Man Exonerated After 24 Years Behind Bars

Daryl Dwayne Holloway of Milwaukee, 48, who was recently exonerated by DNA evidence in a case involving a sexual assault, was released from prison on Wednesday following spending 24 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

The day came following Milwaukee County Circuit Court Judge Jeffrey Wagner’s signing of an order that overturned the conviction and freeing the innocent man. It was Wagner who presided over the conviction in 1993 that put Holloway in prison for the crime. The decision to free Holloway came after the prosecutors in the Milwaukee County District Attorney’s Office agreed that the DNA results indicated that his 1992 conviction for the assault should be reversed, which was communicated in a news release from the Wisconsin Innocence Project.

Keith Findley, co-director of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, spoke about the outcome, noting the flaws that are present in the justice system.

“It’s another example of the way in which the criminal justice system, as a human system, can produce errors.”

The organization gave credit to the district attorney’s office of the county for reviewing and reviving the case. The now-retired Assistant District Attorney, Norm Gahn, had reviewed the case file back in April of 2015 and found that the DNA reports in the case were conflicting from separate labs, which meant that there was an error in one lab analysis. The new report showed conclusively that Holloway was not the perpetrator of the crime as it identified that the male DNA present at the scene was from an unknown.

Findley, also a University of Wisconsin-Madison law professor, shares about the pattern often seen in these types of convictions.

“It fits a typical pattern in which eyewitness evidence was used to obtain the conviction and as it turns out the eye witness evidence was pretty unreliable.”

The professor spoke about the respect he had for prosecutors who took on the case to serve as “ministers of justice, not just advocate for convictions. ” He also met Holloway upon his release Wednesday morning, who shared his view about being released after so many years.

“Make better choices before convicting people, make sure you’ve got the right evidence, because when you do this, people lose. Everybody loses — victims, me — I’ve been victimized. I’m trying to rebuild my life now.”

The words from Holloway were streamed live over social media and it was clear that the wrongly convicted man noticed the improvement in technology since he was put in prison in 1993, as he was interviewed at the self-checkout lane at a Walmart where Findley brought Holloway to buy clothes.

“It’s a whole new world for him, but he is marveling at what it feels like to be free again,” Findley said.

As USA Today shares, Wisconsin law now provides those who are exonerated from a crime yet were sentenced for a time no more than $5,000 for each year spent behind bars, with a maximum pay out of $25,000. Although there are states that do not provide payment at all for the wrongfully convicted, Wisconsin has the lowest amount per year, and bipartisan efforts to raise the compensation to those wrongfully convicted for the years spent behind bars have stalled in the past couple of years. Findley, however, indicates that he expects the issue to come up again during the legislature’s next session, during which a conclusion that the amount paid should be increased may be reached.

Such cases are not few and far between in the justice system of the United States. The wrongfully accused, especially in cases such as Holloway’s, upon release are then faced with a whole new world to adapt to, and are expected to carry on with life, despite having endured a grave injustice for decades.

[Featured Image by Ian Waldie/Getty Images]