Rally for Justice Is December 15 in Springfield

A young African American man is in jail for a murder in Springfield that he did not commit; he could spend the rest of his life in prison. That’s according to a group that has a web site at www.JusticeForCharles.org.

According to an article that appeared in the May 5, 2012 edition of the Boston Globe and that was written by a Globe staff writer, “The group’s confidence in [Charles] Wilhite’s innocence centers on Nathan Perez, a key witness in the trial who is now recanting his testimony identifying Wilhite as the shooter.”

Viraphanh Douangmany lives in Amherst. She is an organizer of the group, and she is Wilhite’s aunt. “Charles is innocent,” Douangmany told the Valley Post on December 14. Among the people who share that opinion are UMass professor Amilcar Shabazz and Lois Ahrens, the director of www.RealCostOfPrisons.org in Northampton, Douangmany said.

Earlier this year in Springfield, about 500 people attended a rally to free Wilhite, according to Douangmany.

Douangmany is asking people to attend a December 15 event in Springfield, and to sign a petition to the district attorney who is representing the government in an ongoing court case against Wilhite. The petition asks the district attorney to drop the charges against Wilhite and free him. Douangmany can be reached at viraphanh@hotmail.com or by phone at (413) 461-6386. Details about the December 15 event are at www.JusticeForCharles.org.

As of 2000, there were about 200,000 wrongfully convicted people in prison in the U.S. That's according to the book “Actual Innocence” by New York Times columnist Jim Dwyer and two other authors.

As of this year, 297 prisoners in the USA have been proven innocent using DNA. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before being freed. Seventeen of the people who were freed had been sentenced to death but were freed before the government could execute them. This data is from www.InnocenceProject.org.

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