Patrick Prince might be $9 million richer, but the money he’s received can never make up for the 26 years he lost serving a prison sentence for a murder he didn’t commit. And he’s just one of a slew of innocent Black men that have been wrongfully imprisoned.
Chicago’s City Council settled with Prince in September 2022 after four witnesses said Prince was not the man who shot and killed 37-year-old Edward Porter during a robbery attempt in 1991.
Prince, 19 at the time, said he only confessed to the crime after being beaten and abused by retired police detective Kriston Kato. He’s one of many defendants that accused Kato of strongarming and framing them for crimes.
Prince is not an anomaly.
It is no secret that Black people, particularly Black men, make up the majority of wrongful conviction cases. Since slavery, Black men have been depicted as savage brutes with a lust for criminal behavior. However, studies show in many instances arresting officers are the ones who commit immoral and illegal acts.
According to a 2022 report titled “Race and Wrongful Convictions in the United States,” Black people account for 53 percent of exonerations in the National Registry of Exonerations.
“Innocent Black people are about seven-and-a-half times more likely to be convicted of murder than innocent white people,” the report’s executive summary states. “In addition, Black people who are convicted of murder are about 80% more likely to be innocent than other convicted murderers.”
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Incorrect cross-racial eyewitness identifications also lead to many Black defendants’ wrongful convictions. The report doesn’t shy away from noting that racism, discrimination and police misconduct help amplify these numbers.
According to a fact sheet from the Innocence Project, DNA evidence has exonerated 275 people to date. Of that number, 60 percent were Black people. While 375 is not a large number, just one innocent person serving time for a crime they didn’t commit is too many.
In recent years, exonerations of and settlements for Black men have increased. In July 2022, Detroit paid $7.5 million to Desmond Ricks, who also spent 25 years behind bars for a murder he didn’t commit after police planted fake bullets to set him up.
In October 2022, Maurice Hastings, 69, was freed from prison after DNA evidence exonerated him. He’d served 38 years of a life without parole sentence for a murder he didn’t commit.
While there is still much work to be done, criminal justice experts and reform activists have noted there has been slow progress.
“This is a case that arose during the times, thinking, sentiments, customs and practices of the 1990s,” Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thaddeus Wilson said in 2017 when granting Prince a new trial. It was the latest of several attempts by Prince over the years and the only one to be successful.
“Petitioner was just 19 years old. There were no eyewitnesses to the actual shooting that testified at trial. No physical evidence connected (Prince) to the crime. No forensic evidence connects (Prince) to the crime. The only evidence against (Prince) was his confession,” Wilson continued.