A Massachusetts man spent a dozen years in prison for a murder someone else committed before DNA evidence proved his innocence. According to the Boston Globe, the real perpetrator was expected to plead guilty today, but the proceedings were temporarily delayed.
It has been nearly twenty years since Anthony Powell was wrongfully convicted of rape and kidnapping and seven years since he was released from prison after DNA evidence cleared him of the crimes and implicated another man.
“When you convict the wrong person, the real criminal remains on the street committing crimes,” said Howard Friedman, a civil rights lawyer representing Powell. “More women were raped.”
The DNA test that cleared Powell led police to the real perpetrator, Jerry Dixon who is expected to plead guilty to aggravated rape soon.
Although Powell maintained his innocence throughout his trial and while behind bars, it was difficult to prove his innocence with DNA.
Massachusetts and Oklahoma are the only states without laws to provide post-conviction access to DNA testing and Massachusetts is the only state that does not require preservation of DNA evidence for future testing.
There is legislation pending in Massachusetts that would require the state to maintain DNA evidence and provide easier access to post-conviction DNA testing that could prove innocence.
Executive director of the New England Innocence Project, Gretchen Bennett, who served as Powell’s attorney thinks the bill has a good chance of passing because it was written by the Boston Bar Association with input from a task force of retired judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, scientists, and law enforcement officials.
Post-conviction DNA testing lead to Powell’s release from prison, and also to finding the real perpetrator. A law that will allow any imprisoned person the right to post-conviction DNA testing wherever it can establish innocence can limit future wrongful convictions.