Alan Newton was imprisoned for 22 years for a rape and robbery that he did not commit. In July 2006, he was released after DNA evidence proved his innocence. Gayle talks to Alan about his ordeal and his new life after prison.
At the age of 21, Alan says he was wrongly convicted of two counts of rape, assault and robbery after witnesses identified him from a police lineup. Despite having an alibi, Alan was sentenced to 13 to 40 years in prison. While he had an opportunity to take a plea bargain to get out early, Alan says he refused to consider it as an option because of his innocence. "I was prepared to do the whole 40 years—I wasn't going to take a plea or any other type of condition and admit guilt just to get out early," he says. "I didn't want to do all the time, but I was prepared to stand on my square and say, 'I'm going to fight this.'"
In 1994, Alan says he learned about DNA testing and decided to focus his efforts on finding the evidence that would be his ticket to freedom 12 years later. With help from the Innocence Project, a nonprofit legal organization dedicated to exonerating wrongfully convicted people through DNA testing, Alan and his lawyers were able to track down DNA evidence from the case and test it, conclusively proving Alan's innocence.
Since his release one year ago, Alan says he isn't bitter or angry—rather, he says he is going to college, working and enjoying his freedom. He says the support of family, friends, co-workers, fellow students and lawyers from the Innocence Project have all helped him pull through. "Everybody went out of their way to make sure I'm all right," he says. "Going through this experience and having people around who are close to you and you know they're in your corner—you're less fearful of making mistakes."
While in prison, Alan says that what he missed the most was having the ability to make his own choices. "I enjoy everything now," he says. "Just the fact that I've got choices now to be able to walk down the street, ride the train—it's the little things in life that we all enjoy so much, and when it's taken away from you, you realize how important it is."
Published on July 16, 2007