Innocent Prisoners: We Are Human Beings, Aren’t We?

by Lorenzo Johnson

First published on the Huffington Post, 3/6/17

Trapped in the bowels of a world where people are labeled the “worst of the worst,” dwell innocent prisoners. We are surrounded by criminals convicted of everything from petty crimes to multiple murders. How did we get here? Nine out of ten times, we were poor and stripped of our constitutional rights. Never once did we commit a crime—instead, a crime has been committed against us that would change our life forever.

When it came to us, the rule of “innocent until proven guilty” was reversed. If you look at the data provided by the National Registry of Exonerations, you will be shocked at how badly our criminal justice system has failed us. Then way we are treated, is as if we are less than human. At times, we wonder if the constitution even applies to us.

For those of us who are fortunate enough to eventually get exonerated, statistics show that 75% of the time, government agents were responsible for our false convictions. This is fact, not fiction. Not all government agents are corrupt, of course. However—in three out of four cases of exoneration, the actions of criminal justice officials were responsible for the injustice. If you look at the almost 2,000 (and counting) exonerations since 1989, you’ll see a lot of corruption that had been kept silent and swept under the rug.

Under the Sixth Amendment, we are all guaranteed the right to effective counsel if we can’t afford an attorney. What the Sixth Amendment hasn’t guaranteed innocent prisoners is adequate funding for our counsel. With our court-appointed laywers and public defenders being severely underfunded, we are losing before we even start.

I’m one of many innocent prisoners who has uncovered evidence of my innocence that was hidden or withheld my case prosecutor. You might think that since evidence of my innocence has been uncovered, my prosecutor would do what’s right after twenty-one years—but, no, not at all. Now, the prosecution is not fighting against my claims of innocence on their face—instead, they are relying on the issue of my claim’s “timeliness” to try and throw out my evidence of innocence.

It’s sad but, pet animals are treated better than us. We are human beings—aren’t we?