Anthony Powell, who served nearly 13 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, fits a pattern among inmates exonerated in Suffolk County, Ma., in recent years, reports the Boston Globe: He was convicted based largely on an erroneous eyewitness identification, he repeatedly protested his innocence, and he languished in prison until DNA testing proved that he was telling the truth.
Experts said Massachusetts could prevent many wrongful convictions by changing the way eyewitnesses identify suspects, videotaping interrogations, and making it easier for convicts to gain access to DNA evidence for testing. Legislators are considering such changes.
Defense lawyers and legal specialists repeated calls for establishment of an “innocence commission” to analyze wrongful convictions and figure out why they happen. “How many more people have to be proven innocent and exonerated before the Commonwealth examines what went wrong in all these cases and figures out how to put an end to wrongful convictions in the state?” said Aliza Kaplan of the New York-based Innocence Project
In a 2002 study, law Prof. Stanley Fisher of Boston University found that most of the 15 people officially exonerated by the state since 1886 had been misidentified “despite the witness’s good opportunity to observe the perpetrator.”
Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley said a group that he and the new Boston Police Commissioner, Kathleen O’Toole, have appointed will study whether the Boston Police Department should change how it does lineups and shows photographs to crime victims.