On June 16, the Tennessee Supreme Court overturned the ruling of a lower court allowing for Rudolph Powers to finally get DNA testing that could prove his innocence. Powers has spent 30 years in a Tennessee prison on two rape convictions. At the age of 21, he was arrested in Memphis near a shopping center where he worked. He has always maintained that he was misidentified by the victims and did not commit the rapes. Powers was sentenced to life and 50 years to run consecutively. He is now 51 years old.
Prosecutors argued to the Court that even if DNA results taken from one of the rape kits excluded Powers, the test wouldn’t prove innocence because the evidence could have come from a consensual sexual partner of the victim. Lower courts agreed with prosecutors, but the state Supreme Court overturned their rulings, finding that DNA results linking the semen to someone else would cast major doubt on his conviction
Craig Cooley, staff attorney with the Innocence Project and Powers’ attorney, reacted to the news of the court’s decision saying, “I’m ecstatic. I always thought we had the law and common sense on our side.”
According to the Innocence Project, of the 272 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States, eyewitness misidentification testimony was a factor in 75% of these cases, making it the leading cause of wrongful conviction. False confessions and incriminating statements led to wrongful convictions in 25% of cases. Other factors include unvalidated or improper forensic science and relying on the testimony of jailhouse snitches.
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