Prosecutor Reflects On Man He Wrongly Convicted 28 Years Ago


Prosecutor-turned-minister J. Brooks Harrington tells the Washington Post, “I can’t express how sick this has made me feel,” about the fact that Donald Gates, a Washington, D.C., man prosecuted and helped send to prison, turned out to be inncent of raping and murdering a college student in 1981. It was the first murder conviction overturned by DNA evidence in the history of the U.S. attorney’s office in Washington. Gates, 58, is trying to adjust to freedom after spending 28 years in prison.

How did it happen? The Justice Department found in 1997 that a FBI analyst who reviewed said a hair found on Gates matched the victim had made false reports on several cases. “None of us knew the hair examiner was dishonest,” Harrington said. He also relied on the testimony of a paid informant, who told authorities that Gates admitted to killing the student during a botched robbery. Gates told lawyers that he never met the informant to whom he supposedly confessed. Harrington said it was the first time he had put a paid informant on the witness stand during a trial.

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