Dean Cage: The Wrong Man
Convicting the Wrong Man
Dean Cage lives in Chicago. The name doesn't mean too much to many. But, to his family he was a soon to be step father, a father and a fiance.
In 1994, a 15-year-old girl identified Cage as the man who attacked her from behind and dragged her to a secluded basement, where he raped, beat and performed oral sex on her. A report from CNN read:
" A few days after the attack, police received an anonymous tip: The composite sketch made from the victim's description of her assailant resembled a man at a butcher shop. Police took the victim there, and she identified Dean. She later testified that his voice sounded similar to her attacker's."
Those words convicted the wrong man. Yes, we always want to make sure that someone is punished for such a horrible crime. But, it is the duty of the justice system to ensure that the person being punished for the crime, is the person who committed the crime. That means that they may have to go the extra mile to prove it. Dean Cage had never even been arrested, he had no convictions on his record. His only alibi, his fiance, said that he was at home in bed with her, around the time of the attack. Not only did they ignore his alibi, there also was the lack of any physical evidence. He was sentenced to 40 years, and the gavel slammed.Eric Ferrero, director of communications for the Innocence Project told Black Voices in a interview, " At the most basic level there is a desire to get someone for these crimes. That combined with the hysteria around black men and crime can lead to wrongful convictions".
Here was a family, working, engaged to be married man going to jail for a crime he did not committ. Labeled as a Child rapist, his life was not only ruined on the streets, but it was also put in grave danger in prison. Child rapist are not liked to well in prison. Now he was in for the fight of his life. He must try to prove his innocence from behind bars.
Cage began his fight for freedom by filing his appeals. But, the best move he may have ever made in life was writing to the Innocence Project, which is based in New York City. (www.innocenceproject.org) The Innocence Project use DNA found at the scene to prove that cage was innocent. After being released from prison last year, he is trying to start his life fresh.
14 years in prison, for a crime that he didn't committ. No apology or amount of money can ever give him back that time, or remove the experience of prison life. He witnessed rapes and beatings that will forever be etched in his memory.
The Innocence Project
Here is their mission statement from their website:
The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, 245 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 12 years in prison before exoneration and release.
The Innocence Project’s full-time staff attorneys and Cardozo clinic students provide direct representation or critical assistance in most of these cases. The Innocence Project’s groundbreaking use of DNA technology to free innocent people has provided irrefutable proof that wrongful convictions are not isolated or rare events but instead arise from systemic defects. Now an independent nonprofit organization closely affiliated with Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, the Innocence Project’s mission is nothing less than to free the staggering numbers of innocent people who remain incarcerated and to bring substantive reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment.
Through the use of DNA, 245 people have been cleared after their convictions, these are the numbers since 1989. Most of these people spent at least 12 years in prison before being exonerated. Of those numbers (not surprisingly), 146 of those 245 people that have been cleared were African American. Ferrero said, "Seventy percent of the 245 people who were wrongfully convicted are people of color. Sixty percent were African-American. By now, everyone knows that African-Americans are over-incarcerated. The prison population is 40 to 45 percent African-American, which is wildly disproportionate, but the percentage of those exonerated is even higher ".
I have heard and read about some of the other people that have been exonerated. But something about this case caught my attention. It made me think about some people I know that have been convicted by victims that identified them. I mean one of my friends who was not convicted, but was accused and stood trial. DNA saved him from a potential nightmare. In reality, this could be me in either of these situations. "Eyewitness misidentification testimony was a factor in 74 percent of post-conviction DNA exoneration cases in the United States, making it the leading cause of these wrongful convictions" this is according to the Innocence Project.
Release The Innocent
The number of wrongful convictions is too high. These are just the ones that have been exonerated. How many were there before 1989? How many have been executed? The Innocence Project is over-whelmed with too many cases, it takes time to get to them all. I know everyone convicted claims they are innocent. It should be the justice systems duty to ensure that all stones have been turned before there is a conviction. I know we can't completely eliminate human error or bad judgement, but we can minimize it. 245 known wrongfully convicted is too many. This shows a faulty system that needs reform. The taping of all interrogation has been suggested to eliminate the use of false confessions and incriminating statements. Then there is the practice of using informants, who are trying to lessen their sentences. As in the Todd Willingham case. A jail house " snitch " told the police that Willingham admitted to killing his three daughters. After he received an early release, he recanted his story and said he didn't remember any such conversation with Willingham. The hub is called, " The Death Penalty: Wrongfully Executed " .
It is time for reform in our justice system. It is time for a change.
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