Royal Clark Jr., who was convicted in a 2003 Jefferson Parish armed robbery that he did not commit (and who was subsequently sentenced to 49 1/2 years in prison), was released from custody yesterday. Newly examined fingerprint evidence was the key to his charges being dismissed; according to authorities, advances in fingerprint technology not available at the time of the crime allowed for more accurate testing than was available in 2003. The new tests pointed to another man as the perpetrator.
A couple of thoughts here. First, this case appears to be a testament to the power of new technology. For many people that are currently incarcerated for crimes that they did not commit in Louisiana (and there are PLENTY of them), State of Louisiana v. Royal Clark, Jr. provides at least some hope that they will one day be exonerated themselves. Second, the case also speaks to the unreliability of witness testimony. Mr. Clark's conviction was apparently based on a single eyewitness who misidentified him as the robber at trial. That is why the Louisiana Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers pushed for a law earlier this year which would allow experts to testify in criminal trials about the scientific research regarding problems with eyewitness identifications. It's a welcome change and one that LACDL had pushed for many years. Finally, I wanted to note the outstanding work of Innocence Project New Orleans, which works to free Louisiana prisoners that have been wrongly convicted.
If you or a family member has been wrongly convicted, or if you need to discuss any another matter related to criminal law, call the Law Office of Alex Kriksciun today!