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LEWISBURG, Pa. — Dewey Bozella, who was wrongfully imprisoned for 26 years before being exonerated and released in 2009, will speak at Bucknell University on Thursday, April 28, at 7 p.m. in the Forum of the Elaine Langone Center.
The talk, "Freedom: One Man's Quest to Prove his Innocence," is free and open to the public. Sponsored in part by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the Meerwarth Lecture Series, it is supported by the Department of Political Science, the Center for Race, Ethnicity and Gender, and the Dean of Arts and Sciences.
In 1983, Bozella, a promising amateur boxer, was convicted of the 1977 murder of 92-year-old Emma Crapser in her Poughkeepsie, N.Y., apartment. Authorities said Bozella, who was 18 at the time, killed Crapser after she walked in on him burglarizing her apartment.
The conviction was overturned when an appeals court found blacks had been kept off the jury. Bozella was retried and convicted in 1990 and sentenced to 20 years to life in state prison.
Bozella, who continued to insist he was innocent, fought to have his conviction dismissed. He was denied parole on four separate occasions, because he refused to admit to a crime he didn't commit.
In 2007, after exhausting all of his appeals, Bozella convinced The Innocence Project to investigate his case, which led to a ruling in October 2009 by Supreme Court Justice James Rooney of Putnam County, N.Y. Rooney overturned Bozella's conviction, saying the Dutchess County district attorney had failed to disclose crucial evidence that would have proved Bozella's innocence. Since becoming a free man, Bozella has taken his message of hope and determination around the country.
Katherine McCoy, an assistant professor of sociology at Bucknell, has invited Bozella to speak as an extension of her Law and Society class, saying, "In an era of CSI and DNA evidence, it's easy to assume that justice is a perfect science, and that we always get the right guy.
"Mr. Bozella's powerful story highlights some of the tough questions still remaining in our overburdened criminal justice system. In these tough times, his message of courage and determination should inspire anyone facing seemingly impossible odds. We are honored to have him visit and speak to the community."
The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, 268 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before exoneration and release.
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