Court Frees NY Man After 26 Years : "Compelling Innocence" Case
Dewey Bozella was convicted twice of a brutal murder. He served 26 years. His conviction was overturned yesterday and he was immediately freed. DNA evidence did not play a role. What convicted him:
The prosecution relied almost entirely on the testimony of two men with criminal histories, both of whom repeatedly changed their stories and both of whom got favorable treatment in their own cases in exchange for their testimony.
What freed him: A retired police officer who had saved his file, "who said it was the only one he kept after retirement, figuring that the conviction was so problematic lawyers might want it someday." In the file was evidence the prosecution had failed to turn over to the defense. [More...]
After reviewing the material, Justice James T. Rooney of State Supreme Court ruled on Oct. 14 that Mr. Bozella had been wrongfully convicted. “This court does not lightly disturb a conviction in such a serious case as this,” Justice Rooney wrote, but “the court, without reservation, is firmly and soundly convinced of the meritorious nature of the defendant’s application.” He called the legal and factual arguments “compelling, indeed overwhelming.”
What did Mr. Bozella do in prison during those 26 years?
In prison, Mr. Bozella earned a bachelor’s degree and a master’s in theology, developed interests in the theater and became the light heavyweight boxing champion at Sing Sing. In 1996, he married a sixth-grade teacher, Treena Boone, whom he met when she was visiting her brother, an inmate at the prison.
The Innocence Project, which only takes cases in which there is DNA evidence, found private counsel to represent Mr. Bozella:
The group, after determining all the physical evidence had already been destroyed, asked the high-powered law firm of WilmerHale to handle the case on a pro bono basis. Ross E. Firsenbaum, a senior associate, said the firm’s lawyers had spent 2,500 hours — worth $950,000 at customary rates — on the case, the kind of representation almost never available to indigent convicts.
How many other innocent persons are languishing in our prisons because of withheld evidence, lying snitches, faulty eyewitness testimony, false confessions, junk science, lab fraud, ineffective counsel and other reasons not able to be discerned by DNA evidence, which either never existed or was not preserved -- or because they don't have the means to retain dedicated counsel like those the Innocence Project found for Mr Bozella?
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