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Wrongful Convictions for Sex Offenses are More Common Than We’d Like to Think

Despite the defendant’s tearful pleas and adamant claims that he didn’t commit the crime, an Oklahoma jury found OK State University basketball star, Darrell Williams, guilty on two counts of rape by instrumentation late last month. Williams had attended an off-campus party in December 2010 along with several other members of his basketball team, many …

Despite the defendant’s tearful pleas and adamant claims that he didn’t commit the crime, an Oklahoma jury found OK State University basketball star, Darrell Williams, guilty on two counts of rape by instrumentation late last month. Williams had attended an off-campus party in December 2010 along with several other members of his basketball team, many of whom were wearing their OSU Cowboys warm-up suit. It was at that party that the two complaining witnesses claim Williams reached inside their pants without their consent. Williams’ reaction after hearing the verdicts was one of disbelief and pure horror: “Oh my Jesus God,” he said turning to the jury, “I didn’t do it!” If the judge follows the jury’s recommendations, Williams – a 22-year-old honors student with a 4.0 GPA and no criminal record – will be sentenced to two years in prison, after which he will be required to register as a sex offender. If you have been charged with a crime in Oklahoma, consult our criminal defense attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center to discuss your legal options.

False Witness Identifications Common in Sexual Assault Cases

It’s nice to think that the justice system in the United States is sophisticated enough to discount false witness identifications and avoid devastating wrongful convictions. Unfortunately, instances of mistaken identity occur more often than we would like to believe, especially in cases involving sexual assaults. According to a landmark study of wrongful convictions in which convicted offenders were officially exonerated, 80% of the errors in sexual assault cases were due to false witness identifications. In other words, eight out of 10 complaining witnesses were mistaken, a percentage that represents the highest error rate of any type of wrongful conviction. Furthermore, black defendants accounted for more than two-thirds of all sexual assault exonerees, and white victims offered inaccurate testimony in 72% of these cases. To clarify, a majority of officially-recognized wrongful convictions in sexual assault cases in the U.S. involved white victims who misidentified black defendants.

Despite Lack of Tangible Evidence, Williams Found Guilty

Williams was pegged as a suspect in the rape case when the two victims picked out his photo for police. However, since Williams has no criminal record, the police were unable to show the women a mug shot, settling instead for a photo of the OSU basketball team, forcing the women to compare one black player to another. There are several black players on the Cowboys team, many of whom attended the same party in 2010, and at least two of which closely resemble Williams in build, height and skin tone. When Williams was brought in for questioning, he professed his innocence, saying “I don’t know what happened [to the women]. I was probably misidentified.” Williams agreed to take a lie detector test to prove his innocence, and passed – twice. The jury however, which consisted of 11 white individuals and one Asian individual, sided with the two women and convicted Williams after eight hours of deliberation.

Contact Our Criminal Defense Attorneys for Legal Help

In light of mounting research on false witness identifications, many states in the U.S. have taken steps to reduce the error rate and to educate jurors about the fallibility of witnesses. In Oklahoma however, the jury that decided Williams’ fate received no special instructions or cautionary words from the judge, basing their life-changing decision on a notoriously flawed method for identifying suspects. Unfortunately, as research shows, wrongful convictions are not uncommon in the United States, especially in sexual assault cases where the defendant can face devastating penalties like time in prison and lifetime sex offender registration. If you are facing criminal charges in Oklahoma for a sexual offense or another type of crime, contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Oklahoma Legal Center today. Our team of skilled criminal defense lawyers are committed to protecting the rights of their clients, and rely on their familiarity with Oklahoma laws and extensive experience in the courtroom to offer qualified legal defense.

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