After 26 years of being locked up, Anthony Caravella was released this past week. Although his release is currently conditional, he marks a trend that is promising to innocent people behind bars but frightening for the criminal justice system as a whole.
When he was 15, Caravella was arrested, tried, and convicted of raping and murdering Ada Jankowski. That was in 1983. Caravella’s attorney argued his client was and is innocent and was simply a victim of bad police practices and, perhaps, prosecution error.
Caravella, according to the Christian Science Monitor, is considered mentally retarded, with an I.Q. of 67. He was a mentally retarded juvenile who was threatened, pushed, beaten, and slapped by investigating police over the course of interrogation.
As a juvenile, Caravella confessed. Admissions his attorney insists were coerced and simply not true. What eventually got Caravella released this week was the fact that another man’s DNA was found at the crime scene and it was established that Caravella could not have raped the victim.
The case is still under investigation and Caravella’s release is considered conditional. There is a good chance it will become permanent, making him the 11th person in our state to be exonerated by DNA evidence, the fourth in Broward County.
DNA evidence and organizations like the Innocence Project have freed many people falsely convicted of horrendous crimes. Cases like these serve as a reminder that not everyone accused of a crime is guilty and there are cases where police and prosecutors don’t work in the best interest of the system, but rather in the interest of putting someone away.
Of course, DNA evidence is only used in extreme cases. However, the system works on a series of procedural laws, laws that are set up to protect your rights. When the police fail to follow the policies as set out by the law, they run the risk of losing an accused suspect.
If you have been accused of a crime you didn’t commit, I can help. Likewise, if you feel that your case was mishandled by the police, we may be able to work together.