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Michigan Innocence Clinic claims to have found a new innocent prisoner

The University of Michigan Innocence Clinic, which has a strong track record of finding evidence that exonerates people who were convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, says they have found another innocent man in a state prison for the past 25 years.

That man is Karl Vinson, convicted of raping a 9-year old girl in 1986. The Detroit Free Press reports:

“The scientific evidence conclusively proves that this man is innocent,” clinic codirector David Moran said of Vinson, a former Detroiter who has spent 25 years in prison.

Moran said Vinson, 56, is the victim of a flawed forensic test and that more recent tests rule him out as a suspect.

The response from the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office is disappointing:

But the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office opposes the request because the girl identified Vinson as her attacker.

“Science does not trump the testimony of individuals,” Assistant Wayne County Prosecutor Marilyn Eisenbraun said in court documents. She wouldn’t discuss the case.

But study after study has found that eyewitness testimony is actually the least reliable in a criminal case, especially testimony from a young child. And in this case, there is even more reason to doubt that testimony:

The girl, who required surgery, initially was unable to tell her mother who raped her, records show. But when her mother suggested Vinson, the girl said he did it.

That is exactly the kind of situation that makes eyewitness testimony unreliable, especially with a child hearing suggestions from their mother.

An appeal has been filed on behalf of Vinson, asking for a new trial with the new DNA evidence that was not available at the time.

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