The word “outrage” seems woefully inadequate in these cases. Let’s start with Anthony Caravella. Sun-Sentinel.com (Paula McMahon) reports that Mr. Caravella, who was then all of the age of 15 and mentally challenged, served 26 years for someone else’s crime — the 1983 rape and murder of Ada Cox Jankowski, a prostitute. But despite four exculpatory DNA tests that freed him, an apology from a judge, and the existence of evidence pointing to a different perpetrator; the city of Miramar and the Broward County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) still maintain his guilt.
Said Jamie Cole, Miramar’s lead attorney, who called the DNA tests “irrelevant…The issue here has nothing to do with those DNA tests. If someone else’s semen was there [in the victim’s rape kit] that doesn’t mean Anthony Caravella didn’t also rape her. It’s possible.”
The City and BCSO are the defendants in a civil suit Caravella and his lawyer have filed seeking damages for his long and wrongful incarceration. City police, BCSO employees, and former investigators were guilty of framing Caravella, lying to him, hiding evidence, and withholding DNA testing results says Caravella’s attorney, Barbara Heyer.
“Despite this clear evidence, the (city and Sheriff’s Office) have and continue to make the spurious argument that (Caravella) wasn’t innocent, he had simply not ejaculated at the time of the rape. The evidence proves that this statement is patently false,” Heyer wrote. “Anthony Caravella is an innocent man who has been wrongfully incarcerated for 26 years as a direct result of the misconduct of all of the defendants. The misconduct continues to this day.”
Commented Caravella, “I just can’t believe they’re saying that.”
Neither can we, Anthony.
Move this scenario to Chicago where Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez continues to insist that the Englewood Four (who were teens in 1995 when they falsely confessed to the rape and murder of Nina Glover) are guilty even after a Cook County judge overturned their convictions. Those convictions were based on signed confessions even though primitive DNA testing excluded the four. Subsequent testing in 2010 not only excluded them; results matched a man police had interviewed at the crime scene with a suspicious profile to boot named Johnny Douglas.
As Alvarez continues to fight to affirm the Englewood Four’s conviction, she presents an intriguing scenario. Douglas had unprotected sex with Glover, left her unharmed, and she was later raped and murdered by the four teenagers. “He [Douglas] didn’t kill every other prostitute he was with,” Alvarez told the New York Times. “DNA evidence in and of itself is not always the ‘silver bullet’ that it is sometimes perceived to be,” she declared. She chooses to believe Detective James Cassidy who prosecuted the teenagers.
It turns out the Detective has an interesting past. It seems he took a murder confession from an 11-year-old in 1994 (African American child and Caucasian female victim) that was later tossed out by a judge who said coercion was involved and ordered the child’s record expunged. Cassidy was at it again in 1998. This time the two “perpetrators” were seven and eight-year-old African American boys who apparently confessed to the killing of an 11-year-old girl, Ryan Harris. The charges were quietly dropped when semen was discovered in the little girl’s underwear.
Yet more youthful convictions were overturned two weeks ago when five Chicago men were exonerated in the 1991 rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl. They had “confessed” but were proven innocent through DNA testing. The 1989 Central Park jogger case follows this same troubling pattern.
Questioning Alvarez’s actions in his HUFF POST CHICAGO article, David Protess, President of Chicago’s Innocence Project, notes, “But even if we take Alvarez at her word on this subject – ‘As a prosecutor, I have a duty to the victims in this case’ — then what is her duty to the Englewood Four? Haven’t they been victimized for seventeen years? Re-trying these young men, an option Alvarez is considering, would compound the injustice and waste taxpayer’s dollars.
The system made a tragic mistake. It’s time for Alvarez to confess it.”
It’s also time, I would suggest, to stop hounding Anthony Caravella. It’s also time for certain prosecutors to do the right thing, say they’re sorry, and stop coercing (some would say beating or torturing) false confessions out of teenage suspects who “might” be guilty. Our constitution demands better than that – way better.