The First of Thousands More.
Klark Odom is one of two men exonerated in the last two months in Washington D.C. Odom’s innocence was one of many that spurred the FBI’s reinvestigation of 18,000 convictions that depended on the results of hair analyses conducted by their lab. We applaud the FBI for undertaking such a review.
As we have seen in other wrongful conviction cases, assuming that any department, agency or person is infallible can, and does, lead to wrongful convictions.
Odom became the 293rd exoneree in the United States with the U.S. Attorney’s joint motion for vacating his conviction, ending his lifelong parole and registration as a sexual offender, and enabling him to apply for wrongful imprisonment compensation.
The judge granted both motions on Odom’s birthday, July 13.
Continued Investigation Leads to Exoneration of Oklahoma Man.
The Innocence Project helped exonerate Oklahoma man Sedrick Courtney after 16 years in prison and a year dealing with the constraints of parole. He married his wife four months ago. Even his mother-in-law said, “I knew he was innocent. You could just tell.”
The original hair tests of samples from the two criminals’ ski masks were inconclusive, as they were too short for comparison to Courtney’s hair samples. However, the technician jumped to the conclusion that one bleached red hair, found in the evidence, was close enough to one taken from Courtney’s head.
It seems the jury gave more weight to this misguided lab technician’s assertion than to three alibi witnesses that vouched for Courtney during his trial. The victim’s recognition of Courtney’s “voice and a brief instance when he lifted a ski mask” also was given too much weight by the jury .
For years, the Tulsa Police (TPD) told his attorneys that evidence from the case had been destroyed. When the Innocence Project came to his assistance in 2007, TPD continued to maintain that the evidence had been destroyed. But last year, the evidence turned up in the Tulsa courthouse. Subsequent DNA testing revealed that the hairs were not Courtney’s, thus proving his innocence.
Had the evidence not been found, Courtney would still be walking around with a false conviction on his record, taking off work to comply with parole constraints. Organization is an important aspect to assuring justice. We cannot rely on getting lucky by having evidence simply show up.