Not So Swift Justice

Walter Swift is a free man – after 26 years. Back in 1982 in Detroit, Swift was found guilty and sentenced to 55 years for the rape of a pregnant white woman that he did not commit. His case was fraught with common mistakes when it comes to wrongful convictions, notable misidentification by an eyewitness in an unorthodox and unreliable identification procedure, forensic evidence that could have cleared him at trial that was never shared with the jury, and a court appointed lawyer that was inadequate.

It took ten years of hard work which began in 1998 by The Innocence Project, to prove Swift’s innocence but he was finally exonerated this past May. More than anything, Swift’s case has highlighted discrepancies in the identification procedures used in Michigan. To make sure this doesn't happen to other people, a bill has been introduced into the Michigan's Legislature that would improve eyewitness identification practices statewide. The bill is currently pending.

Swift is in Ireland this week, where he will be honored at a special fundraiser, which will help him build a new life in Detroit. He will be joined on July 16th, by Barry Scheck (one of the Innocence Project’s co-founders) at the Law Society of Ireland. They will also be interviewed on Irish national television.

Sadly, Swift is just one of the 218 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States; nearly 60% of them are African American. The average length of time served by exonerees is 12 years. That is not so swift justice.