By Dr. Samori Swygert
The court system sentenced him to 22 hard years in prison at the tender young age of 18. While in prison, he was the victim of multiple rapes from which he contracted HIV. According to the Washington Post, his family abandoned him for unsaid reasons. After 2 decades in prison and a case review, his lawyers were able to cross-reference his DNA with the case evidence. The results clearly exonerated him from the crimes he was punished for.
To Make Matters Worse
The criminal who actually committed the rape and robbery was caught and sentenced the very next year in 1982 for the actual crimes. This means the court system was cognizant that they sentenced the wrong man to prison 1 year before, and had the correct criminal in prison for the exact crime. However, they knowingly allowed Odom to languish in prison for 22 years as an innocent man.
Robbed of His Life
The “justice system” robbed this man of the best years of his life and is culpable of the rape, depression, attempts at suicide, and contraction of HIV which Odom underwent.
Odom has been free for 10 years. He is married, and met his wife in an HIV counseling group. Friday, Feb. 27, 2015, a Washington, D.C. superior court judge awarded Mr. Odom $9.1 million dollars for the time and suffering he was unjustly subjected to.
The Shameful Justice System
According to the Washington Post article, many D.C. attorneys for the city feel $9.1 million is too much money and that he should only be awarded $1.1 million. Their argument is that his case was handled by the U. S. attorney’s office and not the city.
My mind was so flooded with thoughts of hurt, incredulity, anger, and disgust. This man was robbed of his life. Who knows what he could have accomplished in 22 years as a free citizen? I tried to transpose myself into his shoes (though virtually impossible). This man lost his family.
He had a daughter who was born just a couple of weeks before his trial in 1981. The justice system robbed this young lady of her biological father for 22 years of her life. How did this affect her growing from an infant into a mature woman and how she interacts with men?
The fact that the system knew they apprehended and incarcerated the real criminal one year later, but allowed Mr. Odom to stay behind bars is inexcusable and criminal in itself. The physical and mental trauma he experienced is horrifying.
I sincerely feel that the prosecutors and judges who permitted him to stay in prison after they caught the real criminal should be sentenced to prison. There is no reason that they should be allowed to walk around free. They should be brought up on charges and sent directly to prison for 22 years, just like Odom.
I can’t comment on the forensic investigators too much because they can play the “antiquated card,” meaning they did their job to the best of their ability with their 1981 forensic technology. However, a task force should be formed to conduct a thorough, in-depth retrospective case review of all inmates sentenced by the judges in question, affiliated prosecutors and forensic investigators.
This case highlights and underscores the inconsistencies, Achilles heel, injustice, and lackadaisical care-free attitude toward imprisonment in our country. Incarceration is a serious matter and should never be taken lightly. Lives can be destroyed by failure to conduct due diligence in investigative procedure and research.
I sincerely want Mr. Odom to know that people are paying attention to his story and that he has my complete compassion and sympathy, if it means anything. Be blessed brother, and may you and your wife continue on life’s journey in love and peace. Although it is probably an awkward experience for the both of you, I also pray that you and your daughter are able to connect and form a lasting relationship.
What are your thoughts?
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