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DNA testing proves that his "confession" was coerced
Exonerated after 17 years in jail

By Alice Kim | September 6, 2002 | Page 2

"SEVENTEEN YEARS, three months and five days today," said Eddie Joe Lloyd after he walked out of a Michigan prison last week. "I'm absolutely, completely and absolutely, exhilarated."

After nearly two decades, Lloyd was exonerated in the rape and murder of a 16-year-old Detroit girl. In April 1985, Lloyd was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, largely on the basis of a coerced confession. Lloyd, who is a paranoid schizophrenic, confessed to police while a patient at the Detroit Psychiatric Institute.

The cops misled Lloyd, saying that his confession would help "flush out the true killer." Then investigators incorrectly matched bodily fluids found at the crime scene to Lloyd's blood type. After a three-day trial, a jury convicted Lloyd in less than an hour.

Before police arrested Lloyd, they had been investigating the well-known murder for nine months. With Detroit reeling from a string of sexual assaults on schoolchildren, Lloyd realized that he would become the scapegoat. "Nobody wanted to be my defense attorney," Lloyd recalled. "The city wanted my head."

Yet, Lloyd considers himself lucky that he's alive. "If Michigan had the death penalty," said Lloyd, "I would have been through. The angels would have sung a long time ago."

Barry Scheck, director of the New York-based Innocence Project, which helped win Lloyd's freedom, agreed. "Here in Michigan, you're lucky not to have the death penalty, and nothing better illustrates it than this case," he told reporters.

In fact, when he sentenced Lloyd to life in prison in 1985, Judge Leonard Townsend expressed regret that he couldn't impose the death penalty. "The sentence that the statute requires is inadequate," Townsend said. "The only justifiable sentence, I would say, would be termination by extreme constriction."

Incredibly, even as he threw out the conviction 17 years later, Townsend continued to blame Lloyd. "Even though he may have lied about what he did, the fault falls on him," Townsend said. "The fault lies with no one else. This is not a case where a person was wrongfully or unjustifiably convicted. I have never heard this gentleman say, 'I didn't do it.'" Townsend must not have been paying attention when Lloyd proclaimed his innocence at the initial sentencing hearing.

Given the injustices in Lloyd's case, it's no surprise that at least 15 Michigan prisoners are in line to get DNA testing that they hope will prove their innocence.

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