News 04.03.09

Two Men Mark Six Years of Freedom

Six years ago today,

Dennis Maher

was exonerated in Massachusetts and Eddie Lowery was cleared in Kansas. Both had spent about two decades behind bars for crimes they didn’t commit.

Dennis Maher’s nightmare began in November of 1983, when there were two consecutive assaults in Lowell, Massachusetts. Although no biological evidence linked him to the crime, Maher’s clothing matched the victim’s description, and items found in his vehicle seemed suspicious. In addition, though their descriptions varied, all three victims identified Maher in photographic lineups. Relying heavily on these misidentifications, Maher was charged with both attacks, as well as an unsolved rape that occurred the previous summer in Ayer, Massachusetts, where biological evidence was introduced but never tested. Though the Innocence Project began working with Maher in 1993, it was not until 2001, after years of being told that the biological evidence taken from the victims could not be located, that a law student discovered evidence from the first rape in the basement of the Middlesex County Courthouse. The evidence was tested and found to exclude Maher as a possible semen donor. Soon after, evidence from the Ayer case was tested and the same conclusion was reached. Finally, in 2003, Maher was exonerated.

Today, Maher works as a mechanic for Waste Management and is married with two children. His daughter is named Aliza, after his attorney, former Innocence Project staff attorney Aliza Kaplan.

In July 1981,

Eddie James Lowery

, then 22, was arrested for the attack and rape of an elderly resident of Ogden, Kansas. He was questioned all day without food and was told he did not need a lawyer after requesting one. Investigators supplied Lowery with details of the crime – the house, the entry, the weapon, and specifics about the rape. The details were incorporated into a confessions, which Lowery immediately said was coerced and false.

Although Lowery recanted the statements and his attorney filed to suppress them, the court ruled that the confession was made voluntarily and allowed it into the trial. It became the cornerstone of the prosecution's case and, coupled with inaccurate testimony linking Lowery to the crime through serology, led to his 1982 conviction and sentence of 11 years to life. He served nine years in prison and was released on parole in 1991. In 2002, Lowery procured DNA testing on the biological evidence. He had been forced to register as a sex offender every year since his parole and wanted to clear his name. The test results confirmed his innocence. After spending nearly a decade in prison – and another decade as a registered sex offender – for a crime he didn’t commit, Lowery was finally exonerated on April 3, 2003.

Today, Lowery works as a wedding photographer.


Other Anniversaries this week:

Sunday:

Antonio Beaver

, Missouri (Served 10 years, Exonerated 03/29/09)

Thursday:

Anthony Capozzi

, New York (Served 20 years, Exonerated 04/02/07)

Saturday:

Harold Buntin

, Indiana (Served 13 years, Exonerated 05/20/05)

 

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