Imagine being told that your life as you know it will change. What was once your normal routine of work, education and friends all taken away replaced by the grim surroundings of four prison walls.
Each day would remain the same, confined to a life you no longer control, all because you may have been in the wrong place at the wrong time. While it may sound like a cliché or a preview for a Hollywood movie, the truth is that this is the reality for hundreds of peoples in the world and often it goes unknown.
Eyewitness misidentification, false science and false confessions of even those who claim to be on the side of the law can fail the public through misconduct. These are just some of the factors that can change someone’s life in the blink of an eye and once the sentence has been carried out, for many hope, is diminished.
So how can we change what the law has set in stone for someone? The answer…DNA. The life of Science changed forever with the discovery of DNA in the eighties and with that so too did the world of crime.
The Innocence Network was co-founded in 1992 by Barry Scheck and Peter Neufeld where DNA evidence is used to re-examine cases where many have been wrongly accused. So far in the USA the convictions of 300 people have been overturned because they were factually innocent, 17 of these represent people serving time on death row.
There are now nearly 70 Innocence projects in the USA but also the innocence movement has brought its work to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and as of 2009 it established its own group here in Ireland. The Irish Innocence Project was founded by David Langwallner at Griffith College, where he is the Dean of Law.
The Irish Innocence Project has a dozen law students, one journalism student and a half dozen supervising attorneys investigating 20 cases of presumed innocence in order to progress them in the courts as miscarriages of justice.
As of present the organisation is looking into a case to clear the name of a man that was executed over seventy years ago. Mr Harry Gleeson, from County Tipperary was found guilty of the murder of his neighbour, Mary ‘Moll’ McCarthy and was sentenced to death by hanging in 1940.
After re-examination of the case it seems that the evidence put forward against Mr Gleeson proves to have some holes. Last year Justice Minister Alan Shatter sanctioned a review of the case after years of protesting, by relatives of the accused. From this a number of facts were to be proven wrong. It was from this that The Justice for Harry Gleeson Group reached out for support from the Irish Innocence Project.
Failure of the System
From research the JFHG discovered the following flaws were found within the case of 1940.
The firearms register was not produced before court and only presented the receipt from the
hardware store where Gleeson’s Uncle, John Caeser had purchased cartridges over a month before the murder of Mrs. McCarthy. It was later clarified that the cartridges that were bought were a no 4 cartridges, even though prosecution put forward the argument that Gleeson had used a no 5 cartridge.
The temperature of the body found also was proven to be mistaken. It was recorded that the body was at 96f thus claiming the victim had been murdered in the morning. Prosecution claimed that Gleeson had committed the murder the previous evening. This is under further investigation by new pathologist report.
A DVD was passed to the Department of Justice of a man who lived on the same farm as Gleeson, providing an alibi for Gleeson for when the shots were supposedly fired.
These are just some of the facts that have come forward since the reinvestigation of this case.
The Future of the Case
In recent weeks the pathologist report proved that:
‘the murder took place in the morning or sometime during the night while Gleeson was at home and sleeping and accounted for.’
It has taken seventy three years for the truth to come out. Before his death Gleeson spoke these final words:
‘I rely on you then to clear my name. I have no confession to make, only that I didn’t do it.’
With the persistence and belief of those on the JFHG and hard work from the Innocence project, thefailure of the system has been brought to justice. Maybe finally the truth has been found.