Man Wrongly Convicted Of Rape Freed After 36 Years In Prison

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Archie Williams free at last.The Innocence Project

A man who spent 36 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of rape has been freed.

58-year-old Archie Williams, from Louisiana, was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole in 1982 when he was just 22.

Mr. Williams had been convicted of the rape and stabbing of a woman at her Baton Rouge home. The victim had picked Mr. Williams out of a line-up, having been shown pictures of his face by police on two prior occasions.

Mr. Williams – who had been asleep at home at the time – had an alibi for the time of the rape and was several inches shorter than the suspect described by the victim. Furthermore, another man’s fingerprints had been found at the scene of the crime.

However, prosecutors had not tested these fingerprints against those in the FBI’s national database due to Louisiana laws prohibiting convicted prisoners from accessing DNA testing after their trial.

The prints were finally tested this week, thanks partly to advances in evidence technology, and were found to belong to convicted rapist, Stephen Forbes, who died behind bars in 1996, as reported by The Advocate.

Announcing the exoneration at the 19th Judicial District courthouse, 19th Judicial District Commissioner Kinasiyumki Kimble stated:

The print matches are powerful evidence that Stephen Forbes committed this crime and Archie Williams did not.

In light of this evidence of his factual innocence presented to this court … Mr. Williams should not and will not remain in prison for his conviction of this crime.

Mr. Kimble continued:

I believe in the truth and that the truth should be found in justice. That truth should shine forth brightly within our lives.

But it doesn’t. Truth often gets pushed away for the sake of personal agendas and such. … This moment is evidence that whatever faith you held onto — along with the faith of your family and the undaunted resolve of your lawyers — none of it went unnoticed.

As reported by ABC News, Mr Williams has now finally been exonerated of this crime, after The Innocence Project fought his corner for years.

Director of post-conviction litigation at the Innocence Project, Vanessa Potkin, has made the following statement:

Mr. Williams first wrote to the Innocence Project for help in 1995. He was 35 years old.

Today, he walked out of prison at age 58. There is no way to quantify the loss and pain he has endured.

The Innocence Project fought alongside Mr. Williams for close to two and a half decades to be able to utilize advancements in forensic testing to prove his innocence.

Once a person is convicted, the criminal laws are rife with vast, insurmountable procedural hurdles intended to favor finality over truth. While we have come a long way in allowing convicted people access to evidence for DNA testing, we have a long way to go when non-DNA evidence of innocence is at issue.

Given what we now know about wrongful convictions, that they occur at alarming rates, we must create pathways for truth to prevail.

Although Mr. Williams is relieved justice has eventually prevailed, he has also spoken of his sorrow regarding other wrongfully convicted prisoners.

Mr. Williams said:

There are many innocent people at Angola—guys who have served over 50 years. I’m happy to be cleared finally, but I’m not free until they are free.

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