Incontrovertible fact: People lie.
They fudge little things, like their height or weight. They exaggerate their athletic prowess or professional accomplishments. They deceive family, friends, lovers, voters, government officials, business partners and themselves. They lie about murder, theft, kidnapping, rape and discrimination. They lie for attention, deflection, power and profit.
Often, the reasons for manufacturing devastating fables are indiscernible or unfathomable. But this much is clear: If there are no consequences for lying about crime, false accusations will continue to ruin the lives of innocents -- poor and rich, black and white, liberal and conservative, civilian and cop.
According to the University of Michigan Law School's National Registry of Exonerations, 2,224 innocent criminal defendants since 1989 have been cleared of all charges in their cases. The average prison term served by exonerees is 14 years. In total, wrongful convictions have cost exonerees 19,610 years of freedom since 1982.
Wrongful convictions are based on a rotten foundation of lies and untruths constructed by a village of false accusers, including jailhouse snitches, biased investigators, corrupt crime lab analysts, faulty eyewitnesses, and ruthless prosecutors acting in bad faith.
John Bunn, wrongfully convicted of assault and murder when he was just 14 years old, is just one of more than a dozen innocent citizens who became entangled in New York Police Department Det. Louis Scarcella's nefarious web of deception. The infamous cop falsified evidence, suppressed evidence and coerced false confessions to ensure convictions and bolster his career as part of what one judge called a "pattern and practice" of misconduct demonstrating "disregard for rules, law, and the truth." Bunn and co-defendant Rosean Hargrave became the 12th and 13th exonerees who had been targeted by Scarcella, just this month.
Daryl Fulton and Nevest Coleman each served nearly a quarter-century behind bars for a 1997 rape and murder of a woman in Chicago they did not commit. They endured physical abuse by detectives with a long history of coercing false confessions. Fulton and Coleman were released last November and granted certificates of actual innocence two months ago after post-conviction DNA testing and reinvestigation by the Cook County Conviction Integrity Unit cleared them -- and instead implicated a repeat sexual offender who lived near the victim.
Famed private attorney Kathleen Zellner, the most successful exoneration specialist in the nation, recently filed a civil rights lawsuit on Fulton's behalf. She has won landmark settlements on behalf of exonerees Ryan Ferguson, wrongfully convicted of murder in Missouri, and former Washington state police officer Ray Spencer, wrongfully convicted of sexually molesting his own children -- the result of lies told by a vengeful ex-wife who was having an affair with a conniving police detective overseeing the investigation.