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He Didn’t Do It! (Yet Another) Rape Case Exonerated by DNA… 28 years later!

posted by DNA Identifiers @ 10:44 AM
Monday, July 30, 2012

Another case of wrongful imprisonment, a man is exonerated 28 years later by DNA evidence with the help of The Georgia Innocence Project.

Oct. 4, 1978, Meriwether County, GA - An elderly rape victim was asked to pick out her assailant in a lineup and she chose the man in the middle, Jerome White. White was convicted and imprisoned based solely on eyewitness testimony, as have been most cases without hard evidence, historically speaking.

Yet, as state-of-the-art DNA evidence has recently proven, White was not her assailant, another man in the lineup was and his name is James Edward Parham. While White was imprisoned for 12 years, Parham went free… free to rape again, that is. (DNA testing was unavailable at the time of the Aug. 11, 1979, sexual assault in Meriwether County when White was prosecuted.)

As fate would have it, the guilty party, James Edward Parham, happened to be in that same jail on an unrelated arrest at the time of the lineup and was pulled from his cell along with other prisoners for witness ID. The victim had her assailant right in front of her and still did not choose the correct person! Perhaps this was because:

a) The victim, who was 74 years old at the time (now deceased), was asleep on her couch, in the dark, at 4am.

b) When Parham broke into her home, he raped and beat her so severely that her face was left partialy paralyzed.

c) Before he left the scene of the crime, he handed her a pillow and said, “Hold this to your face until I get out.”

d) The woman had prescription eyeglasses but she was not wearing them at the time.

According to an article by Bill Rankin:

On Sept. 28, 1979, the woman was shown a number of photographs, including White’s, and she said she was “almost positive” it was him. When she was presented the lineup of five men at the jail a week later, she said she was positive that White — not Parham standing just a few feet away — was the man who raped her.

“It was just a fluke [Parham] was put in the same lineup with Jerome White,” said Aimee Maxwell, director of the Georgia Innocence Project, which secured White’s exoneration. “This is a tragedy, on many levels.”

Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield (D-Atlanta) told White she will support legislation to compensate him for the time he spent wrongly incarcerated.

Benefield released drafts of proposed legislation that says, beginning July 1, 2011, all photographic or physical lineups must be conducted by officers who have successfully completed eyewitness ID training. The legislation also says if a law enforcement agency does not have written protocols on eyewitness ID by Jan. 1, 2009, the agency can be denied state funding or state-administered federal funding.

Benefield said improved eyewitness ID procedures are necessary because there are only so many cases where DNA evidence can be used to identify the perpetrator.

The GBI supports improved eyewitness ID protocols, spokesman John Bankhead said Thursday. “Nobody in law enforcement wants to arrest the wrong person,” he said.

The accused, Jerome White, was defended at trial by the current U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop (D-Ga.). White’ s laywer did not have him take the witness stand at his trial, however, when the jury found him guilty, he told the judge he didn’t do it. He states, “Then, when they put me back in the holding cell, I just cried,”.

In 2004, after receiving a letter from White, while he was in prison, The Georgia Innocence Project investigated the case. The Project eventually learned that hairs linking White to the crime, through microscopic analysis, were still on file at the Meriwether County Clerk’s Office. They pursued the case on behalf of White and evidence showed that this hair did not belong to him, but to Parham, whose DNA was already in a state database.

White, now released, is the seventh man in Georgia cleared by DNA evidence and has stated that he supports passage of new laws setting protocols for officers to follow when gathering eyewitness identification evidence.
Original Article By BILL RANKIN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 12/13/07
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/stories/2007/12/13/eyewitness_1214_web.html

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