Innocence Project client Steven Barnes served nearly two decades in New York prisons for a murder he didn’t commit before he was exonerated through DNA testing last year. While Steven and his family suffered a grave injustice, they weren’t alone. Twenty-five years after their daughter was murdered, the parents of Kimberly Simon are still searching for answers.
Cheryl and Bill Simon told the
this weekend that once DNA proved Barnes’ innocence, the nightmare started all over again.
“To realize that the wrong person was in jail wasn’t fair to anybody, and it took a long time to come to terms with the fact that Steven was wrongfully convicted,” Cheryl Simon said. “Now, we certainly understand what his mother has gone through, too, and we just hope they can be at peace now.”
On September 18, 1985, Simon, then 16-years-old, left her home to meet a friend. The next day, her body was found near the side of a dirt road.
Barnes became a suspect based on vague statements from eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen his distinctive truck around the time Simon was last seen alive.
Since being exonerated, Barnes told the Observer-Dispatch that he continues to have a positive attitude about life despite being wrongfully convicted.
Yet Barnes and his mother, Sylvia Bouchard, still occasionally seethe with resentment toward those investigators with the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office that they blame for ruining Barnes’ life and denying closure for the Simon family.
When someone is wrongfully convicted, the victim and their family are wronged too. In fact, crime victims and their families have become important allies in the fight to prevent wrongful conviction.
Christy Sheppard grew up believing that Ron Williamson and Dennis Fritz raped and murdered her cousin Debra Sue Carter. The two had been convicted of the crime in 1988, with Fritz receiving a life sentence and Williamson being sentenced to death. Then, 17 years later, DNA testing exonerated Fritz and Williamson and implicated another man in the crime. Carter’s family didn’t know what to believe. But over time, Sheppard’s disbelief turned into resolve to fix the system. She became part of a growing and critical component of the innocence movement: crime victims and their families who want to address and prevent wrongful convictions.
Read Barnes’ case profile
, and watch a video interview with Barnes below.