Crime

The State Of Wrongful Convictions In The U.S.

A flawed case landed Shamel Capers in prison for a murder he did not commit.

The State Of Wrongful Convictions In The U.S.
Seth Perlman / AP
SMS

Shamel Capers was convicted at the age of 16 for the killing of 14-year-old honors student D’aja Robinson, a murder that took place when he was 15.

It was May 2013. Robinson was on a New York City bus after leaving a party in Jamaica, Queens, when she was hit by crossfire in a gang dispute and died from gunshot wounds.

Capers was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. His conviction was based solely on a gang member’s testimony who said he saw Capers firing bullets at the bus.

Nearly four years later, Manhattan law firm Debevoise & Plimpton LLP took Capers' appeal pro bono and found a series of issues in the way the investigation was handled, including false testimony from a key witness.

Tricia Rojo Bushnell, executive director at the Midwest Innocence Project, says that in the United States tens of millions of incarcerated people are wrongfully convicted.

She points to a study by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that finds more than 4% of people on death row are wrongfully convicted.

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Capers says prison was a traumatic experience. He recalls mistreatment and abuse, even up until his final week of incarceration.