Sexual assault charges can bring tremendous notoriety and an immediate risk to the accused offender’s freedom. Cases involving rape, child molestation, indecent assault and other sex crimes receive focused attention and often a rush to apprehend a suspect if the alleged assailant is unknown.
Such a so-called “John Doe” indictment led to a Massachusetts man being wrongly convicted of raping a teenage in 1992. Anthony Powell spent 12 years in prison for a crime he did not commit before he was exonerated by DNA testing.
Powell was apprehended at a public skating rink the day after the girl was raped at gunpoint, because he matched her description of the actual rapist, who had arranged to meet her there. Eyewitness misidentification, whether from witness descriptions or police line-ups is a weak link in the criminal justice system.
He finally gained his freedom when the Massachusetts Committee for Public Counsel Services appointed an attorney to help him obtain DNA testing of a semen sample from the rape kit. According to the New England Innocence Project, Massachusetts is one of two states that have not passed laws to allow convicts to gain access to DNA evidence for testing, as well as the only state where preservation of such evidence is not required.
The test also revealed the identity of the man who committed the rape and two other Boston sex crimes that occurred in 1991. The case has finally reached its just conclusion with Jerry Dixon’s guilty plea.
Powell issued a powerful statement about what he has learned in the past 20 years: “If you think that an innocent person cannot be convicted of a crime in Massachusetts, you are fooling yourself; it happened to me. There are innocent people in prison right now.’’ Solid legal advice and aggressive advocacy from a Massachusetts criminal defense lawyer is an asset for individuals who need serious protection from an undeserve