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New York women exonerated, 7 years after false felony convictions

The unfortunate reality is, innocent people sometimes go to prison in New York. Our criminal justice system was established, at least in part, on the principle that nobody should be incarcerated for a crime he or she did not commit. But as cases like the following prove, that system is far from perfect.

A woman was riding the subway with a friend when they were detained by police, allegedly for playing music too loudly. It turned out that the friend was wanted for questioning in connection with a home invasion, in which the resident was shot in the chest and stomach.

The friend was a suspect because she received a call from the victim’s phone. Police believed at the time -- wrongly, as it turns out -- that those responsible for the robbery called her.

Investigators brought in the friend and subjected her to 22 hours of interrogation. By the end, she “confessed” to taking part in the robbery, and told police that the woman she had been riding the subway with had also been involved.

In fact, the victim himself had called the friend. It was a misdial by one digit, so that the call went to the friend’s father. Neither woman was part of the group that robbed and shot the victim, and stole his vehicle. However, both were convicted.

One of the women was sentenced to 40 years in prison. There, she was placed with a cellmate who, by pure coincidence, knew the real perpetrators. Her attorneys interviewed witnesses, whose testimony contradicted witness statements at trial.

At first, the courts refused to overturn the women’s wrongful convictions. The process took years, but finally the system realized a terrible mistake had been made.

The cases against both women have since been dismissed. At least one of them is now free from prison. But they lost nearly seven years of their lives being wrongfully imprisoned.

Source: New York Daily News, “EXCLUSIVE: Bronx woman to sue city after spending 7 years in prison for crime she didn’t commit,” Shayna Jacobs, March 30, 2014

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