Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Injustice: The Case of Darryl Burton

    In 1984 a man named Donald "Moe" Ball was gunned down as he gassed up his car at a gas station in St. Louis.  The late 1970's and early 1980's was a time were crime was rampant within the city of St. Louis because of an ongoing economic depression.  Drug use and sales within the city rose and lead to a high murder rate within the city.  The financial strife as well as the high crime rate forced many people to leave the city and lowered the population by 30%.  A month after Ball was killed at the gas station a 22 year old whom was on probation at the time named Darryl Burton was taken into custody and charged with the Murder based on two eye witnesses whom identified him as the shooter even though all of the other witnesses described the man who shot Ball as a five foot five inch tall light skinned African American male.  Burton was actually five feet ten inches tall and had a rather dark skin complexion.
    Burton pleaded not guilty and took his case to trial where it took the jury less than an hour to deliberate and find Burton guilty of capital murder.  The judge then sentenced him to a life sentence for the murder of Donald Ball.  Butler experienced many injustices throughout the investigation and trial, because he had ineffective counsel and was identified untruthfully as the shooter by the two primary witnesses of the prosecution.  The key witness Claudex Simmons was a career criminal whom often gave up key information in other cases for guarantees of lenient sentences by the prosecution.  He had been interviewed by police at the beginning of the investigation and said he did not know anything, but his memory of the incident suddenly improved when he was arrested and faced a 15 year sentence for robbery.  Burton's attorney also did not mention the man who had shot Donald Ball in the same neighborhood a year earlier as part of an ongoing feud for drug territory.
    After his first few years in Prison Burton received a signed affidavit by Simmons stating that he had lied in order to convict Burton of murder in exchange for a lighter sentence in his unrelated case.  Burton began writing to lawmakers and organizations that help inmates who have been falsely incarcerated   and finally an agency called centurion industries agreed to take his case and fight for his innocence.  Investigators later found out that Eddie Walker, the other witness had not actually seen the shooting but only heard the gunshots.  They also found out from a cellmate of Jesse Watson, who shot Ball in the same area a year earlier that Watson had in fact killed Ball over their ongoing territory dispute.  Even though they knew this it was still tough to prove because Watson was killed in 1986.  Even with this new evidence the Supreme court refused to review his case in 2003.
     That same year the Supreme Court of Missouri said that they would reopen cases in which there was new evidence to rove innocence.  After his case was reviewed Burton was released after serving 24 years in prison for a crime he do not commit.  although he is free Burton still faces injustice in the fact that the state of Missouri refuses to compensate him for his time spent in prison, because he was not exonerated by DNA evidence.  This is an injustice, because he deserves to be compensated for having to spend the majority of his life in prison for a crime he did not commit and the fact that he is having trouble adjusting to life outside of prison.  He also deserves compensation because his daughter grew up without a father and there is no way to make up for missing the childhood of any of ones children, especially when serving time while innocent.  In order to prevent cases like these from happening in the future we should require more of defense attorneys and demand more in terms of evidence to make arrests in the first place and to find a person guilty of a crime.  We should also compensate all people whom are arrested wrongfully and have those involved in the arrest and trial process to admit that they were wrong and offer up at least an apology.  We should also have very harsh penalties against perjury and we should also look into the background of witnesses to make sure they do not possess ulterior motives for their testimony.

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