Prosecutors Falsely Push Prison Term for Innocent Teen
Nasheeba Adams was both ecstatic and sad as she stood outside of Philadelphia’s Criminal Justice Center courthouse recently hugging her son Tomayo McDuffy.
She was ecstatic because minutes earlier Philadelphia’s District Attorneys Office had withdrawn highly suspect charges against her nineteen-year-old son -- charges that could have stuffed him in a prison cell for 80+ years. McDuffy, who wants to study engineering in college, experienced his eighteenth birthday while held in Philadelphia’s most violent adult pre-trial prison, as he was unable to post an onerous $500,000 bail for attempted murder and nine other charges.
Adams, while ecstatic that prosecutors withdrew as groundless all charges against her son, was also sad though, because the nearly two-year long battle to free her son forced her into bankruptcy and drove her family from their home thanks to lawyers fees and other expenses related to the effort to free McDuffy..
“I fought for his freedom and I got it! This taught me that you don’t ever give up,” Adams said at the courthouse. “From now on, every day will be Mother’s Day for me!”
Despite her joy, Adams carried a sinking feeling from the fact that Philadelphia police and prosecutors had repeatedly rejected strong evidence that the crime causing her son’s arrest never occurred –- evidence that was clear and compelling withing just weeks following McDuffy’s May 3, 2013 arrest.
The ordeal of Tomayo McDuffy is yet the latest example of the egregiously overzealous prosecutions that fuel mass incarceration across America. All too often prosecutors disregard their legal and ethical duty to ‘seek justice,’ and instead engage in relentless and unprincipled efforts to secure convictions irrespective of compelling evidence of innocence. Prosecutors recklessly ignore evidence of innocence because convictions –- not exonerations -– are the currency for promotions and other job performance perks.
Police and prosecutors in Philadelphia in this case readily accepted a highly improbable account from Adams’ next door neighbor, who falsely accused McDuffy of attempted murder. That neighbor, Maria Colon, even told authorities that her dog dialed 911 to alert police to McDuffy’s crime. They took her at her word.
Colon claimed that McDuffy and another man had kicked-in her basement door at 3 a.m. and then turned on her kitchen stove in an attempt to kill her, before her dog chased them away. Police and prosecutors accepted all that, despite the fact that Colon had a documented history of falsely accusing others, including falsely accusing her son of raping her and falsely accusing her daughter of assault.