Stephen Downing
January 15, 2002 2:57 PM   Subscribe

Stephen Downing, aged 17, was arrested and interrogated for 8 hours by the police without caution and without legal counsel. Despite having the reading age of an 11 year old, he was allowed to sign a confession to the brutal slaughter of typist Wendy Sewell. 27 years later at the UK Court of Appeal, he became today the victim of the longest miscarriage of justice in the Britain's history.
posted by dlewis (7 comments total)
Wow. He responded to the question about those who erroneously put him in prison with "it's all in the past, let's forget it". That's pretty impressive- me, I'd figure I did that much time for a murder I didn't commit, then I'd have a freebie coming to me.

It seems no matter how many times we hear stories like this, there are still people who don't get that the "process" and rules of law enforcement and due process shouldn't be bent just to "get the bad guy", because when that's done, this is the result.
posted by hincandenza at 3:17 PM on January 15, 2002

You wonder about the jury convicting in a case such as this. 27 years ago, the British public were much more ready to believe the police, and if the police said the confession was freely given...

I'd like to believe the same thing couldn't happen now, but I have misgivings about the convictions of both Michael Stone and Barry George. In both of these cases, unless there was more compelling evidence apparently not reported by the media, it seems scarily easy to be convicted of murder, once the police think they have the right man.
posted by salmacis at 5:01 PM on January 15, 2002

Damned if you do, damned if you don't...

Mr Downing would almost certainly have been released from Littlehey Prison, Cambridgeshire, years earlier if he had not continued to insist on his innocence.
posted by fotzepolitic at 5:02 PM on January 15, 2002

The article is about his being improperly convicted. It looks like the evidence against him was pretty convincing, and the article makes it clear that Downing has not been cleared of all charges or declared innocent.

That said, the specter of wrongful conviction is the most compelling argument against the death penalty that I can imagine. What if this case had happened in the US? An "I'm sorry" after 27 years in prison is bad enough. An "I'm sorry" after an execution is in a whole different class.

posted by MrMoonPie at 7:31 AM on January 16, 2002

No, MrMoonPie, the evidence against him is not compelling at all. If the evidence was so compelling I doubt that there would have been a 27 year campaign to free him.
posted by salmacis at 10:57 AM on January 16, 2002

I base my opinion solely on the articles linked above, which point out flaws in the prosecution, while only hinting at flaws in the evidence. Care to enlighten me, salmacis?
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:08 PM on January 16, 2002

Maybe the judge couldn't hear through that silly wig.
posted by adampsyche at 12:52 PM on January 16, 2002

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