The story of two brothers who spent three decades wrongfully imprisoned highlights the importance of a criminal defense for an innocent person charged with a crime in Illinois. The brothers had originally been convicted of killing an 11-year-old girl. They served time on death row until the governor of North Carolina pardoned them in 2014 because of a lack of evidence. To compensate them for their suffering, each brother has been awarded $750,000 by the state.

The brothers were only 19 and 15 when they confessed to participating in a group assault on the girl. An Innocence Inquiry Commission later investigated their cases and found that authorities had pressured the young men with accusations and given them details of the crime until they signed confessions.

No physical evidence linked them to the crime. The DNA analysis of saliva on a cigarette butt at the crime scene did not match either of the brothers. The fingerprints on a beer can present at the murder did not belong to the men either. Both men suffered bullying and assaults, sometimes sexual in nature, while imprisoned. One brother is managing to adjust to a life of freedom, but post-traumatic stress syndrome troubles the other brother severely.

Someone arrested on suspicion of a crime has a right to legal representation, especially when speaking to authorities or appearing in court. An attorney could advise an individual about how to enter a plea based upon the evidence. The criminal charges filed against a person could also be evaluated by an attorney, who might determine that the evidence does not support them. An attorney could also prepare a criminal defense for a trial or negotiate a plea bargain deal with a prosecutor.

Source: ABC News, “Wrongly Convicted Brothers Each Get $750K Payout”, Jonathan Drew, Sept. 2, 2015