When they read in the newspaper or see a TV report of an arrest, many people assume that the person arrested is guilty as charged. Reality can be quite different, however, as a case not far from Fort Myers demonstrates.
A 26-year-old man was accused of armed burglary and spent more than 8 months behind bars in Fort Lauderdale, though police had no physical evidence against him. City commissioners recently approved a $150,000 payment to the man in order to settle his wrongful arrest claim.
The Russian immigrant was held because he was unable to make bail and unable to convince police and prosecutors that they were holding the wrong person.
Police had fingerprints from the burglar's scooter, a news report indicates, and yet held the innocent man even though his prints did not match those from the vehicle.
Law enforcement officials did not get a DNA analysis of a cap dropped by the burglar for 7 months. When the analysis was finally ordered, it matched the cap -- and the fingerprints -- to another man.
The case against the Russian consisted mainly of identification by two police officers who had glimpsed the alleged burglar as he made his getaway on the scooter.
Today, the city's vice mayor wonders if those two officers -- both of whom insist they made no mistake -- should remain on the city's police force, questioning "their incomplete investigation and their refusal to recognize basic facts."
A newspaper report notes that the vice mayor also points a finger at prosecutors who let the man sit in jail for months despite the lack of evidence against him.
Let's hope the man wrongfully accused has some portion of his faith in the American justice system restored by the city's settlement.
For others wrongfully accused, the fight for rights and freedom continues.