News 09.04.08

Ninth anniversary of NY exoneration

Monday marked the ninth anniversary of the day

Habib Wahir Abdal

walked out of a New York prison after serving 16 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Abdal was convicted in 1983 of a rape he didn’t commit, based partly on eyewitness misidentification.

In 1982, a woman was attacked in a nature preserve by an African-American man in a hooded sweatshirt. She was blindfolded by the attacker. Abdal was picked up by police four months later and police conducted a “show up,” where they brought the victim to Abdal and asked if he was the attacker. Police officers told the victim before the show up that Abdal was the suspect, but she did not identify him at first as the perpetrator. She then viewed a four-year-old photo of Abdal, returned to the show up, and identified him as the perpetrator.

Although forensic evidence pointed to his innocence and Abdal didn’t match the victim’s initial suspect of the attacker, he was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life in prison. He sought DNA testing to prove his innocence starting in 1993, but tests were inconclusive. It would be six more years before conclusive DNA testing proved Abdal’s  innocence and led to his exoneration.

Abdal’s case is an example of one where advancing DNA science led to exoneration after earlier tests were inconclusive. Other cases like this include the exonerations of

David Gray

and

Rickey Johnson

.

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