Tuesday, September 1, 2009

DNA Frees Accused Killer, Rapist After 21 Years

We see the results of another wrongfully convicted man free due to DNA testing. The only problem is, how do you give back 20 years of someone's life? Literally, Kenneth Ireland has spent half his life locked up for something he didn't do.

Once again, I wish someone could explain exactly how, when something like this is exposed, it is claimed that law enforcement does not take rape seriously?

Man freed after 20 years in jail for something he didn't do.

“You can take the handcuffs off,” Judge Richard Damiani said. And with that, a man who has been in jail for 21 years — and was supposed to spend decades more behind bars — walked away a free man.

DNA set him free.

The dramatic release took place Wednesday morning in Connecticut Superior Court on Church Street.

Kenneth Ireland went to jail in 1988, at the age of 20, convicted of raping and killing a woman named Barbara Pelkey of Wallingford. The sentence: 50 years.

His case was taken up by the Connecticut Innocence Project, which uses DNA evidence from crimes to prove that people have been wrongfully accused. They did that in this case to buttress Ireland’s longstanding claim that someone else, not he, committed Pelkey’s rape and murder.

The Project petitioned for a new trial, and the petition was granted.

Damiani ordered Ireland released Wednesday on a promise to appear. He technically faces a new trial, though it’s unclear whether one will take place. His next court appearance is Aug. 19.

The newly freed Ireland walked out of the courthouse (pictured in blue shirt with his back to the camera) with his Innocence Project lawyers and his family. He thanked the lawyers, and kept hugging his family.

East Haven State Rep. Mike Lawlor, co-chair of the legislature’s Judiciary Committee, immediately issued the following statement:

“This is yet another Connecticut example of an innocent person having spent two decades in prison for a very serious crime while an actual rapist and murderer has been roaming free since 1986. This is not acceptable.

“The legislature, working with the Advisory Commission on Wrongful Convictions, must determine whether any state laws need to change and whether the law enforcement community is using best practices in the investigation of cases in order to avoid wrongful arrests and convictions.

“Under a 2008 law, Mr. Ireland is eligible to apply for compensation for his wrongful conviction with the state claims commissioner, who will make recommendations for compensation to the legislature. I hope this can be done in time for the 2010 legislative session, which convenes in February.”