Michael Daniel NYT – Found In Hospital, DNA Clears Buffalo Man Convicted in ‘80s Rape Case – C13 3/30/2007

Anthony Capozzi has been in prison for 20 years, convicted on two counts of rape which he did not commit. He has been exonerated by DNA evidence that the Erie County Medical Center repeatedly claimed they did not have when they were presented with subpoenas for it. The DNA was discovered by a pathologist. Other slides were found that could be used as evidence in hundreds of rapes between 1973 and 2002. The DNA matched a serial rapist named Altemio Sanchez. Mr. Capozzi was sentenced in 1987 to 11 2/3 to 35 years in prison. He could have been let out sooner but the parole board kept denying his parole because he did not admit to the crime. Mr. Capozzi suffers from schizophrenia and will probably be placed into an assisted-living facility after he is released from prison. This case illustrates that eyewitness testimony is not always accurate. Mr. Capozzi was identified as the rapist by three separate victims. When initially describing the rapes they described the rapist as being 50 lbs heavier than Capozzi and they failed to mention Capozzi’s prominent three inch facial scar. Unfortunately, all three of them identified the wrong person and as a result Mr. Capozzi was wrongfully imprisoned. Perhaps this is due to the incredible mental stress these women experienced. From my understanding there were fewer options for counseling available to rape victims in 1987. Perhaps if this happened today they would have taken advantage of crisis centers and as a result they would not have accused the wrong man. This case reminds me of “Landscape of History” where Gaddis argues that the perspective of the historian is better than the perspective of an eyewitness. The

eyewitnesses identified the wrong man as the rapist. This could have been due to many factors, such as mental stress and lighting. The historian uses the tools of critical thinking to understand the past. Historians also use the tools of science, such as DNA and carbon dating, to find truth. In this case, the historians tools proved to be more reliable than the experiences of an eyewitness. I was disappointed to read that Capozzi will be transferred from a prison to an assisted living facility. He’s leaving one institution to go and live in another institution. An assisted living facility is better than prison but if I were in prison for 20 years that would not be the type of freedom that I would dream about having. Perhaps it is for his own good, though. He does suffer from schizophrenia. I think that he wasn’t completely happy with his situation either. When his sister told him that he was getting out he said, “Really? Who is going to pick me up and take me there?” His sister thought that he hadn’t fully digested the information at the time. I think that he fully understands what is happening but is not happy to go to an assisted living facility. The district attorney was quoted as saying, “I’ve always said, don’t give me opinion. I don’t care what you think, nor does the law care what you think. We deal in facts.” The district attorney makes a fallacious statement here because he leaves a great deal of room for value conflicts. A strongly held opinion is commonly described as a fact by believers. Facts are commonly described as opinions by non-believers. Take global warming, for example. Most people would probably call global warming a fact, but Dr. Lomborg, a political scientist, would call it an opinion (he published “The Skeptical Environmentalist” which questions global warming).