There have been a total of 272 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States. Over 150 of the exonerees were African-American.
Historically, a disproportionate number of African-Americans have been wrongly convicted of crimes due to false confessions, incriminating statements, and other dubious evidence.
Fortunately, the criminal justice system implemented DNA forensics in 1989, offering a source of irrefutable evidence in many contemporary cases.
Here’s a list of the 5 most unjust convictions of Black men that were overturned several years later, due to DNA evidence.
1. Geronimo Pratt
The late Black Panther Party member, Geronimo Pratt, was sentenced in 1970 for allegedly murdering a 27-year-old elementary school teacher. Pratt spent 27 years behind bars, and maintained his a innocence throughout the whole time. His sentence was eventually vacated on June 10, 1997, when they found out that the prosecution had concealed evidence that might have exonerated Pratt.
2. Barney Brown
Barney Brown was a 15-year old who was convicted of rape and robbery, and sentenced to life in prison. Thirty-eight years later he was exonerated. Brown now travels to schools to speak to students about the importance of an education, and to never give up hope.
3. Anthony Graves
Anthony Graves was convicted of murder in 1994, and spent 18 years on death row. In 2010 he was exonerated of the charges when the court found that the prosecution withheld information from the defense and elicited false testimony. Graves was later denied compensation because the words “actual innocence” weren’t used in the ruling.
4. Raymond Towler
Raymond Towler was convicted to a life sentence for an alleged rape, kidnapping and felonious assault of two teens on September 18, 1981. Twenty-seven years later his sentence was vacated when DNA tests proved him not innocent of the alleged crimes.
5. Jimmy Bain
James “Jimmy” Bain was 19 years-old when he was convicted on charges of kidnapping, burglary and strong-arm rape. He maintained his innocence in prison, and hand wrote four motions in 2001 to have DNA testing, but they were all denied. After he filed a filed a fifth motion, he was directed to have a hearing on the case. He was then given permission to get the DNA testing, which proved he was not guilty of the crime– 35 years after his conviction.