Monday, May 07, 2007

25 Years Stolen

If you haven't seen the interview of Jerry Miller on Bill Moyers Journal, I recommend that you watch it on line or read the transcript.
Jerry Miller served 25 years behind bars for a crime he didn't commit. When Jerry Miller was 22, he was picked up by police after an officer said he resembled a sketch of a Chicago rapist. Based on that misidentification, Miller was convicted and served 25 years before being released last year on parole, forced to register as a sex-offender.

Today, Miller represents the 200th person exonerated by post-conviction DNA testing, with the help of the Innocence Project: "a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future injustice."

As I watched the interview, my emotions went from anger to despair. Jerry Miller was a solid citizen prior to his wrongful incarceration and would have made positive contributions during those 25 years of the prime of his life. There are more black men like Jerry Miller wasting away in prisons across America. What might they have contributed?

Between wrongful convictions and unjust sentencing disparities, black men continue to be locked up in record numbers, leaving their families and communities worse off for their absence in the long run.

Mr. Miller showed unbelievable grace as he talked about the nightmare from which he had finally been freed:
"But you know, a lot of people is living in nightmares. I'm not the only one that made it or that will make it, you know. I'm fortunate because I made it intact, mind, body and soul."

Cross posted at make it plain


Content Black Woman said...

I just came across this blog and this post. I really enjoy it. Feel free to check out my post similar in nature:

Why I Can't Shed Tears for the Duke Lacrosse Boys

I will also link you to my site.

Keep up the good work.


Anonymous said...

We need to watch the Innocence Project and other similar organizations and publicize whenever someone is wrongly convicted (just as you have in your post) to counter act the constant reports of arrests! By showing people how many times the law is wrong they won't be as quick to assume that all Black men are crimminals and just because they were arrested and went to jail they were actually guilty.

Brian said...

Thanks Content Black Woman..

I appreciate the link...and please come back often and comment.

Brian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian said...

200 people exonerated... that's incredible. I just cringe when I think about all those innocent people who went through the system before these DNA projects got started... or who are in the system now and have not been helped yet.

There should be (and I think it has improved now) a higher threshold for arresting and convicting suspects based on witnesses who are not certain or credible, and based on sketches. I'm not saying let the criminals go free....but there should be better standards (Federal Standards across the board) for law reduce the chances of charging innocent people. Good witnesses along with physical evidence like DNA should be more of the standard today.

Sketches have never really impressed me as a tool for catching people.... Many investigators these days don't care much for it. In fact, it is used today as more of a method of last resort...when police don't have anything else to go on.

So when police rely predominantly on a could ironically be a sign of how weak a case is to begin with.

Although they can be useful in certain situations.

Luckily...surveillance cameras are now reducing the need for sketches... whenever possible. Although having a big brother society full of cameras is a double edged sword.
Relying on cameras rather than human artists or computer sketching programs reduces the risk of human error. Cameras usually show things as they are and they don't have an agenda. There are fewer perception problems as well with cameras. When dealing with human witnesses, you always have to deal with the problem of human perception. You can put 3 people (witnesses) relatively close together.... and roleplay the same crime. If you separated the 3 people.... and interviewed would get 3 totally different stories about what happened, what they saw, descriptions of the suspect(s), etc.

That kind of evidence has never been all that solid....unless there are a lot of witnesses. But often these guys who have their lives taken away were convicted on the statements of one person...or maybe two.... and often by witnesses who are not reliable.

I agree with Bronze...these stories should be told. We always see when black men are arrested, but we don't see nearly as much reporting about black men being released because they were wrongly convicted. It should be on the Prime time National news... Unfortunately we get Paris Hilton instead.
But we have been doing it here...and will try to continue.