If you have been unjustly accused of the crime of sexual assault, your life may well be in ruins long before you ever get to trial. But as bad as a false accusation can be, it’s far worse when you are wrongly convicted.
According to an analysis by the National Registry on Exonerations of 873 exonerations here in America from the 23 years between 1989 and 2012 — the largest analysis ever conducted — 35 percent of exonerations were for those with wrongful convictions for rape and other types of sexual assaults. Convictions included 203 individuals who were unjustly convicted of sexually assaulting adults and 102 who were convicted of the sexual assault of a child.
For the 203 with wrongful convictions for sexually assaulting adults, factors that contributed to their convictions included:
— Mistaken identification by witnesses (80 percent)
— Misleading and false forensic evidence (37 percent)
— Being falsely accused and perjury (23 percent)– Misconduct by officials (18 percent)– False confessions (8 percent)
There were 49 men convicted of sexually assaulting adults whose convictions were based on perjury or false accusations. Of those, nine received life sentences and served over a decade before finally being exonerated.
One woman out west told law enforcement she was raped by three men. Eight months later, two of those men got convictions for first-degree rape. But the following year, those charges were dismissed after it was proven that the woman was actually incarcerated on the day she claimed she was kidnapped, handcuffed and sodomized and raped repeatedly.
In 1977, a Chicago teen Cathleen Crowell faked being raped out of fear that her boyfriend had gotten her pregnant. She chose a suspect from a photo lineup, claiming he was her rapist. In turn, he was got a sentence of 25 to 50 years behind bars.
In 1985, the woman had a change of heart and recanted. Despite this, he was not cleared for four additional years, when post-conviction DNA testing indicated he could not have been her rapist.
Nightmares like this make it vital that all who are accused mount the strongest defense possible, as early as they can, to minimize the potential damage.
Source: Stop Abusive and Violent Environments, “Exonerations for a Wrongful Conviction of Sexual Assault,” accessed May 27, 2016