Man Wrongfully Convicted Of Armed Robbery Freed After 17 Years
A man in Louisiana was released from prison on Thursday, June 27 after spending more than 17 years in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit.
Royal Clark Jr.’s road to exoneration began after the New Orleans Innocence Project convinced the Jefferson Parish district attorney’s office to re-examine fingerprint evidence in his case, according to reports from NOLA.com.
The IPNO filed a motion to throw out Clark’s conviction after he was proven innocent. Judicial District Court Judge Donald Rowan vacated the conviction following a short hearing Thursday. Clark walked out of Louisiana’s Angola prison one day after his 42nd birthday and was greeted by his mother, father, sister, and his son.
Clark was wrongfully convicted on the strength of an eyewitness who falsely identified him as the suspect in a Burger King robbery all the way back in 2001. The guilty verdict was handed down on Clark’s 25th birthday.
Even though Clark always maintained innocence during his time in jail, it wasn’t until the Innocence Project began representing him last year that he finally had his chance at being released. The organization requested that the D.A. take another look at a fingerprint found on a cup used by the suspect prior to the robbery.
When authorities ran the fingerprint through a state database and it ended up matching the DNA of Jessie Perry, a 54-year-old man serving 30 years in prison for a string of similar robberies. According to authorities, the advancement in technology used to exonerate Clark wasn’t around at the time of the crime.
“There is currently no clear law that gives prisoners a right to ask for these forensic database searches in cases not involving DNA,” the IPNO pointed out in a news release according to The Advocate. “If the [D.A.’s Office] had refused to re-examine and run the prints, Mr. Clark would likely have stayed in prison until he was 74 years old for a crime he did not commit.”
The IPNO advocates for the Louisiana Legislature, or the Louisiana Supreme Court, to “create a clear legal right for prisoners to access forensic databases in appropriate cases so that truth can prevail.”
Congratulations to Royal Clark Jr. and his whole family.
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