Dewey Bozella, who served 26 years before he was exonerated for a murder he didn’t commit, has reached a settlement with Duchess County, NY in the civil rights lawsuit he filed against the county for the misconduct that contributed to his wrongful conviction. The settlement was announced this morning at the Federal District Court in White Plains. The terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
Bozella was initially arrested for the 1977 burglary and murder of a 92-year-old woman shortly after her attack, but the charges were dropped because there was no evidence linking him to the crime. He was rearrested for the crime six years later after two inmates, who were released from prison for their cooperation, told prosecutors that Bozella committed the murder. Even though a fingerprint was found at the crime scene that matched another individual who committed a nearly identical crime around the same time, the state went forward with the prosecution. Based solely on the strength of the informants’ testimony, Bozella was convicted. Bozella was given a new trial in 1990, but he was convicted again.
Bozella eventually sought the help of the Innocence Project. Unfortunately, the physical evidence in the case had been destroyed, so DNA testing wouldn’t be possible. Convinced of his innocence, the Innocence Project persuaded lawyers at WilmerHale to take up his case, and they were able to prove that Dewey was innocent of the crime by uncovering additional evidence that was never turned over to Bozella.
Bozella took up boxing while he was incarcerated at Sing Sing Correctional Facility. The sport helped him to channel his anger over being wrongfully convicted. He eventually became the light heavyweight champ of the prison and even got the opportunity to fight Golden Gloves champ Lou Del Valle. While in prison, Bozella also met his wife Trena and earned a bachelor’s degree from Mercy College and a master’s from New York Theological Seminary. He was a model prisoner but was denied parole several times because he wouldn’t admit that he was guilty of the murder.
After his release, Bozella was awarded the Arthur Ashe Courage Award by ESPN for the courage he displayed in fighting his wrongful conviction. In October 2011, he fought his first and only professional boxing match in Los Angeles at the age of 52 and won a unanimous decision.
Read the full story in the New York Times