Few things can be as devastating to North Dakota residents, and their families, as being convicted of a crime they did not commit. Unfortunately, there are many people across the country who are wrongfully spending time in prison for offenses ranging from battery and theft to sexual assault. Some states have wrongful conviction statutes that compensate those who were falsely convicted. North Dakota, according to the Innocence Project, does not have any laws regarding compensation for the wrongfully convicted.

A recent example shows how an innocent person can be convicted of a crime, as well as the resulting consequences. In this case, the man was from California and had been convicted of rape. He lived near a spot where there had been numerous sexual assaults and was falsely identified as the rapist because of a teardrop tattoo under his eye. He was sentenced to 55 years’ imprisonment for three sexual assaults. After his imprisonment, the rapes in the area continued.

The man appealed to the California Innocence Project for help. He was eventually cleared of the crime by DNA evidence, which linked the rape to the “teardrop rapist,” a person with a similar tattoo who was suspected of committing over 30 rapes in the area since 1996 but had never been found. By the time he was freed, the man had spent 16 years in prison for crimes he did not commit.

Wrongful convictions victimize both the accused and the victims of the crimes, who do not receive justice. DNA evidence has led to exonerations for many of those falsely imprisoned, but is not possible in every case. A strong legal defense is necessary for those accused of crimes.

Source: USA Today, “Man in prison for rape convictions cleared by DNA testing after 16 years,” Mary Bowerman, Nov. 24, 2015