Exonerated: Life After Wrongful Imprisonment

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Barry Gibbs spent 19 years in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. David Shepard was wrongfully convicted of rape, and served 10 years of a 30-year sentence. Both were exonerated. But exoneration comes with its own set of challenges. Mr. Gibbs, Mr. Shepard, and Innocence Project attorney Vanessa Potkin explain why returning to the outside world is so difficult…and whether anything can make up for the years lost in prison.


Barry Gibbs, Vanessa Potkin and David Shepard

Comments [4]

mark from michigan

F Sussman:

if you listen to the clip of him in 2005, the woman gives a phone number and an address for the innocence project, i would contact them

Dec. 19 2007 03:58 PM
PSY4 de la Rime from Manhattan

If all the innocent people currently incarcerated could be identified, released, and compensated, as at the wave of a wand, we are still left with an unfair, broken, and dangerously illegitmate system of criminal justice.

The danger of innocence is that it will distract us from other, very real problems that infect and define the administration of justice. The race bias of American society finds expression in its convictions, its courts and its cops. If lawyers want to challenge areas of bias, an emphasis on innocence is the wrong strategy.

Dec. 19 2007 01:14 PM
William B. Millard from New York, NY

This is a fascinating story; thanks for calling attention to Mr. Gibbs' and Mr. Shepard's experiences. Wrongful incarceration is a horrendous crime committed by the state -- and the individuals who implement the state's power -- against individuals, robbing them of a huge part of their lives (and, in other cases, their lives themselves). It doesn't appear that the prosecutors in these situations are held accountable for these errors in any way.

I wonder whether certain reforms in criminal processes would help prevent future cases like this by creating powerful incentives against rash, arrogant, negligent procedures by prosecutors and police. What if any prosecutor found to have wrongfully put a person in jail had to serve the full equivalent sentence himself, with no possibility of parole? Knowing that they faced the risk of imprisonment would logically improve their performance in administering due process to their fellow citizens.

Another possible mechanism -- less equitable, but perhaps more politically feasible -- would use an economic incentive: requiring all prosecutors and police who are found to have abused due process in a wrongful-imprisonment case to forfeit a substantial part of their income and assets. Those sums would go into an exoneree fund.

Prosecutors need to recognize the awesome power they hold over the accused, and stop acting as if every criminal accusation were accurate.

Dec. 19 2007 12:49 PM
F Sussman from Queens

How can I donate household items like televisions, computers and furnishings to help these people?

Dec. 19 2007 12:20 PM

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