Saturday, April 04, 2009

The Exoneration of Alan Beaman

This week marks the 235th exoneration for the Innocence Project. Many other innocents have found freedom through other individuals and groups. Recently, the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwester University School of Law discussed the case of Alan Beaman, who was released after serving 13 years for the murder of his girlfriend--a crime we now know with that he did not commit. Speakers in the video below discuss what his case and cases like it can tell us about how the system can make such terrible mistakes:

Free At Last: The Exoneration of Alan Beaman from Northwestern News on Vimeo.

In Beaman's case there had been other evidence indicating that another of victim's boyfriends, identified only as John Doe, had committed the crime--evidence that had not been available to the jurors.

Prosecutors conceded they “withheld” evidence on four points:

  1. John Doe failed to complete a polygraph examination;

  2. John Doe was charged with domestic battery and drug charges before Beaman’s trial;

  3. John Doe physically abused his girlfriend on numerous occasions; and

  4. John Doe’s use of steroids had caused him to act erratically.
According to Illinois Supreme Court Justice Thomas Kilbride, that evidence was “clearly favorable to (Beaman) in establishing (John) Doe as an alternative suspect.”

Beaman's case is of particular interest to us because Todd, like Beaman, relied upon an alternative suspect defense. Full information about the alternative suspect's failure to comply with his plea agreement, a history of sexual assault allegations against him, and other details that would impeach his credibility as a prosecution witness had been unavailable to Todd's defense.

Here's a hypothetical for you to consider: had you been a juror at Todd's trial how would your verdict have been affected by knowing that the alternate suspect
  • had been accused--more than once--of sexual assault,
  • had violated the conditions of his plea agreement, which kept him from being charged with murder,
  • had a monetary interest in Todd's conviction and personally profited from it.

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