McCloskey had no reason to believe De Los Santos. After all, don't
all inmates proclaim their innocence? But, as a new audience of one
for the inmate, McCloskey finally agreed to skim legal documents
from the case. To his surprise, he discovered that a witness who
identified De Los Santos as the murderer had given false testimony.
Furthermore, McCloskey discovered, as he dug deeper, that a fellow
inmate had swapped an alleged jailhouse confession from De Los
Santos for leniency, another deal never disclosed to the defendant.
Well, McCloskey thought, maybe not all inmates who proclaim
their innocence are lying.
McCloskey took a one-year leave from the seminary, raised $25,000,
learned investigative techniques, and found a lawyer willing to
file an appeal. He found the jailhouse informant whose testimony
had helped prosecutors convict De Los Santos and persuaded him to
admit he had lied. As a result, De Los Santos was freed in
ALTHOUGH IT DEFIES common sense and the principles of
fairness and justice, evidence of actual innocence is frequently
ignored when presented after a jury or a judge has issued a guilty
verdict. Police, prosecutors, and judges value finality: They are
overwhelmed by new cases; the victims deserve closure; new evidence
sometimes is not probative; reopening cases is time-consuming and
expensive; the reasons pile up.
McCloskey began to understand the paths of resistance during his
lonely, quixotic De Los Santos investigation. Wondering whether the
obstacles would defeat his effort, McCloskey completed his divinity
degree in 1983. By then, so many other needy inmates had approached
him, McCloskey abandoned his dream of ministering to a congregation
in a traditional church setting. Instead, he decided to devote his
life to assisting men and women who appeared to fall into the
category of "imprisoned innocent."