Gale Joseph Young, a San Francisco man who was found guilty of possessing crack cocaine in 2008, recently had his conviction overturned by a federal appeals court. The appeals court determined that the DNA linking Young to the crime was not reliable. Unfortunately, Young had already served out his prison term of almost six years when the decision was made. Nathaniel Garrett, Young’s attorney, said that Young served his time, but cannot get it back.
According to a news article at SFGate, Young was at the police station in June of 2008 being questioned regarding a case which was unrelated to the drug possession case. After being strip searched to determine if Young had any drugs on his body, he was released. Officers later discovered 14 grams of crack cocaine in a plastic bag lying on the floor. DNA tests were performed which showed that the majority of the DNA on the bag belonged to women, while a “low-copy number DNA” matched a male.
Young was convicted of possession of crack cocaine in 2012, although he had remained in jail since his arrest in 2008. An expert witness called to testify by prosecutors at Young’s trial claimed that Young could not be excluded as the individual whose DNA was found on the bag. He was sentenced to five years and 10 months in prison, a term he served out before being exonerated by the appellate court. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that the DNA evidence was simply too weak to support Young’s conviction.
While we don’t know for certain whether Young was innocent or guilty of the crime, we must presume his innocence. Michigan criminal appeals attorneys know that unfortunately, there are innocent people who spend years behind bars for crimes they did not commit. Convictions are often based on weak evidence; sadly, the federal appeals court basically returned Young’s freedom to him after he had already served time for a crime he may be completely innocent of.
Anyone who has been wrongly convicted based on weak evidence, errors made at trial, or who believes the sentence handed down was excessive may want to appeal his or her conviction, sentence, or both. Be sure to choose a highly experienced Michigan criminal appeals lawyer who is skilled in this complex and difficult process.