Six years ago this week,
was officially exonerated of the 1991 rape and kidnapping of a Massachusetts teenager. Powell was convicted in 1992 and served more than 12 years of his sentence before being cleared by DNA testing.
Having been convicted as a result of eyewitness misidentification, Powell maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration. His attorneys, however, could not obtain DNA testing on biological evidence held by police until in 2004, when Boston Police and Suffolk County prosecutors undertook an investigation to re-examine old sexual assault cases. An attorney from the Committee for Public Counsel Services was appointed on Powell’s behalf, and she managed to obtain DNA testing on the remaining biological evidence. The results excluded both Powell and the victim’s former boyfriend as the source of semen found in the rape victim.
At a hearing held after DNA testing excluded Powell, his defense attorney requested a new trial and the prosecutor agreed. Superior Court Judge Robert Mulligan, who presided at Powell’s original trial, overturned the conviction and closed the door on a re-trial, stating that the evidence “strongly supports the conclusion that Mr. Powell did not commit the rape in 1991.” That afternoon, for the first time since 1992, Powell walked out of the courthouse as a free man.
Moreover, the DNA profile extracted from the remaining biological evidence was forwarded to state and national databases, and matched a man who was charged in 2008 for the original rape. The city of Boston would later settle a civil suit brought by Powell in December 2008 for $3.8 million. Powell was also awarded an additional $500,000 under the state’s wrongful conviction compensation statute.
Most recently, in attempts to prevent wrongful convictions like those of Powell, the Boston Bar Association called attention to the state’s need for a comprehensive statute that provides access to DNA testing. Massachusetts is one of only three states that lack post-conviction DNA access.
Find out more here
Other Exoneree Anniversaries This Week:
David Allen Jones
, California (Served 9 years, Exonerated 3/4/04)
, New York (Served, 15 years, Exonerated 3/5/07)