Wrongful Conviction Is Costly Injustice

The Hartford Courant

In 1989, Kenneth Ireland of Manchester was sentenced to 50 years in prison for a sexual assault and murder he didn't commit. Two decades later, the persistence of the Connecticut Innocence Project and the DNA evidence that the group presented set him free.

Now, Mr. Ireland is seeking between $5.5 million and $8 million in damages from the state for the wrongful conviction. He deserves every penny of what he gets.

Mr. Ireland's 21-year nightmare began in 1987, a year after the assault and murder of Barbara Pelkey, a 30-year-old mother, in Wallingford. Police came to his home and told him they had evidence that he had committed the crime.

The "evidence" consisted of the testimony of two people seeking a reward for information about the crime.

Later, a third person told police Mr. Ireland admitted to her that he had killed Mrs. Pelkey. The witness said she was drunk at the time and may have imagined the conversation. No matter; her testimony became part of the case.

At the trial, no physical evidence was put forth by the state. A police officer said fingerprints at the crime scene did not match Mr. Ireland's. Some hair that was discovered was said to be "dissimilar" to his. Nonetheless, the jury, after deliberating three days, brought in a verdict of guilty.

Two questions must be asked: First, how could such an obvious miscarriage of justice have occurred, even 25 years ago? 1989 was not exactly the dark ages. And second, how many other wrongly accused people sit in our prisons, fruitlessly hoping for exoneration?

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