and has grown, but its scope remains in that district.
The sad fact is that a by-product of the “get tough” approach of the 1980’s and 1990s is turning up wrongful convictions nationwide. Those do not get quite the news that the death of Mr. Lopez drew, but then too, we heard nothing of his release last year. We only heard of this case because of the irony of him filing a multi-million dollar lawsuit against the city only to die the next day. Irony makes headlines, not wrongful convictions.
Worse than convicting an innocent person is continuing to permit the police and prosecutorial misconduct which results in such wrongful convictions to start with.
Worse than this is the situation of anyone released from prison in Louisiana. In that state, even after a conviction is overturned, the prison system refuses to release a prisoner until he/she has signed a waiver stating they will not pursue civil action against the state. In other words, even after the court has overturned a case, unless the one wrongfully convicted releases the state from liability, that person remains imprisoned. As yet, no one has challenged this law, but a day of reckoning is certainly due for that penal system. It is only a matter of time.
However, these are but two examples of our justice system failing to function as it should. There are many others and we seldom hear of them in the news.
Faces of the Innocent
This section of Criminal Justice Law US is dedicated to the stories of those wrongfully convicted. As cases are discovered, pages will be written. As cases of prosecutorial misconduct are found, pages will be added. In time, you will find research papers related to this topic and the goal, as with all pages on this site, is to explore the issues and develop solutions. Such things should not occur in a free nation of law. Civilized society cannot afford to act in such uncivilized ways.
For those actively involved in the Criminal Justice System, when such situations arise, the courage to challenge the status-quo is necessary. For society, which operates outside of the criminal justice system, there is likewise a need to be vocal about preventing such miscarriages of justice. The very nature of justice demands righteous actions. There is NO justice in the conviction of an innocent person.
Mistakes do happen, but then the “mistake” is the result of prosecutorial or police misconduct, it is NOT a mistake, but rather a crime. Another thing which society should do is call for the state legislative bodies or even the United States Congress to pass a law holding prosecutors and police responsible when the evidence is clear that willful disregard of the law, justice, and the innocent has occured.
The goal of this section is to begin building a log of such cases, to put faces to the Innocent persons convicted in America.
If you know of such a case and would either like to write about it yourself or can send the necessary information so that CJLaw can write about it, please contact us. We want to do our part.