[Andre] Smith got out faster because he had an attorney who made inquiries on his behalf. Still, he said he's not happy that his pleas of innocence went unheeded for so long at the jail.One of the Dallas DNA exonerees, James Giles, was initially arrested because he had the same name as the actual suspect in a similar, Kafka-esque identity mix-up that cost him ten years in prison and another 14 as a registered sex offender before his name was cleared. Some of these cases take a lot longer than a week to sort out.
"They never verified anything, even when I asked them to," Smith said. "I was told, 'Everyone says it's not them.'"
Smith was pulled over by a Dallas police officer and arrested on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge as well as the fugitive warrant. He said the officer told him he didn't think it was him but that he'd let the jail sort it out.
The suspect wanted by Georgia looked nothing like him, Smith said, and had a teardrop tattoo under his left eye. He said no one told him what the charge was.
Luckily for him, his friend's wife is a lawyer. Regina Moore said the sheriff's intake department should have notified the fugitive unit immediately so they could obtain fingerprints from Georgia. But Moore said the slow-moving jail bureaucracy hindered her efforts to clear up the situation.
The fugitive officers work regular business hours and no one can help on the weekends, she said. The person she needed to speak with was never in the office, she said, and different departments within the sheriff's department don't communicate well with each other.
"I don't think the right hand is talking to the left hand," Moore said.
Eventually, the fugitive squad got the prints from Atlanta and realized they had the wrong guy, she said. "Unfortunately, you have to keep going down there. Otherwise, they'll drop the ball," Moore said.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Identity mix-ups at Dallas jail can take a week to sort out, or decades
At the Dallas County Jail, inmates who're arrested due to an identity mix-up, even in serious cases, have trouble getting the system to document and rectify the error. Kevin Krause at the Dallas News on Wednesday published the story of two jail inmates recently held for a week or so apiece when the system really meant to arrest somebody else. Bureaucratic delays kept fingerprints from revealing the mix-up, and naturally nobody believed the inmates who insisted they'd got the wrong guy. Of the two, writes Krause: