DNA exonerations create another form of guilt

There are two small groups of people in the world and the idea of guilt affects them in very different ways. One is a group of men convicted of rape but were later exonerated from the sex crime because of DNA evidence. Another is the group of women who were raped but in the end identified the wrong person as their aggressor. For the men, a false conviction has forever robbed them of time, and for the women their unintentional misidentification creates the guilt of putting an innocent person behind bars.

Twenty-seven years ago, a woman from Virginia was raped soon after she arrived at the day-care center she worked. She was the first employee to arrive and her attacker emerged from behind a set of doors soon after the woman settled into her workplace. The man pulled a knife and attacked her. During March 2009, the woman found out the man who she had long thought attacked her was exonerated of the crime due to DNA evidence. As she tried to remember the events of that traumatic day, she felt guilty because her wrong identification made the wrongly accused man a victim too.

Genetic testing has led to the exonerations of 267 people in the United States who were convicted of crimes they did not commit. According to the Innocence Project, in 75 percent of those cases, a witness or victim identified the wrong person.

The man who was wrongly convicted of rape 27 years ago says he has no anger towards the women who wrongly identified him and said, “They have been through a tragedy, [and] what happened to them shouldn’t have happened to them.” Instead, he blames the actual offender.

Source: The Washington Post, “In DNA reprieves, guilt from another source,” Maria Glod, 3/22/11

Max Keller has won countless jury trial cases involving misdemeanors and felonies, sex crimes, and DWI’s. He is a member of the Minnesota Society for Criminal Justice, which only allows the top 50 criminal defense attorneys in the state as members. Max is a frequent speaker at CLE’s and is often asked for advice by other defense attorneys across Minnesota.

Years of Experience: Approx. 20 years
Minnesota Registration Status: Active
Bar & Court Admissions: State of Minnesota Minnesota State Court Minnesota Federal Court 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals State of Maryland

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