Burden of Innocence

Posted in news at 1:29 am by danvk

I watched PBS Frontline’s Burden of Innocence tonight and bade farewell to whatever confidence I had in our legal system. The show follows several men as they’re released from long prison sentences by DNA evidence. They rarely adjust, and often wind up back in prison. It’s exceptionally difficult to get monetary compensation for wrongful imprisonment in most states and, what amazed me most, it’s impossible to get your name off the list of convicted felons. This makes getting a job next to impossible, which leads no the rest of their problems.

Clicking around, I found the sad case of Gary Dotson. Shortly after having sex with her boyfriend, Cathleen Crowell, a teenage girl, made up a rape accusation as a cover in case she got pregnant. She didn’t get pregnant, but the rape charge somehow found a life of its own. Gary Dotson was later charged and put in jail based largely on her false testimony. Fast-forward eight years and Cathleen (shock!) has a guilty conscience. She publicly renounces her story. But for various political reasons, the charges still stick. It isn’t until more competent lawyers and DNA evidence come into the mix that he’s finally exonerated. As a final sick twist, it turns out that she based her rape story on a scene in a trashy romance novel, Sweet Savage Love. I highly recommend reading the story I linked to above.

I had no idea how easily misleading statistics and logic could be used in a court of law. The most terrifying thing about all of this is that a perfect storm of politics, media and science were necessary for Gary Dotson’s release. How many thousands of other people haven’t had their perfect storm?

1 Comment

  1. Leenie said,

    April 2, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Why didn’t you link to the romance novel?


    Jim Lehrer, PBS, Turbo Tax— things have been lively in the Dan universe, I can tell. Although it is amzing the Turbo tax guy responded to you!