Dewey Bozella served 26 years in New York prisons for a crime he didn’t commit before he was cleared and released in 2009.
Bozella was initially arrested for the 1977 burglary and murder of a 92-year-old woman shortly after her attack, but the charges were dropped because there was no evidence linking him to the crime. He was rearrested for the crime 6 years later after 2 inmates, who were released from prison for their cooperation, told prosecutors that Bozella committed the murder. Even though a fingerprint was found at the crime scene that matched another individual who committed a nearly identical crime around the same time, the state went forward with the prosecution. Based solely on the strength of the informants’ testimony, Bozella was convicted. Bozella was given a new trial in 1990, but he was convicted again.
Bozella eventually sought the help of the Innocence Project, which uses DNA testing to exonerate people who have been wrongfully convicted of crimes. Unfortunately, the physical evidence in the case had been destroyed, so DNA testing wouldn’t be possible. Convinced of his Innocence, the Innocence Project persuaded lawyers at WilmerHale to take up his case, and they were able to prove that Dewey was innocent of the crime by uncovering additional evidence that was never turned over to Bozella.
Bozella took up boxing while he was incarcerated at New York’s Sing Sing prison. The sport helped him to channel his anger over being wrongfully convicted. He eventually became the light heavyweight champ of the prison and even got the opportunity to fight Golden Gloves champ Lou Del Valle.
While in prison, Bozella also met his wife Trena and earned a bachelor’s degree from Mercy College and a master’s from New York Theological Seminary. He was a model prisoner but was denied parole several times because he wouldn’t admit that he was guilty of the murder.
Since his release, Bozella has been teaching boxing skills and discipline to young people. His dream is to one day open his own gym. For his triumph over adversity, he was given the 2011 ESPY Arthur Ashe Courage Award.
Watch his acceptance speech at the ESPY Awards below, and visit his site here