dressed in his old Navy uniform, carried a large wooden cross, and attempted to crucify himself on the courthouse steps. He had recently been paroled, and these were the same steps where he was tried and wrongfully convicted three years earlier. "I needed someone to listen," he said in a recent interview. However, it would take another 16 years before he was exonerated.
In November of 1987, Lyons was a recently engaged Navy Reserve Officer living in suburban Chicago when a white woman was raped in the neighboring apartment complex. While Lyons maintained he had been home that night, the victim and the neighbors matched Lyons to a police composite sketch. Although Lyons weighed 160 pounds and the victim identified the perpetrator as weighing 200 pounds, he was brought in for questioning.
Lyons permitted police to search his apartment where they found brown polyester pants similar to the victim's description of the perpetrator's clothing. The victim identified Lyons as the perpetrator in a photo lineup and testified at his trial, and the jury convicted him. Lyons hired a private lawyer to file an appeal on his behalf, but the attorney never filed it. He was released on parole three years after his convicted, but says he struggled with the stigma of a felony conviction for a crime he didn’t commit. He was exonerated one year ago today when DNA testing proved he wasn’t the man who raped the victim.
Sunday will also mark the one-year anniversary of
's exoneration. Accused of a rape he didn’t commit in 1988, Bostic pled guilty to avoid a possible harsh sentence at trial. He was sentenced to eight years in prison, and was released on parole after three years. He would later be convicted of an unrelated assault and sentenced to 17 years in prison as a repeat offender. When he was exonerated on September 21, 2007, after DNA testing proved he never committed the rape, he was just 13 days from the end of his sentence.
After his release, Bostic said: "If you got an attorney telling you to take a plea agreement, and you might not win if you go to trial, what seems better to you? A little bit of time or a whole bunch of time?"
Both Lyons and Bostic sought DNA testing in their cases for years before they were finally exonerated. None of the 220 people exonerated by DNA evidence would be free today if they didn’t have access to DNA tests to clear their names. Seven states have no statute under which a defendant can apply for DNA testing. Is yours one?
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Other exoneration anniversary this week:
, Texas (Served 3.5 Years, Exonerated in 1994)