Mistaken Identity: Innocent Man Free from Jail 2 Years After Convicted of Rape
The Bessemer Police Department in Alabama knew a young black man was innocent for more than a year before they dropped all charges and released him from their county jail where he had been locked up for almost two years, serving time for a crime he didn’t commit.
Treveon Weaver, 19 at the time of his arrest, offered to give his DNA to the police immediately after being accused of rape and robbery on August 9, 2017. The actual perpetrator urinated on the victim, but his DNA samples weren’t handed over to the Bessemer Police Department until April 19, 2018. Weaver’s attorney didn’t get the results until almost a year later.
The recent high school graduate couldn’t bail himself out of jail either until the mess of a due process system was sorted out because his bond totaled $540,500, according to Al.com.
The story gets worse. The only reason he was pegged to the case was because after the victims of the attack described what the perpetrator looked like, authorities searched for black men matching the description on Facebook and arrested Weaver because he and the actual criminal bore a resemblance.
According to court records, Weaver was charged with three counts of second-degree assault, three counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree kidnapping and one first-degree count each of rape, sodomy, burglary and cruelty to animals.
On July 22, 2017, police records stated a man entered the home of a couple in their early 40s. He was armed with a gun and allegedly stole their cell phones and knocked out two teeth from the couple’s dog. The culprit also allegedly assaulted the couple and raped the woman.
"This was a sad case for the legal system,'' Weaver’s attorney Emory Anthony Jr. said. “One, the system punished a person that could not afford a bond by placing a $540,000 bond on him after giving him a court-appointed attorney. Two, the DNA results took more than 15 months and, three, the identity of my client by a Facebook photo was a bad ID. I hope we can learn from this bad case.”
His mother said Weaver was at work, at a restaurant, during the time the crimes were reported to have happened.
Weaver, now 21, said he was shocked when he was first arrested. “I was like, ‘I don’t know what y’all are talking about,’’’ he recalled. “I volunteered to give my DNA because I know I didn’t do anything.”
Anthony said he had requested the exonerating DNA results several times until he received the evidence days before Weaver’s April 1 trial was set to begin.
The Bessemer Cutoff Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office didn’t officially drop Weaver’s 11 charges until Aug. 19.
“When the DNA results didn’t match, the only just thing to do for this young man was to have him released immediately with the charges dismissed,’’ said Bessemer Cutoff District Attorney Lynneice Washington. “My office will never knowingly take part in sending an innocent man to prison. That’s not justice.”
Except Weaver wasn’t immediately released. Weaver was never afforded his Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial. With an abundance of exonerating DNA evidence found at the crime scene that took place in July, 2017, an accused, yet innocent, man wasn’t free until August, 2019.
While other young people got to celebrate their coming into adulthood with their friends, Weaver spent his 21st birthday in a jail cell.
Meanwhile, the real rapist has yet to be apprehended.