Failing the DNA Test," Michael Blanding and Lindsay Markel, November 20, 2011, The Boston Globe Magazine
WBUR's Radio Boston hosts talk with Schuster Senior Fellow Michael Blanding about DNA testing for prisoners in Massachusetts
- Post-conviction DNA testing in Massachusetts: "Failing the Test"
- Waiting for DNA: More about Massachusetts prisoners claiming innocence who are featured in the article
- Exonerated by DNA: Massachusetts wrongful convictions overturned
- Anthony Powell<
- Background: A primer on the Massachusetts DNA access bill
- Underlying issue: No law requiring preservation of crime scene evidence
- Digging deeper: What do exonerations teach us about the criminal justice system?
- Non-DNA cases: What happens if there is no DNA to test?
How do wrongful convictions occur?
- Eyewitness misidentification
- Faulty forensics, or bad science
- False confessions
- Informants and "snitches"
- Bad lawyering or representation in court
- Misconduct by prosecutors or law enforcement
Exonerated by DNA:
Anthony Powell, who spent 12 years in Massachusetts prison for a crime he did not commit, was freed in 2004 with the help of the Innocence Project. In 2011, the real perpetrator, Jerry Dixon, admitted to the crime. DNA testing further proved Powell's innocence. Photograph of Powell in Suffolk Superior Court, July 2011, by Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe.
Read a summary of Anthony Powell's case at the Innocence Project website.
Anthony Powell’s case reflects a troublesome national concern: When the wrong people are convicted of heinous crimes, the guilty are free to reoffend. While Powell was in prison for rape for 12 years, the actual perpetrator raped more women. The same DNA test that exonerated Powell eventually led police to another man, Jerry Dixon, who provided a DNA sample when he was arrested for a motor vehicle charge in 2007. This past July, Dixon pled guilty not only to the rape Powell did prison time for, but also to two other rapes committed that same year.
According to the Innocence Project’s most recent review of the first 273 DNA exonerations:
- In nearly half (46%) of the first 273 DNA exonerations, post-conviction DNA tests revealed the true perpetrator of the crime.
- While the wrong person was incarcerated, the real perpetrators remained free to commit a minimum of 114 additional violent crimes, including:
- 65 rapes
- 30 murders
- 19 other violent crimes.
News articles about the Anthony Powell case
“Wrongly convicted sees rapist sentenced: Man lost 12 years in jail in '91 crime,” Brian Ballou, July 29, 2011, The Boston Globe.
“Guilty plea due in wrongful conviction: Case cited in drive for new DNA law,” John Guilfoil, July 20, 2011, The Boston Globe.
“Getting guilty right: A new study shows how the innocent get put in jail--and how we can do better,” Brandon Garrett, March 27, 2011, The Boston Globe.
“SJC ruling extends reach of DNA cases: Finds no time limit for those so identified,” Jonathan Saltzman, December 10, 2010, The Boston Globe.
“Man sues police for wrongful conviction; Imprisoned 12 1/2 years on rape charge,” Jonathan Saltzman, March 23, 2007, The Boston Globe.
“City Gives Him a Break,” Brian McGrory, January 14, 2005, The Boston Globe.
“Blind Spots,” David S., Bernstein, April 23-29, 2004, The Boston Phoenix.
"One Angry Man Fiery Lawyer Works to Set Innocent Free," Jonathan Saltzman, March 12, 2004, The Boston Globe.
"Inmate's exoneration renews calls for an 'Innocence' panel," Jonathan Saltzman, March 9, 2004, The Boston Globe.
“Powell Freed From Prison; DNA Evidence Clears Him," [Third Edition], John Ellement, March 9 2004, The Boston Globe.
“Inmate’s Release Sought; New DNA Evidence Cited,” Jonathan Saltzman, March 6, 2004, The Boston Globe.
Last page update: November 19, 2011
© 2011 Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA. All rights reserved.