On July 6, 2006, three years ago today,
walked out of a Bronx courthouse a free man after serving 21 years in prison. He was wrongfully convicted of rape and related charges in 1985 based in part on an eyewitness misidentification. For years, the evidence from his case was thought to be lost or destroyed, but with the help of the Innocence Project, it was finally uncovered in 2005. When subsequent DNA testing conclusively excluded Newton as the perpetrator, his convictions for rape, robbery, and assault were all vacated.
On the day he was freed, Newton spoke with the New York news media about his time in prison and his struggle to obtain DNA testing. Rather than focusing on what had happened to him, Newton instead expressed sympathy for the victim and turned his attention to what could be done in the future. In speaking to
, he said “the false arrest and unjust conviction and the amount of time I served should serve as an example, because you have a lot of other brothers in the system who are truly innocent also, and their predicament needs to be brought to the forefront.” Newton also discussed his own plans for the future, which included finishing his college education.
Above, Newton and family members on the day of his release in 2006.
Since his release, Newton has followed through with his education plans. He recently graduated with honors from Medgar Evers College with a degree in business. A scholarship from the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund helped Newton pursue his degree. While in school, he served as a counselor for other students, using his story to encourage them to stay in school. Next, Newton plans to continue his education by attending law school.
In addition to his remarkable educational achievements, Newton has become a leader working for criminal justice reform. He frequently speaks to audiences about his story to raise awareness about the issues and to highlight the need for
better eyewitness identification procedures
evidence preservation laws
. Not content to stop there, Newton has also co-founded A.F.T.E.R. (Advocates for Freedom, Transformation, and Exoneree Rights), an organization which provides services and support to exonerees. He plans to continue this work as he continues on the path toward practicing law himself.
Other Exoneration Anniversaries This Week:
, New Jersey (Served 19 Years, Exonerated 7/9/07)
, North Carolina (Served 4 Years, Exonerated 7/9/97)
, Connecticut (Served 16.5 Years, Exonerated 7/11/06)