Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Exonerated after 26 years

Yesterday - Cheektowaga, a suburb of Buffalo NY.

It took 26 years for Douglas Pacyon, 54, to clear his name after being convicted of a 1984 rape and serving six years and eight months in prison for an attack he didn't commit.

It took three minutes yesterday afternoon for the criminal-justice system to officially exonerate him. The judge formally dismissed his rape conviction based on DNA testing that proved he couldn't have committed the May 1984 crime.

"I just want to say it's been a long time for justice to come," Mr. Pacyon said. Then he expressed his appreciation to the District Attorney's Office, defense attorney Thomas C. D'Agostino and his friends and family before discussing the lesson to be learned from his ordeal.

"As long as you keep the faith … and never give up, it hopefully can change for the better," he said. "I had faith that someday, this day would happen."

In May 2008, 18 years after Mr. Pacyon was released from prison, D'Agostino filed a motion seeking forensic DNA testing on evidence from the case.

Exhaustive testing and retesting of those slides showed that the same man had sexually assaulted both women and that man was not Douglas Pacyon.

During his trial in April 1985, he insisted he was innocent.

"There was never a doubt in my mind," he said of his innocence. "From Day One, I requested any kind of test that would exonerate me, and nothing was done."

"My family, my friends, and I, endured the pain. I'm not going to lie, it wasn't easy, but I had faith that someday, this would happen," he said after the hearing.

The attorney for Mr. Paycon said that his office would most likely file suit against the DA's Office for the wrongful conviction.

I, along with many others, am grateful for the discovery of DNA. I have spent many years working with persons who have been incarcerated, and of course, many say that they are innocent of the charges against them. But, the reality is that there are some behind the prison walls who are innocent. This same county has had three cases of wrongful convictions for murder in recent years and large settlements are being paid out of taxpayers’ money.

Mr. Paycon said he always kept the faith that someday the truth would be revealed.

Financial compensation may soothe some of his pain and suffering, loss of income while incarcerated and afterwards when he could not get employment because of his previous history of incarceration. I doubt that it will ever really make it all right.

Mr. Pacyon appears to be a very humble, soft spoken man. As he was leaving the courthouse he told the TV reporters, that he would now be able to register to vote. He said people just do not know what a privilege the right to vote is until it is taken away. This statement was not reported in the printed news releases.

I wish that more people would cherish the right to vote – it is a right that many have died for and that so many take for granted. To me this was a very powerful footnote to his story.

I wish Mr. Paycon and his family well and hope that peace of mind and tranquility will enter their lives. Sometimes justification can be bittersweet - I am glad that he never gave up on his faith.

photo of Mr. Pacyon and his attorney leaving the courthouse

from the Buffalo News

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