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Anthony Powell

Anthony Powell

12 Years in Prison: Innocent

Cause: Eyewitness Misidentification, Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science
Real Perpetrator Found: Yes
State: Massachusetts
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Photo by Josh Reynolds

The Crime

On March 20, 1991, an 18-year-old white woman was abducted at knifepoint shortly after midnight while waiting for a bus in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

Her assailant forced her into a wooded area nearby and raped her. Before leaving, the man told her to come to a skating rink the next day with $100.

The Investigation and Arrest

The victim, a resident of Dorchester, Massachusetts, told police her attacker was a clean-shaven young black man about 5’, 10” tall and weighing about 200 pounds. She said he appeared to have letters shaved into his scalp.

That night, police staked out the rink and spotted 23-year-old Anthony Powell. Even though Powell had a great deal of facial hair and a full head of hair, they included him in a photo line-up. When the victim selected Powell, he was arrested and charged with the rape.

The Trial

On September 14, 1992, Powell was convicted by a judge hearing the case without a jury after the victim identified him as her assailant. Although DNA technology was available, no such evidence was presented at Powell’s trial because the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court did not permit DNA evidence in state courts until 1994.

He was sentenced to 12 to 20 years in prison.

Post-Conviction and DNA Testing

In 2002, a petition for DNA testing was granted and eliminated Powell. However, the victim said she had sex with her boyfriend not long before the attack and that Powell may not have ejaculated. More DNA tests on the boyfriend eliminated him as well.

On March 8, 2004, the conviction was vacated, the charges were dismissed and Powell was released.

In 1995, as the statute of limitations approached for two other unsolved rapes in Suffolk County, prosecutors obtained indictments using only the name “John Doe.” 

After Powell was released, the DNA profile from the March 20, 1991, crime was entered into the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS) and it matched the DNA profile of Jerry Dixon, of Dorchester.

Dixon’s DNA was in the databank because he was convicted in 2007 of several motor vehicle offenses and was imprisoned for nine months. Before his release, he was required to submit a DNA sample because of an unrelated armed robbery offense dating back to 1991.

Dixon’s DNA also matched the profiles in the two “John Doe” indictments—both for rapes that occurred soon after the attack for which Powell was wrongly convicted. One rape occurred April 24, 1991, in Roxbury and Dixon was arrested, but when the victim declined to prosecute, the charges were dismissed. The second occurred on July 13, 1991, in Jamaica Plain.

On July 28, 2011, Dixon pleaded guilty to all three rapes and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

– Maurice Possley
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The Causes

  • Eyewitness Misidentification
  • Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science
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The Facts

Incident Date: 3/20/91
Jurisdiction: MA
Charge: Rape, Kidnapping
Conviction: Rape, Kidnapping
Conviction Date: 9/14/92
Exoneration Date: 3/8/04
Sentence: 12-20 Years
Served: 12 years
Real Perpetrator Found: Yes
Compensation: Civil Suit, State Statute
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