A little more than two decades after DNA testing was first used to clear the name of a wrongfully convicted American, Freddie Peacock became the 250th person to prove his innocence based on DNA testing Thursday, which was conducted thanks to the work of the Innocence Project.
Peacock, 60, was convicted in Rochester, New York of a 1976 of a rape he did not commit. Though he was released on parole in 1982, it has taken 28 years since his release to have the crime taken off his record, longer than any other exoneree who proved his innocence based on DNA testing.
Peacock was implicated based on a questionable identification by the victim, who lived in his apartment building. After a long interrogation, Peacock, who suffers from mental illness, gave a confession that strongly conflicted with the facts of the case. Witness mis-identifications and false confessions are two of the leading causes of wrongful convictions.
In 2002, Mr. Peacock contacted the Innocence Project who began investigating his case. After recovering the victim’s underwear, which contained bodily fluids, the Innocence Project secured testing that compared the sample to Mr. Peacock and the victim’s ex-boyfriend’s DNA. Both samples were negative, meaning a third unknown person was the actual perpetrator.
Mr. Peacock’s exoneration is the first DNA exoneration of 2010. It comes nearly 21 years after Gary Dotson and David Vasquez became the first men exonerated based on DNA evidence.
"These DNA exonerations show us how the criminal justice system is flawed and how it can be fixed," said Peter Neufeld, Co-Director of the Innocence Project. "DNA exonerations have helped transform the criminal justice system, leading to reforms in virtually every state, but there is still a great deal of work to do to make our system of justice more fair, accurate and reliable."
In preparation of the exoneration, the Innocence Project is releasing a report entitled: “250 Exonerated: Too Many Wrongfully Convicted .” Click here to read the Innocence Project’s press release and some of the highlights of the report.
The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project congratulates Mr. Peacock on clearing his name and our colleagues at the Innocence Project on a job well done. We would also like to congratulate and give thanks to everyone who has contributed to the 250 DNA exonerations over the last 21 years. We look forward to having a part in many more exoneration milestones in the years to come.