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Eighth anniversary of NY man's exoneration

Posted: September 4, 2007 1:13 pm

This week marks the eighth anniversary of Habib Wahir Abdal’s exoneration. He served 17 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit before DNA testing proved his innocence. Like most wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA evidence, Abdal’s wrongful conviction was caused in part by eyewitness misidentification.

In fact, the eyewitness identification procedure in Abdal’s case was an egregious example of police practices that lead to misidentifications and wrongful convictions. Four months after the crime, police brought the victim face to face with Abdal in what is called a “show-up” procedure. Even though police had told her he was the suspect, she did not identify him as the perpetrator. She was then shown a four-year-old photo of Abdal, and returned to the “show up” to identify him as the perpetrator.

Abdal died in 2005, just six years after he was exonerated. Read more about Abdal’s case, and learn about eyewitness identification reforms in our Understand the Causes section.

Tags: Habib Wahir Abdal



Ninth anniversary of NY exoneration

Posted: September 4, 2008 3:50 pm

Monday marked the ninth anniversary of the day Habib Wahir Abdal walked out of a New York prison after serving 16 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Abdal was convicted in 1983 of a rape he didn’t commit, based partly on eyewitness misidentification.

In 1982, a woman was attacked in a nature preserve by an African-American man in a hooded sweatshirt. She was blindfolded by the attacker. Abdal was picked up by police four months later and police conducted a “show up,” where they brought the victim to Abdal and asked if he was the attacker. Police officers told the victim before the show up that Abdal was the suspect, but she did not identify him at first as the perpetrator. She then viewed a four-year-old photo of Abdal, returned to the show up, and identified him as the perpetrator.

Although forensic evidence pointed to his innocence and Abdal didn’t match the victim’s initial suspect of the attacker, he was convicted by a jury and sentenced to life in prison. He sought DNA testing to prove his innocence starting in 1993, but tests were inconclusive. It would be six more years before conclusive DNA testing proved Abdal’s  innocence and led to his exoneration.

Abdal’s case is an example of one where advancing DNA science led to exoneration after earlier tests were inconclusive. Other cases like this include the exonerations of David Gray and Rickey Johnson.

Tags: Habib Wahir Abdal, David A. Gray, Rickey Johnson