Wrongfully convicted cases could prompt state law change

KING 5's Meg Coyle reports.

He spent almost ten years in prison for a rape he didn't commit. Then, he waited four more years for a new trial so he could be exonerated.

Ted Bradford was just 22 at the time and a married father of two at the time of his arrest.

"It was devastating. My whole life basically ended at that point because I was a young kid and here I was just a young kid being sent to prison," said Bradford.

The victim had never identified Bradford as her attacker and there was no physical evidence linking him to the crime. It was 1996 -- before DNA. The blood test on Bradford only tested his blood type and had come back inconclusive.

What prosecutors did have was a confession -- one Bradford says was forced.

"I was just a young kid and I was scared and I wanted out of that situation. So, after that 9-hour interrogation I finally said, 'Well I'll make a statement just to get out of this room,'" said Bradford.

That was enough for the jury. Bradford was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

"I missed everything," recalled Bradford. "I remember seeing my daughter the first time I'd seen her walk, take her first steps, was from behind a plate glass visiting room."

Innocence Project Northwest took Bradford's case. Fourteen years after his conviction, a new jury from a new trial found him not guilty.

Bradford's case, like many others Innocence Project Northwest represents, didn't have the benefit of high-tech DNA analysis at the time. And in order to exonerate those who may have been wrongly convicted, that evidence typically needs to have been preserved. Currently, there is no state law on how long biological material collected at crime scenes must be preserved. Innocence Project is working to change that.

"When someone writes to us many years later and after conviction and we're finally able to take a look at the case and request the log of evidence available, 30-40 percent of those cases the evidence has already been lost or destroyed. So there's not a way we can move forward on those cases," said Lara Zarowsky with Innocence Project Northwest.

Bradford says he's been able to let go of the anger of being incarcerated for a crime he didn't commit. He just wishes he could get back all that time he lost with his family.

"Not only the person who gets wrongly convicted suffers, the whole family does. My mom, my dad, everybody. They missed out on all those years because those were my 20s. I was young, trying to make a name for myself and get a career going and all of that was wiped out."

Bradford is now a musician living in Yakima with his wife. His two children are now 19 and 21 years old.


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