News| Law | N.Y. Man No Longer Labeled a Killer

Published February 11, 2008

Posted May 17, 2006 – After spending ten years behind bars, a 44-year-old New York man was wheeled out of courtroom a free man Tuesday.

DNA tests proved that Douglas Arthur Warney had nothing to do with the stabbing death of a community activist, but an inmmate in the same jail did.

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 "I'm angry that I was put in a position that could have cost me my life," said a weak Douglas Warney, who now has advanced AIDS.

"Ten years of my life that I'll never get back...But I can't bring anger out of prison and into society if I want to become a better citizen," he said as tears streamed down his face. 

Warney originally had confessed to murder and signed a statement saying he killed local Million Man March organizer William Beason in a 1996 robbery attempt. But his lawyers said Warney was coerced into it while suffering dementia from his illness. 

So why did he confess to the crime?

Warney told reporters that he got tired of the "threats."

"I got tired of their hands in my face, walking around me, scaring me. I was sick at the time. So I just got tired of it and I said, take me to jail, take me to jail."

In 2004, attempts to clear Warney's name and perform DNA tests were blocked in court.

The Innocence Project, a New York legal clinic that tries to free wrongly convicted inmates, then took up the case and fought for DNA testing, which hadn't been available before.  That testing produced blood evidence that pointed to another man - Eldred Johnson - a convicted killer already serving time.

After DNA pointed to Johnson in the Beason killing, investigators questioned him and he confessed.

"All I can say is, 'God is good,'" Warney said.

One of Warney's attorneys, William Easton, said this case shows there are legitimate reasons to revisit questions about guilt.

"I think this case is a cautionary tale to anyone who believes that the criminal justice system operates in a fair and flawless way," Easton said.

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Written by BET-Staff

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