Hearing today in New Jersey; new evidence should overturn murder conviction
Darrell Edwards has been behind bars in New Jersey for nearly a decade for a murder he has always said he didn’t commit, and Innocence Project attorneys will argue at a hearing this afternoon that new DNA test results and other substantial evidence should lead to a new trial in his case.
Edwards (above) was convicted and sentenced to life in prison based mainly on faulty eyewitness identification. One key witness who testified at Edwards’ trial that she saw him from 271 feet away, at night, without wearing her glasses has recanted her identification, saying she was “just guessing” and that police influenced her choice. New scientific evidence presented today by the Innocence Project also shows that identifying a person from 271 feet — even an acquaintance — is impossible. Another eyewitness to the shooting told police that he saw the killer from 20 feet away and that it wasn’t Edwards. Police tried to influence this witness to identify Edwards, then labeled him a hostile witness when he refused to cooperate.
It took three years for Edwards’ case to go to trial, and it would take four trials to convict him. Now, the Innocence Project is fighting to overturn his conviction based on the wide array of newly discovered evidence. New DNA tests show that biological evidence on the gun used in the murder and a sweatshirt worn by the assailant exclude Edwards. At a hearing this afternoon in Newark, Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck and Staff Attorney Vanessa Potkin will tell a state judge that they believe Edwards is innocent and that the law says he is at least entitled to a new trial. Cardozo School of Law clinic students have worked on the case at the Innocence Project and will attend today’s hearing.
“In recent years, New Jersey has become a leader in reforming police lineups and photo arrays to decrease eyewitness misidentifications. Darrell Edwards was convicted before these reforms were in place, and before scientific experts shed new light on just how impossible it is to accurately identify someone from this distance,” Scheck said.
Read more about Edwards’ case in today’s Innocence Project press release. Prosecutors are opposing the Innocence Project’s motion for a new trial, and the judge is expected to rule at a later date. Check the Innocence Blog for updates.
Two days to execution in Alabama, still no DNA test
For nearly 25 years, Tommy Arthur has sat on Alabama’s death row. His appeals have been repeatedly denied, and he is now scheduled to die on Thursday night, July 31, despite the fact that critical evidence in his case has still not been subjected to DNA testing. The evidence could help show whether Arthur is guilty or innocent, and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (above) has the authority to order the tests, but he has refused to do so.
In recent weeks, thousands of Innocence Project supporters have sent emails directly to Riley, urging him to order DNA testing in the case. Last year, Riley’s aides insisted that state governors couldn’t order DNA tests, but George W. Bush ordered testing for a death row inmate when he was the governor of Texas and several other governors have done the same. Nationwide, 16 people who served time on death row for crimes they didn’t commit have been exonerated by DNA evidence. Send an email to Riley today urging him to do the right thing before he carries out a sentence he can't reverse.