Michael Seri

6.5 months

In 2001, Michael Seri was studying at a library in Newtown, Connecticut. Around the same time, a troop of Girl Scouts was visiting the library. One of the girls reported that a man sat down at her table and began to masturbate. The girl described the man as a dark-haired Hispanic. Librarians remembered that a man who had been studying in the area had left his phone number for books on hold, so they called and questioned him. That man, Seri, was arrested three months later. The girl, however, did not pick him out of a police line-up.

Seri was white with balding hair and sideburns, which did not fit the description the girl had given. Fingerprints were taken from a book that had been at the table, but Newtown police refused to send them to the national database. At trial, an expert concluded that he couldn’t rule out the fingerprints as Seri’s, and Seri was convicted.

While he was in prison, a friend of Seri’s saw a newspaper report that a man had recently been arrested for masturbating in front of a girl at the same library. The man also had a history of arrests for public indecency at several nearby libraries. Seri’s family requested that the fingerprints taken from the book be compared to the other man’s fingerprints. The two sets of prints turned out to be a match. In 2003, after his release, Seri was granted a new trial and prosecutors dismissed all charges.