3 black men released after 18 years in prison on wrongful murder convictions
Michael Cosme, Devon Ayers, and Carlos Perez lost 18 years of their lives in prison for murders they did not commit. The three men were convicted of the 1995 killings of a livery cap driver and FedEx executive. Eric Glisson and Cathy Watkins, who were also wrongfully convicted in the livery cap driver killing, were released last month.
Emotions were high when they were finally released Wednesday night. Video footage from NBC New York captures last night’s heartwarming scenes of the newly freed men as they embraced their loved ones with tears in their eyes. Cosme shouts gleefully, “I’m free, I’m free. Finally, after 18 years, I’m free.”
The convictions were based on the testimony of a single questionable eyewitness who has since died. Upon Glisson and Watkin’s release in December, their defense attorney told ABC News, “As long as you’re relying on a crackhead who gets paid, these wrongful convictions are never going to stop.”
The National Registry of Exonerations, which has recorded over 2,000 exonerations in the United States since 1989, estimates that eyewitness misidentification plays a role in 43 percent of wrongful convictions. Other significant factors include perjury or false accusation (51 percent), official misconduct (42 percent), false or misleading forensic evidence (24 percent) and false confession (16 percent). Keep in mine that these numbers only reflect wrongfully convicted inmates who have been exonerated, meaning there are many more innocents wasting away behind bars for crimes they didn’t commit, we just don’t know how many.
One significant conclusion reached by the Registry’s exoneration record is that a significant portion of the wrongfully convicted look a lot like Michael Cosme, Devon Ayers, and Carlos Perez. Though African Americans make up just 13 of the population, half of exonerees are black. This reflects the disproportionate representation of black Americans in the prison population, a result of the structural racism that plagues each and every level of the American criminal justice system.
It’s always a victory when the wrongfully convicted are freed, but there doesn’t seem to be much work being done to reform the system responsible for these injustices. Michael Cosme, Devon Ayers, and Carlos Perez will never get back the nearly two decades they spent in cages, away from loved ones. There’s no way to quantify the destructive mental and physical impacts prison likely had on a their families. Their kids were deprived of a father and grew up thinking that their dad was a murderer. Their partners were left on their own to support the family.
I can’t even count the number of letter’s I’ve received from prisoners around the country desperately seeking help in proving their innocence. Some are even on death row and have crappy attorneys who are overworked, underpaid or just straight up jerks who don’t care. Others are in prison for life without parole because they refused a plea deal since they’re innocent.
At this point, the criminal justice system is fucked beyond repair and black America is paying the heaviest price, which is an understatement. As long as we continue to rely solely on civil rights attorneys to push the courts the right these wrongs, we’re doomed to fail. Nothing short of a massive grassroots nationwide movement for equality can fix this nightmare.