When Wilton Dedge was arrested for a December 1981 rape, he weighed 125 pounds and stood at 5′5″ - not at all like the tall, muscular, 160-pound man the victim had originally described to the police. Despite the mismatched between her description and Dedge, she identified him as her attacker. Due to the misidentification and other unreliable evidence, Dedge would serve 22 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Finally exonerated on August 11, 2004, he marks the fourth anniversary of his exoneration today.
Dedge’s case underscores not only the fallibility of eyewitness identification, but also the importance of granting access to DNA testing when it can prove innocence and overturn a wrongful conviction. Once the tests are conducted, state laws must also ensure that the new evidence can be heard in court.
It took Dedge five years to obtain access to the DNA testing that proved his innocence, but then It took three more years for his release. Prosecutors argued that the test results were not permissible in court because they had been obtained before a new DNA access law was in place. According to the law, they argued, he had proven his innocence too early.
Seven states still don’t have a law guaranteeing inmate access to postconviction DNA testing-meaning more inmates could suffer the same injustices as Dedge. Click here to learn if your state allows access to testing.
Help us ensure DNA access for inmates across the country by signing our petition for DNA testing access today.
Dedge’s case is featured in the award-winning documentary “After Innocence.” Buy a copy of the film today from Amazon.com (a portion of proceeds benefits the Innocence Project) or rent it from Netflix.
Other exoneration anniversaries this week:
Thursday: Gary Dotson, Illinois (Served 10 years, Exonerated 08/14/89 )
Roy Criner, Texas (Served 10 years, Exonerated 08/15/2000)
Friday: Eduardo Velasquez, Massachusetts (Served 12.5 years, Exonerated 08/15/01)