July 14th, 2011
In 1992, a teenage girl was kidnapped at knifepoint as she waited for a bus. The assailant raped her and then demanded that she come to a nearby skating rink the following night with $100. The next night, a suspect was picked up from the skating rink, positively identified by the young woman, and charged with the crime.
That suspect was Anthony Powell, who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. Mr. Powell was convicted of the rape and kidnapping and spent 12 years in prison. In 2004 DNA testing exonerated Mr. Powell. The DNA was run through a national database and correctly identified the actual assailant, Jerry Dixon. Mr. Dixon will plead guilty to the crime, along with two other rapes, on July 20, 2011.
Currently, Massachusetts is one of only two states that does not have a law mandating postconviction access to DNA testing. A public hearing was held on June 8th at the Massachusetts State House regarding the Postconviction DNA Access Bill, which is currently headed to the Massachusetts House and Senate for debate. Cases like Mr. Powell’s show why such a law is imperative–not only to free the innocent, but to find the guilty.
Powell really puts it in perspective: “If you think that an innocent person cannot be convicted of a crime in Massachusetts, you are fooling yourself. It happened to me. There are innocent people in prison in Massachusetts right now.”