A Washington Post editorial today applauded the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and the District of Columbia court system for reevaluating a closed case where several men may have been wrongfully convicted.
Nearly three decades ago, a mother of six was brutally murdered in an alley in Northeast Washington in what police said was an attack by a gang of teenagers who acted on a whim. There were 17 people arrested in connection with the crime, and 13 were charged for murder. Eleven teenagers would eventually plead guilty or be convicted. Today, six of the now middle-aged men remain behind bars.
Lawyers at the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (an Innocence Network member) have been investigating the case since 2001. A D.C. judge has now ordered post-conviction DNA testing of physical evidence in the case and will hold hearings in October.
A central claim of the defense is that the government withheld evidence of two other possible suspects who did not corroborate the government’s “Lord of the Flies” theory of the crime. One of these suspects — identified by a witness as leaving the scene where [the victim] was attacked — had committed two other violent assaults on women and subsequently beat, sodomized and murdered another woman in an alley a few blocks from where [the victim] was killed. The Innocence Project also obtained affidavits from four witnesses — including two defendants who testified for the government as part of plea agreements — recanting their testimony, which they allege was shaped by police and coerced.
Despite evidence of other possible suspects, the U.S. Attorney’s Office contests the notion of police or prosecutorial misconduct.