Innocent Man Freed in Durham

Erick Daniels was 15 when a judge in Durham sent him to an adult prison for an armed robbery home invasion. Daniels should never have been convicted.

Identification procedures had been shaky. There had been no physical evidence tying Daniels to the crime, no testimony to corroborate the charges. The defendant's trial attorney later acknowledged that he had done an inferior job.

Juries, like the police, get it wrong on a regular basis. But here's the shocker:

Perhaps most troubling was prosecutors' failure to follow through when told that someone else -- a federal prison inmate who matched the victim's description of the suspect -- had confessed. The impression left by such lack of initiative is that for some authorities in Durham, once a conviction is obtained, there's no further obligation to make sure justice is done.

Seven years after Daniels went to prison, Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson set him free. The confession was such strong evidence of innocence that Judge Hudson didn't give the prosecution a second chance to prove Daniels' guilt. He ruled that no reasonable jury, hearing all the evidence, could find Daniels guilty. [more ...]

Judge Hudson condemned the prosecution for ignoring evidence of Daniels' innocence after Daniels went to prison:

"People are starting to question, in Durham, the degree to which the prosecutor's office and the police department are tracking down cases when there are leads that other people have committed the crime."

Unfortunately, the judge wasn't referring only to Daniels' case. Just recently, when armed robbery charges were dismissed against a man who had waited five years for trial, the Court of Appeals noted strong evidence of another man's guilt.

In Daniels' case as in countless others, the prosecution focused its efforts on proving the guilt of the man the police arrested, rather than asking whether the police arrested the right man. And once they got their conviction, it was case closed -- even after it became apparent that the wrong man had been sent to prison.

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  • Display: Sort:
    I know many (none / 0) (#1)
    by JamesTX on Sat Sep 27, 2008 at 08:44:47 PM EST
    people on this site are lawyers, and I understand how important it is for lawyers to remain civil and professional, to show reverence and respect for officers of the court, and to maintain that certain objectivism, nay, stoicism, which is the earmark of professionalism in any field (even in mine). That is why it is important for those us who are not lawyers to chime in when protocol requires a bit too much civility from our professional colleagues. As a nonlawyer, I am free to say I think the prosecutor deserves to rot in hell.

    Which Durham? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Charlie in Colorado on Sat Sep 27, 2008 at 10:19:11 PM EST
    NC, New Hampshire?  UK?

    judge or jury (none / 0) (#3)
    by diogenes on Sat Sep 27, 2008 at 10:23:39 PM EST
    1.  Did a judge or a jury originally find him guilty as charged?
    2.  How does one wait five years for trial?  Isn't there the proverbial right to a speedy trial?