Cedric Dent, 47, was wrongfully convicted of a murder in 1997. After over 20 years in prison, a judge decided Monday to vacate his conviction and the district attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case because Dent was a victim of an unfair trial, according to the New York Daily News.
Dent was charged with the shooting and killing of Anthony Milton outside a New Orleans supermarket. According to an investigation by The Innocence Project New Orleans, prosecutors withheld documents including a witness statement that the description of the shooter did not match Dent. Additionally, a key witness changed their story multiple times before trial.
More on the case from CBS News:
“Cedric Dent is a victim of the failures of every system that was put in place to protect his rights as a person accused of a crime - a police department that did the bare minimum to investigate a serious crime; lawyers that didn’t have the resources or the wherewithal to investigate his case; and a district attorney’s office that concealed evidence that should have been turned over and would have helped Mr. Dent get the not guilty verdict he deserved at trial,” Meredith Angelson, one of Mr. Dent’s lawyers, said in a statement released by the organization.
A statement from District Attorney Jason Williams’ office noted that Dent had been convicted by a non-unanimous jury - a verdict that would not now be accepted under Louisiana law or U.S. Supreme Court precedent.
“After a thorough review of Mr. Dent’s case, our office concluded that — like many convictions decided by non-unanimous jury - his guilty verdict stemmed from a trial that was unfair precisely because one of the twelve jurors had voted to acquit and because of constitutionally ineffective assistance from his defense attorney,” the statement said. “The legal system failed Mr. Dent, and just as significantly, failed the victim of this crime and his family.”
Dent was actually the nephew of another exonerated man, Elvis Brooks. According to the Innocence Project, Brooks was freed in 2019 after serving 42 years. He was 62 when he came home. His case was similar to Dent’s in the way crucial evidence was withheld during trial. However, prosecutors would only let him free if he pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
The National Registry of Exonerations will now be looking at another name to add to their list. According to their database, official misconduct was a contributing factor to the wrongful conviction by almost 60 percent. An estimated 20,000 are falsely imprisoned right now, per the Innocence Project. Too many people are missing out on their life and having their constitutional rights violated because the people who have power over their case could care less whether they are truly guilty or innocent.