Eddie Joe Lloyd walked out of a Michigan prison a free man last week after spending 17 years behind bars for a rape and murder that DNA tests prove he did not commit. “To wake up in prison today and walk out this afternoon into the outside world is truly a miracle,” Lloyd exclaimed after his release. After a 30-minute deliberation in 1985, a jury convicted Lloyd of raping and strangling 16-year-old Michelle Jackson. Lloyd was a patient in the Detroit Psychiatric Institute at the time of the murder, and maintains that police coaxed him into confessing.
In 1995, Lloyd contacted the Innocence Project, a New York-based DNA advocacy group, and with their help was exonerated after semen samples taken from the crime scene proved he couldn’t have been the killer. Lloyd is the 110th convicted person to be exonerated using DNA testing through the Innocence Project. Although DNA evidence is one of law enforcement’s most valuable tools for catching criminals, agencies around the country are failing to quickly and adequately process DNA samples, including rape kits. In fact, it is estimated that there is a backlog of nearly 600,000 DNA samples waiting to be tested and uploaded into the FBI’s national database. In an effort to force agencies to handle DNA samples properly, the Senate Judiciary Committee recently passed the DNA Sexual Assault Justice Act of 2002.