This morning, Innocence Project client Antonio Beaver walked out of a St. Louis jail a free man after DNA testing proved he could not have committed the carjacking for which he served more than a decade in prison. Beaver is the 198th person nationwide exonerated by DNA evidence, and the seventh in Missouri.
He was convicted of attacking a 26-year-old white woman in a parking lot near the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and stealing her car. The victim described the perpetrator as a 21-year-old, 5’10” African-American man wearing a baseball cap. A detective saw Beaver on the street and decided he matched the description, despite the fact that Beaver was 31 and 6’2”. There were other major differences between Beaver and victim’s description of the perpetrator – she created a composite sketch of a man with no facial hair, yet Beaver had a moustache; she said her attacker had a pronounced gap between his teeth, which Beaver did not.
The victim identified Beaver in a four-person lineup in which two men were police officers. Only two of the men in the lineup – Beaver and the other man who was not a police officer – wore baseball caps, as the perpetrator did. The jury heard that fingerprints from the victim’s car didn’t match Beaver, but convicted him based on the victim’s identification. He was sentenced to 18 years in prison.
The victim told police that her attacker was bleeding as he drove away in her car. She saw him bleed on inside of the door. When police recovered the car the next day, the interior of the driver’s side door was stained with blood. Those bloodstains were collected as evidence. Representing himself, Beaver filed a motion in in 2001 to test the stains for DNA. The state opposed his motion. The Innocence Project took Beaver’s case in 2006 and filed another brief on his behalf. In October 2006, prosecutors agreed to DNA testing. The results proved Beaver’s innocence. Read more about Antonio Beaver's case on the Innocence Project website.
Eyewitness misidentification was a factor is every one of the seven wrongful convictions in Missouri that were later overturned by DNA, and a factor in more than 75 percent of the 198 DNA exoneration cases nationwide.
Beaver was working in a laboratory when he was arrested in 1996. He is now 41 years old and has lost 10 years of his life; he will move in with his aunt and uncle as he attempts to rebuild his life. With the help of our dedicated and generous supporters, the Innocence Project has been able to help several recent exonerees with necessities like food, clothing, housing and jobs as they get back on their feet. Our Exoneree Fund is devoted specifically to moments like this. Please help us assist exonerees as they pick up the pieces after years or decades stolen. Click here to donate to the Innocence Project Exoneree Fund.