The Wrongfully Accused
By Jeiyanni Hollings
The Wrongfully Accused
Accused: Dewey Bozella
Accusers: Lamar Smith, Stanley Smith (brothers)
When it occurred
Crime happened in June of 1977.
Dewey Bozella was accused/convicted in December of 1983.
Where it occurred
Crime took place in a Poughkeepsie, New York apartment
A 92 year old woman named Emma Crapser walked in on a robbery transpiring in her New York apartment. The burglar then killed her through the means of suffocating her by tying her up and stuffing linens down her throat. Brothers Lamar and Stanley Smith were originally suspected of being involved due to previous records of petty crime and also being known to hang around the area. The brothers denied involvement and any knowledge of the crime until the police falsely told them that Dewey Bozella accused them of the murder. The brothers then proceeded to give the police a statement about how they supposedly saw Bozella and another man, Wayne Mosley, hanging around in front of the old woman's place and trying to break in. Bozella and Mosley denied involvement in the crime and the grand jury at the time refused to try a case against them at the time, due to a lack of evidence. However, prosecution persisted. Wayne Mosley was promised a reduction in a jail sentence he was serving at the time in exchange for his testimony against Bozella. Mosley agreed to testify with parole support from the district attorney. Going with Mosley's testimony alone, Bozella was convicted and sentenced to 20-years-to-life. However, Bozella's first conviction was overturned. He was tried again in December of 1990. The second time around, Stanley Smith recanted his previous statements and refused to testify. But the jury still convicted Bozella once again, sentencing him to 20-years-to-life. Later on, the other brother, Lamar Smith, recanted his previous testimony as well. After this, a proper investigation was conducted in 2007, revealing lack of evidence against Bozella and also witness statements that contradicted the testimonies at trial and had never originally been provided to the defense. Also, there was evidence that another man, Donald Wise, could have possibly committed the crime due to have committing similar crimes in the past and his fingerprint being found at the scene of the crime. However, this new information was never fully looked into by the police and was never turned over to the defense. In the mean time, Bozella served an entire 26 years in prison for a crime he did not commit from 1983 to 2009. He refused a plea bargain several times, resulting in the denial of his parole. He eventually reached out to the Innocence Project, an organization that used DNA testing to prove that individuals had been wrongfully accused of serious crimes. Unfortunately, the physical evidence for the case had been destroyed, However, the IP believed that Bozella was innocent and thus led to lawyers discovering the additional evidence about Donald Wise. While Bozella was in jail, he was a model boxer and prisoner and he could have had multiple possible chances of freedom, had he chosen to confess to the murder that he did not commit.
"The Crucible" Connection
In the case of the Dewey Bozella incident and also "The Crucible", we see similar aspects of the power of suggestion, an individual that went from being under the radar to highly suspected, and the refusal to a crime under pressure due to innocence, and the preservation of one's self-dignity and respect.
In "The Crucible", tables are turned when John Proctor, a moderately respected individual in the Salem community, is suddenly accused of witchcraft by Mary Warren. In the Dewey Bozella case, Dewey Bozella, an average African-American male, was falsely accused by two inmates for the murder of a 92 year old woman. In both incidents, there was denial of any knowledge of any wrongdoings. However, in "The Crucible", Mary Warren accuses John Proctor of witchcraft due to being under pressure of being accused herself. She ultimately has a breakdown and when it appears as if she has no other choice, she says, "He wake me every night, his eyes were like coals and his fingers claw my neck, and I sign, I sign..." (Miller 119). Also, when Abigail accuses Tituba of trying to force her to drink blood, Tituba is pressured greatly by the members of the Salem community, who use the power of suggestion to coerce Tituba into naming specific individuals who were supposedly practicing witchcraft or were associating with the Devil. When Hale and Parris interrogate Tituba, asking her who she saw with the Devil, they suggest Sarah Good's name to get Tituba talking and she goes along with it for the sake of preserving her own life: "And then he come one stormy night to me, and he say, 'Look! I have white people belong to me! And I look-- and there was Goody Good" (Miller 47). When the police questioned brothers Lamar and Stanley Smith, the two denied any involvement or knowledge of the crime until the police lied to them and told them that Bozella had accused them. Another element that we see emerge from both "The Crucible" and this modern situation is the refusal to go along with confessing just to make things easier for oneself. In "The Crucible", John Proctor is prompted to confess to the practicing of witchcraft and also sign off on a legal document in which he officially confesses. Proctor signs the document, but refuses to actually give it to Danforth to pin up on the church for everyone to see, due to the desire to preserve his name and reputation within the Salem community: "No, no. I have signed it. You have seen me. It is done! You have no need for this" (Miller 142). After Bozella was exonerated, he said that he would rather have died in prison knowing that he was innocent than to have confessed to the murder that he did not commit: "I could never admit to something I didn't do. I realized that if I was going to die in prison because of saying I'm innocent, well that was going to happen" (Applebome). In both of these cases, the wrongfully accused show that they would rather die clinging to their innocence than to live by confessing. A themE that applies from "The Crucible" is that sometimes you may have to suffer through consequences to save yourself in the long run. In the end, Dewy Bozella was able to walk away with his freedom for being persistent in claiming his innocence: "If I'd given up, I wouldn't be in the position I'm in now" (Applebome). Even his lawyers say that they were sure of his innocence: "We always genuinely believed Dewey was innocent" (Applebome).
Denzel, Stephanie. "Dewey Bozella". The National Registry of Exonerations. June 2012. 6 December 2014.
"Dewey Bozella: Exonerated After 26 Years". Innocence Project. 6 December 2014.
Mackenzie, Craig. "Boxer who spent 26 years in jail for a murder he didn't commit wins his first fight... at the age of 52". 16 October 2011. 7 Decemeber 2014.
Miller, Arthur. The Crucible. The Language of Literature. Ed. Arthur N. Applebee. Evanston: McDougal Littell, 2000. 166-240