Maury Compson posted this to Twitter earlier—yet another story about a man, Kwame Ajamu (actually, in this case, three men) being exonerated after decades in prison for a crime the state no longer believes they committed. They "no longer believe" because the entire case rested on a single eyewitness—a 12 year-old boy who, years later, now says that he didn't witness the crime, but was pressured by the police into making a statement that condemned the three. "Condemned" is the right word here, as at least one of them was originally sent to Death Row; his sentence was later switched to life because of some kind of technicality.

(Okay, allow me one second of venting, as this is yet another case that shows that there is no ethically serious defense of the death penalty in America—a single "eyewitness" was enough to convict and condemn him, a paperwork glitch was enough to save him ((albeit to a lifetime in prison)), and thirty years later, "Whoops! We were wrong—that's why pencils have erasers!" Death penalty apologists will point to a case like this and say, "See? The system works—an innocent man was able to go free!" when they know damn well that, one day before the "witness" admitted what had happened, they'd have been pointing to this as yet a case of bedwetting liberal lawyers and judges letting years and years go by without carrying out the sentence imposed by a jury, and oh, look, another murderer escapes justice via a technicality.)


On the one hand, this is great for the three men, all of whom are (obviously and understandably) excited to be exonerated, and who have a surprising (to me, anyway) lack of bitterness about the whole thing—in the video on the linked-to site, one of the men says that the biggest thing he missed was just the time he could have been out (they were sent to prison in 1975), but that time wasn't coming back, so just move on.

On the other hand, nearly forty years in prison, on the testimony of one person.

The folks covering the story tweeted a couple of pictures from the proceeding in which Ajamu was officially exonerated, and they both just rip my guts out, for different reasons:

(The second one especially got to me—it's the first one I saw, and I about started crying in my office)

ETA: A clarification, from the story: "Ajamu was originally sentenced to death, but it was vacated because of a paperwork error. He later earned parole in 2003." The other two guys had to remain in prison for another last ten years.