When Guilt or Innocence is Irrelevant, What is Justice?
If you think the mission of our justice system is to seek out the truth, try telling that to Wilton Dedge. He has spent the last 22 years, more than half his life, locked in prison. The great state of Florida wants to keep him there, despite the strongest scientific evidence that Dedge didn't commit the rape for which he was convicted.I got nothin'
For three years, prosecutors have known about a DNA test that pointed toward a different assailant, yet they have vigorously opposed any efforts to free Dedge or get him a new trial.
Just last month, an assistant attorney general told incredulous appellate judges that Dedge's guilt or innocence was irrelevant. The issue, she said, was the timing -- not the outcome -- of the DNA test.
Finally, in June 2003, Brevard Circuit Judge J. Preston Silvernail ruled that Dedge's DNA results were admissible, and that he was entitled to seek a new trial.
Silvernail concluded ''there is a reasonable probability that the Defendant would have been acquitted'' if the DNA report had been available when he was first prosecuted.
Holmes has still refused to back off. He seems unbothered by the likelihood that he's keeping an innocent man in prison, or that the real rapist is still on the loose.
When prosecutors appealed Judge Silvernail's ruling, they got slapped in the chops.
''Why hasn't this guy been given a new trial? Why is the state standing in the way?'' demanded Judge David Monaco of the 5th District Court of Appeal.
Assistant attorney general Bonnie Jean Parrish was there to argue that Dedge should remain in prison.
He failed to follow the rules in filing for his DNA test, she explained with a straight face, because the rules had not yet been adopted by the Legislature.
''Let me ask you a hypothetical question,'' said Judge Emerson Thompson. ``If you knew with 100 percent certainty that this man was absolutely innocent, would that change your position in this case?''
''No,'' Parrish said. ``That is not the issue.''[Nitpicker emphasis]