In Prison for What?

A case of the wrongfully accused

Not Cool.

Imagine one day the police come knocking at your door and tell you that you've committed a crime that can send you to jail, but the thing is, you are not the one who committed the crime. It seems like the Salem Witch Trials all over again. Do you remember learning about that in school? If you've ever read The Crucible by Arthur Miller, I'm sure you can agree that accusations based upon faulty evidence arise and flourish during times of fear, uncertainty, and crisis, with detrimental effects on social cohesion and societal commitments to justice and the rule of law. (Grossman) A poor man, Walter Swift, was accused of a crime that ruined most of his adulthood.
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Walter Swift

Walter Swift was a man living in Detroit in the year 1982 when he was accused of robbing and raping a pregnant woman. The victim was shown hundreds of photographs of black teenagers. A human rights attorney, Julie Hurwitz said, "The victim, who was clearly traumatized at the time, identified seven other people before she even got to Walter's photograph. Even at the line up, the victim was unable to confidently identify Walter as her rapist." At this point, how could anyone be sure if the person they were throwing in jail for 20-40 years was the right person? Walter was supposed to take a lie detector test, but a sergeant took him to jail without it. The sergeant was reported saying, "He may not have committed this crime, but I'm sure he committed some other horrible crime." Swift was imprisoned for 26 years before he was let out in 2008. Walter Swift was proved innocent when a judge found evidence that police hid from the defense. Julie Hurwitz said, "Mr. Swift had a different blood type from the rapist, and that test was buried for 23 years." When asked what Walter Swift regrets most due to his wrongful conviction, he answered, "My family. The opportunity to pursue the American Dream. At the time I was getting ready to go to school. I had a job. I had a two-year-old child. All of that was stripped away." Walter Swift had a troubling time after leaving prison. He had no money, lost the time of his daughters childhood, and had no place to live.

Similar to The Crucible?

All this is very similar to a play written by Arthur Miller, The Crucible. As mentioned before, in times of fear, people will blame just about anybody.

In the crucible, we can see many people accuse many other people of being witches. One of the main focuses is the conflict between Abigail and Elizabeth. Abigail accuses Elizabeth of witchcraft, because Abigail wants her gone to have a life with John Proctor. Abigail had said, "She is blackening my name in the village! She is telling lies about me! She is a cold-sniveling woman, and you bend to her!" (Miller 1060). In this quote, Abigail is trying to make Elizabeth look bad by saying that Elizabeth ruined her reputation. The police officer very similarly accuses Walter of being the one guilty of the crime.

A lot of people lie throughout the story The Crucible, and in most cases, they lied in court. Danforth asks Elizabeth, "To your own knowledge, has John Proctor ever committed lechery?" Elizabeth replies and lies "No, sir" (Miller 1091). Elizabeth lied in a time of uncertainty, and the woman who was raped also lied in a time of fear and confusion.

Danforth knew he had done wrong after he realized the accusations were false. He had already done so much damage he wasn't sure what to do about the other people who were accused and still alive. "Twelve already executed; the names of these seven given out, and the village expects to see them die this morning. Postponement now speaks a floundering on my part; reprieve or pardon must cast doubt upon the guilt of them that died until now" (Miller 1102). In this quote, Danforth realizes he must carry through his actions in order to be fair to the people that have already died. This is kind of similar to how the police officers had the blood sample and knew it wasn't Walter that had committed the crime, yet still let him go to jail for nothing.

Works Cited

"Compensating The Wrongly Convicted." Innocence Project. Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. Web. 6 Dec. 2014.

"Man Gets Day in Court after Spending 26 Years in Prison for Wrongful Conviction in Rape Case." Scripps Media, Inc., 5 Dec. 2014. Web. 6 Dec.

Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. The Language of Literature. Ed. Arthur N. Applebee. Evanston: McDougal Littell, 2000.