A lawsuit filed by a teenager wrongly charged with murder in 2014 is the latest turn in a case that saw a young man ultimately exonerated for a crime he did not commit. Deandre Charles, now 18, was hastily charged with the murder of Rabbi Joseph Raksin but ultimately exonerated. His lawsuit claims that the police had evidence of his innocence before he was ever arrested. Charles spent almost a year behind bars when he would have normally been in high school.
At a 2015 news conference, prosecutors were confident in the evidence they had. The prosecutor indicated they would offer evidence of Charles' DNA on the murder weapon and inside an SUV related to the crime. They also claimed to have cellphone records that put Charles at the scene. Finally, the office of the prosecutor claimed that a sketch of the suspect's likeness matched the teenager.
The evidence fell apart quickly. Test issues within the crime lab made the DNA evidence on the gun meaningless, and Charles had maintained all along he had been in the SUV but at a later date. The cellphone evidence was a bust as well; records indicated it was actually Charles' brother who possessed the phone that day. The biggest debacle of all was the sketch, however. The drawing was so child-like it was mocked roundly by pundits and comedians alike. With the case circling the drain, prosecutors pulled the plug. Unfortunately for Mr. Charles, this only occurred after spending an entire school year behind bars.
The police also withheld critical evidence in the case. The state was aware early on that the gun involved in the murder was also used in a robbery the previous day. This is relevant, as Charles couldn't have been involved in the robbery. The police also ignored credible reports of others in the neighborhood actually perpetrating the crime.
This case is one more example of a disturbing pattern regarding African-American men wrongfully being accused of a crime. According to a 2017 Report from the National Registry of Exonerations, 47 percent of all exonerated people are African-American. That is despite the fact the African-Americans only make up 13 percent of the population. The report concludes that innocent African-Americans are more than seven times more likely to be wrongfully convicted of murder than innocent white people.
An enormous injustice like the one that occurred to Deandre Charles is rightfully gathering a lot of attention. But it's worth remembering that small injustices happen every day too. People are wrongfully accused of crimes they did not commit every day. This includes murder all the way down to traffic violations. And in many cases, those accusations lead to wrongful convictions. That's why it is critical to obtain legal counsel when you are accused of a crime. The hard work of Deandre Charles' legal team was potentially the difference between his freedom and spending the rest of his life in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
If you have been charged with a crime in the Tampa area, don't leave your freedom to chance. Attorney Omar Abdelghany is an experienced Tampa criminal defense attorney with a long record of positive outcomes. For a free consultation, contact the OA Law Firm today.