After serving more than 18 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, DC native Edward Bell was released on February 2, 2010.
In 1991, the Metropolitan Police Department arrested three men immediately after a murder and robbery since multiple eyewitnesses at the scene had immediately identified them. However, they could not identify the fourth man.
Four months after the murder, one of the eyewitnesses changed his initial version of the story and named Bell as the fourth assailant. At the time, the eyewitness was facing 30 years behind bars for a pair of drug distribution charges. In exchange for his testimony against Bell, one of those charges was dropped, and he was sentenced to seven months on the remaining charge. The witness’ testimony was the only evidence against Mr. Bell, and it contradicted the testimony of other witnesses who were at the scene. Nevertheless, Mr. Bell was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Bell maintained his innocence. After filing his own petition under the Innocence Protection Act, MAIP got involved in the case. MAIP and co-counsel at Venable LLP uncovered new evidence of his innocence and negotiated a deal with prosecutors to set him free.
Incentivized testimony is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions. MAIP supports new rules that require credibility hearings when an informant is testifying and special jury instructions in cases that rely on testimony that has been prompted by incentives or benefits . If the motivations of each witness and the inherent problems in such testimony are out in the open, jurors can make more accurate and fair decisions about each witness.