MaryAnn Lubas' son is serving 8-16 years for an aggravated assault charge he says he did not commit. "We had jurors that slept, that ate with the victims, and that were outside the courthouse left unattended. Those factors, we believe played a big role in the jury's decision in our son's case," said Lubas, who has dedicated her life to making sure others are not wrongfully convicted.
Lubas is now the head of the Pennsylvania Freedom March for the Wrongfully Convicted. Her group is pushing for all interrogations in Pennsylvania to be taped, the elimination of testimony from so-called "jail house snitches," and more aggressive investigations into claims of prosecutorial misconduct.
"When this happened to our son we were so blind. We had no idea this could happen in our country," said Lubas. "Once it did, we just could not sit back and say, 'Oh well, too bad,' we need to let others know."
She believes her efforts are paying a dividend.
Lubas points to a recently released report [PDF] by the Pennsylvania Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions as proof. The report, sent to the Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee, contained a long list of recommendations including a call for tighter laws on eyewitness identification procedures, more robust DNA database use, and the three items Lubas has been championing.
A small group of marchers circled the City-County Building in Pittsburgh Monday afternoon calling for the reforms. Among the marchers was Jeffery Deskovic. Deskovic was wrongfully convicted of a rape and murder in 1990 when he was 16 years old. He spent the next 16 years in a New York State prison before he was exonerated and released.
It was not easy for Deskovic to re-enter society. "Firstly, the world was much different technologically. I had to cope with the trauma of being wrongfully incarcerated. I had to try to repair relations with my immediate and extended family who, in 16 years, had become strangers to me," said Deskovic.
There is no timeline for the Pennsylvania Senate to take up the recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Wrongful Convictions.