"Theophalis Wilson, you are free to go," said a Philadelphia judge recently. She was releasing a man who has been exonerated of the three 1989 killings he was convicted of as a teenager.
It's a controversial subject, but we live in a harsh world. Some police officers lie. Some have a documented history of misconduct, including lying or other acts that call their truthfulness into question. If they do, this history should be available to the defense so that the officer's credibility can be tested in court.
According to the National Registry of Exonerations' annual report, 151 people were exonerated in the U.S. in 2018. Together, they spent 1,639 years behind bars for crimes they didn't commit -- an average of about 11 years each.
According to the National Registry of Exonerations, at least 139 people were exonerated of crimes in the U.S. last year. Some 2,100 have been exonerated since 1989, when DNA evidence was first used to exonerate someone. Today, people are being found innocent using a variety of methods that don't always involve DNA, but the principle remains the same: Sometimes, the criminal justice system convicts innocent people.
When evidence of a convicted person's actual innocence comes forward, we imagine that prosecutors immediately ask a judge to void the conviction and release the defendant. We imagine the judge apologizing on behalf of the state. Later, depending on the circumstances, the defendant might be compensated for the time they spent imprisoned unjustly.
When Wilbert Jones was 19, he was arrested. He was convicted of aggravated rape based entirely on a highly questionable identification by the victim, according to the judge who recently released him. The woman, a nurse, had picked him out of a lineup months after the crime and was careful to tell police that her assailant had been taller and had a "much rougher" voice.