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Univ. of San Diego School of Law

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Two years of freedom, after 23 years behind bars

Briscoe After serving 23 years in Missouri prison for a rape he didn’t commit, Johnny Briscoe was exonerated on July 19, 2006. Saturday marks the second anniversary of his exoneration.

Briscoe’s case highlights the unreliability of eyewitness identification. When a line-up was arranged for the victim back in the early 1980s, Briscoe was the only man (out of four) wearing an orange jumpsuit – “Halloween orange,” he would later tell The Denver Post.  Possibly influenced by the jumpsuit, the victim misidentified Briscoe as her assailant — despite having spent an hour with the perpetrator in a well-lit room.

Eyewitness identification is the leading cause of wrongful conviction, and there are convictions everyday in the U.S. based only on identification. There are ways to reduce inaccuracy and prevent injustices from occurring today. Click here to learn about the Innocence Project’s recommended reforms.

Briscoe was represented by pro bono attorneys affiliated with Centurion Ministries, a non-profit legal organization based in New Jersey. Centurion and the Innocence Project are two of four organizations accepting wrongful conviction cases from across the country. View a list of innocence organizations here. [Mark Godsey]

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