Today, in Boston, Jerry Dixon was to plead guilty to a 1991 rape. But another man, Anthony Powell, already served 22 years for the crime. Mr. Powell was convicted of the crime in 1992, all the while proclaiming his innocence. DNA evidence proved him right in 2004. The very evidence that proved Mr. Powell’s innocence, however, confirmed Dixon’s guilt.
In what is a horrifyingly common scenario, Dixon went on to commit at least 2 other rapes, victimizing even more women. Gretchen Bennett, the Executive Director of the New England Innocence Project, hopes that Mr. Powell’s case will encourage Massachusetts lawmakers to finally pass legislation allowing inmates access to postconviction DNA testing. Currently, Massachusetts is the only state in the nation without such a law.
Clearly, without access to DNA evidence, a rapist would still be walking free. And yet another man, innocent of having committed any crime, would still be locked in a jail cell watching his life pass him by. DNA testing should be available in postconviction not only to exonerate the innocent, but to prove the guilt of the true perpetrators and bring needed closure to victims of crime.