The wrongful convictions of five black and Latino men who have become known as the Central Park Five represent a pattern of racial inequity in the nation’s criminal justice system that is almost as old as the country itself.
So great is the problem that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder recently announced plans to tackle the issue himself. In comments earlier this year to the Washington Monthly, he acknowledged “growing evidence that substantial numbers of people are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, and called this reality the ‘ultimate horror’ of our justice system.”
Here are five other examples of wrongful convictions through the years in the United States, including one from the 1930s of the so-called Scottsboro Boys. In that notorious case, nine black youths were falsely charged with raping two white women in Alabama.
1. Gerard Richardson
Richardson was released in October after serving 19 years in prison for murder before DNA evidence proved his innocence. He was convicted in New Jersey of the 1994 murder of 19-year-old Monica Reyes based on the testimony of a forensic dentist who testified that Richardson’s teeth matched a bite mark found on the victim’s body. But new DNA testing of a swab taken from the bite mark excluded Richardson as the source and pointed to another male suspect.
2. Daniel Taylor
Taylor, who was exonerated and released from prison in June of last year, filed a lawsuit in February against the city of Chicago and eight detectives and patrol officers for their role in arresting and convicting him of a double murder in 1992. He was accused of murdering Jeffrey Lassiter and Sharon Haugabook, even though police records showed he was in custody at the time of the killings. Prosecutors worked hard to keep the conviction even as his attorneys and Chicago Tribune reporters continued to uncover evidence supporting his alibi.
3. Bennie Starks