Thursday, June 26, 2008

Man's life destroyed by wrongful rape conviction -- in prison, he was victim of the same crime he was wrongly accused of

Dwayne Dail is back in the news. His case is being cited in the North Carolina legislature, which is considering raising the current $20,000 per year paid to wrongly convicted men. "The proposal offers $50,000 per year served in prison but no more than $750,000 total."

No matter the amount, it cannot make Mr. Dail whole for his wrongful conviction. He's still alive but he's been destroyed. The next time a legal legal scholar who writes on gender issues suggests switching the burden of proving consent to make it easier to convict a rape suspect, remember Dwayne Dail. Try to imagine spending even one day of the torture he experienced. He endured it for 18 years.

In March of 1989, a twelve-year-old girl wrongfully accused then-19-year-old Dwayne Dail of raping her. To the astonishment of Mr. Dail and his family, he was convicted and sentenced to two life terms plus 18 years.

"Dail screamed as deputies led him away." His young accuser "watched him fall apart as the judge read the jury's verdict. She remembers him screaming his innocence; she saw his mother sob and deputies carry him off. She told herself that's how all men act when they've been accused of such an awful crime. It didn't occur to her Dail might be telling the truth."

For Mr. Dail's alleged crime "the judge handed down the stiffest punishment the charges allowed: back-to-back life sentences. Plus another 18 years. Dail clutched benches and tables as deputies dragged him from the courtroom. He screamed at his sister, his mother, his father, his brothers, begging them, 'Don't let them take me.'"

In prison, Mr. Dail was subjected to the same crime he was wrongly accused of committing, and other atrocities. "His mind wanders to dark corners of tough prisons. To the man he watched being stabbed to death in the yard of one prison camp. To months he spent in the 'hole' -- punishment for cursing at a senior guard. At 20, Dail knew what became of men like him in prison. At a slight 115 pounds, Dail had bright eyes and full lips that drew droves of ladies on the dance floors of Goldsboro clubs. In prison, his looks promised both doom and salvation. His conviction guaranteed trouble. 'I was little, white, pretty, and I stuck out like a sore thumb,' Dail said. 'I was prey.' Months later, two men cornered him in an isolated cell block and raped him. He swallowed a cry for help, knowing it would bring more problems than safety. Dail quickly learned how sex is swapped in prison. Beatings were negotiated and rendered based on connections. Dail formed some liaisons to keep him safe. Others he sought to keep himself sane. Dail found intimacy with men for so long, he is certain he will pursue men now that he is free. Dail didn't prefer men before he went to prison, but like so many of the identities he claimed there, he is not sure which are real and which are pretend."

Finally, DNA evidence freed Mr. Dail in 2007, but not before the damage had been done. Dail's life has been on a downward spiral "He's terrified to sleep at night, fearing he'll wake in prison. He cries when he spills a soda. Dail took a job briefly with Starbucks, but suffered anxiety attacks when he couldn't keep pace during training. 'The honeymoon's over and the reality of all I've been through has finally set in,' Dail said . . . . 'I thought as time went on I'd be able to adjust and move on. It gets harder every day.'"