Exonerated

I’ve been moved by the recent revelation of a wrongful conviction here in Grand Rapids. When he was just 16, Quentin Carter was found guilty by a Kent County jury in 1992 of raping a 10-year-old neighbor girl and sent to prison. He served his full sentence—17 years—, despite his good behavior in prison, because he refused to admit to the parole board that he was guilty.

Now he has been exonerated. The real rapist, Aurelias Marshall, was the live-in boyfriend of the girl’s mother. The girl, now in her 30’s and still living in Grand Rapids, told police recently that, after Marshall assaulted her, he beat her until she could convincingly tell the story he told her to tell, that three young men had dragged her off her house porch and one had raped her. Marshall arbitrarily selected Carter, though he barely knew him, because he lived a few doors down and Marshall happened to see Carter’s name on papers in the trash.

This all came to light only because the “cold case” team at GRPD began investigating Marshall for a different felony, an unsolved murder from 1990. In the course of their investigation, they interviewed the rape victim, who told them that Marshall and not Carter was her attacker. That set the wheels in motion for Carter to be exonerated.

There are many aspects of this story that are disconcerting, to say the least. The girl’s mother didn’t report the rape until ten days after it happened. After the rape occurred, Marshall pled guilty to first-degree child abuse for abusing this girl, so wasn’t he at least suspected of the rape as well? Carter passed a lie detector test but the prosecutor’s office went ahead with the trial. Perhaps most troubling to me is that the victim says she went to the prosecutor’s office on two different occasions over the years to recant her story, and they would not listen to her.

I wrote in March about a prosecutor in Louisiana who has belatedly apologized for convicting an innocent man. Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth, who was also chief prosecutor at the time of Mr. Carter’s conviction, has apologized to Mr. Carter on behalf of his office. The trial prosecutor, Helen Brinkman, is now in private practice in Grand Rapids.

But another reason that this story is so moving is that the now-exonerated Mr. Carter told a Grand Rapids press reporter last week that he’s not angry or bitter. He was quoted as saying, “You put everything in God’s hands and leave it at that.”

 

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