Episode 38: DNA Exoneration…Free at Last!

This week Ann, Becky and Dan are joined again by Paul Smith to discuss exoneration. We take a look at 2 particular wrongful conviction and incarceration cases in Louisiana.

(0:19) Malcolm Alexander
A Gretna, Louisiana antique shop owner was allegedly raped twice at gunpoint from behind. She did not get a clear look at her attacker. Months later, Malcolm Alexander had a consensual sexual encounter with another white woman who afterwards demanded money. When Mr. Alexander didn’t pay her, she went to the police and reported the encounter as sexual assault. Malcolm Alexander was subsequently arrested, the charges were later dropped. For some reason the police department thought that they should show Mr. Alexander’s photo to the antique shop owner months later. She said that he kind of looked like the guy she didn’t get a good look at. Mr. Alexander was brought into a lineup with other people that the shop owner did NOT see photos of. Of course she positively identified him. Malcolm Alexander was sentenced to life with no chance of parole. He served 38 of those years before being exonerated by the Innocence Project.

(2:37) Glenn Ford (b. 10/29/49 – d. 6/29/15)
Glenn Ford was accused of murdering Isadore Rozeman, a Shreveport jeweler. Ford was a handyman for Rozeman who was said to be in the vicinity when the murder occured. There were no eyewitnesses, a murder weapon was never found, and the bulk of the evidence was provided to the police by the girlfriend of another suspect in the crime. Glenn Ford was sentenced to death by an all white jury. In 2014 Glenn Ford was exonerated after spending 29 years on death row, in solitary confinement. While wrongfully incarcerated Ford developed cancer that the prison did not adequately treat, succumbing to cancer in June of 2015. Glenn Ford was never compensated for his wrongful incarceration. He left prison with $20.04 and not a penny more.

(7:27) Thoughts on wrongful incarceration.
Joined by Paul of The Boxing Critics Podcast we discuss our thoughts on wrongful incarceration and convictions. Minorities are, and have been routinely targeted for crimes that they did not commit. Racism and unequal economics often play a role in these incidents. Without the financial resources, we’re often unable to defend ourselves with competent attorneys and plead to lesser crimes of which we have not committed either. If an innocent minority proceeds to a jury trial where the jury is all white, studies show that they see he or she as guilty until proven innocent.

(12:51) Looking closer at Malcolm Alexander and Glenn Ford’s cases.
We take a look at some of the evidence that was presented in both cases and use common sense determine if we think these trials were at least somewhat fair. Spoiler Alert! They weren’t!

(20:11) Enter attorney Joseph Tosh.
Malcolm Alexander’s attorney was disbarred in 1999, almost 20 years after Alexander’s conviction. He failed to represent Malcolm Alexander and dozens of his other clients adequately.

(25:12) Evidence against Glenn Ford.
What evidence???

(27:55) Fuck You, Pay Me!
If you’re wrongfully incarcerated and get exonerated, how much of a payment are you entitled to? Why did Glenn Ford not receive anything other than a $20 gift card for his 29 years in solitary confinement?

(34:36) DNA for Sale!
We discuss how few people have actually been exonerated by DNA evidence. In 23 years of We also look at how websites like Ancestry.com and 23andMe.com shared customer’s DNA with third-parties and law enforcement. Although some of the DNA testing sites have revised their terms and conditions to exclude sharing results with third-parties, law enforcement isn’t explicitly mentioned.

(44:06) The Legacy of Henrietta Lacks.
Henrietta Lacks was a Black woman who was being treated for cervical cancer by Johns Hopkins in the 1940s and early 1950s. Like all of the cancer patients, samples of her cells were taken. Unlike all of the other patients, Lacks cells did not die, they multiplied. In 2018 we are still using Henrietta Lacks’ cells for research. The family has not been compensated.

(45:36) Defend Us!
Dan gives a hypothetical scenario where he and Paul are charged with murder because of DNA evidence collected from a genealogy website, like in the Golden State Killer’s case. We ask Ann to come up with some defenses.

(48:56) The Psychology of being Wrongfully Sentenced to Death.
We theorize how we’d handle being sentenced to death for a crime we didn’t commit.

(53:10) Ask an Attorney:
Emily in Murfreesboro –
I’m in a same-sex marriage with an adopted child. If we get divorced which one of us would get custody?

(55:30) Shoutout!
Friend of the show, Erica Jones of the E and Friends Podcast! You can check out Model E on Twitter @ericajonez!