Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Rochester man free after 10 years in prison, DNA proves innocence

From an article in today's Rochester Democrat and Chronicle:

State Supreme Court justice Thomas Van Strydonck today freed an AIDS-stricken man who has been imprisoned a decade for a murder prosecutors now say he did not commit.

Recent DNA testing showed that Douglas Warney, 44, is innocent of the 1996 slaying of civil rights activist William Beason, prosecutors acknowledged in state Supreme Court today.

Warney was convicted in 1997 of the slaying. The case against him was largely based on a confession he gave in 1996. His lawyers contended that the admission was riddled with errors, and were the rambling of a man with an IQ of 68 who suffered from AIDS-related dementia.

The confession did contain some facts consistent with the crime scene, and defense lawyers now argue that police must have given those facts to Warney then included them in the confession. Warney did know Beason and may have been familiar with Beason's city home, according to trial testimony.

The New York Times also is running an article on Mr. Warney's case here. The Monroe County District Attorney (Michael Green) has fought the DNA testing for the last two years. The Fourth Department affirmed Mr. Warney's conviction back in 2002 (People v Warney, 249 AD2d 956 [4th Dept 2002]).