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Louis Wright Exonerated after 35 years

On November 9th, 2023, Louis Wright was exonerated through DNA evidence after spending 36 years in prison for something he did not do. Proving Innocence (PI) met with Louis and his sister, Darlene, a few days later and presented Louis with a check for $750. Other resources were shared with the family as they start to put Louis's life back together. Darrell Siggers, also wrongfully convicted and incarcerated for about the same amount of time, was able to visit with PI and share his own experiences with Louis.

Darrell Siggers, Louis Wright, Darlene Hall and Bill Branham
Darrell Siggers, Louis Wright, Darlene Hall and Bill Branham

When asked what his plans are, Louis mentioned getting reacquainted with his immediate and extended family and then taking it from there.

This is a painful example of how easily a person can be convicted and sentenced to decades or life in prison with virtually nothing pointing to his guilt.

As stated on the Cooley Innocence Project website, "Mr. Wright quickly became a suspect when an off-duty Albion police officer reported seeing Mr. Wright in the neighborhood five hours before the offense. Within 24 hours Mr. Wright was taken into custody and the police reported that Mr. Wright confessed to the crime. Mr. Wright’s interview was not recorded, nor did he write or sign a confession.

The Albion Department of Public Safety found boot prints outside the victim’s home following the assault. Plaster castings were created of those prints. According to police, the boots Mr. Wright was wearing, at the time of his arrest, were “identical” to the boot prints found at the crime scene. However, the MSP determined that the “casts could not have been made by the suspect’s boots.”

The original detective’s report noted that he attempted to collect fingerprints from the victim’s home: “Latent Fingerprint Examination of the exterior and interior of the residence was made with negative results.” However, the MSP was given a fingerprint for analysis and concluded that the print did not match Louis Wright.

Both MSP reports were generated before Mr. Wright’s no-contest plea on September 30, 1988.

The police did not conduct any identification procedures in the case. There was no photo array or live line-up; the victim was never asked to identify anyone in or outside of court."

In the recent work done by the Michigan Task Force of Forensic Science, it was pointed out that there are many examples where a police "expert" may say that the fingerprint analysis resulted in "negative results", leading a jury to believe that the fingerprints were inconclusive when in reality what the actual results said is that they do not match the suspect. That means that evidence that does not prove the prosecution's case is not "inconclusive" but is actually exculpatory evidence pointing to the suspect's innocence. As Cooley's website reports that the Albion police said the fingerprint analysis ended with "negative results". The MSP concluded that the print did not match Louis Wright. A difference of interpretation with life-altering effects!

This case also underscores the importance of understanding how a person can be wrongfully convicted so that the Michigan laws reflect this understanding. Currently, a person who has "confessed" to his/her crime is not permitted to request post-conviction DNA analysis of the evidence. Such a disqualifier reflects the naive' belief that no person would ever confess to something he or she did not do. In an upcoming blog, we will look at Michigan House Bill 5271 which seeks to address this reality.

There is no denying that much of the time, the criminal justice system works as it should. But when people's lives are at stake, we cannot settle for just having a "fairly good system". The consequences are too great. We have a lot of work to do.

1 Comment

Unknown member
Nov 27, 2023

Good discussion of "negative results ".

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