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Discussion Brings Together Victim, Man Wrongfully Convicted

February 14, 2007 | by Pat Vaughan Tremmel

CHICAGO, Ill. --- Robert Wilson, a man who spent a decade in prison after being convicted of a horrific slashing attack, will participate in a discussion at Northwestern University School of Law with the victim of the crime, June Siler, who now has no doubt that she identified the wrong person.

With the help of the Center on Wrongful Convictions, part of the Northwestern University School of Law's Bluhm Legal Clinic, Wilson was exonerated and released from prison.

Wilson and Siler will be introduced and take part in a discussion that is free and open to the public from 1:45 to 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, in the Arthur Rubloff Building, Room 150, at the School of Law, 375 E. Chicago Ave.

Jane Raley and Karen Daniel, Center on Wrongful Convictions attorneys who represented Wilson, will lead the discussion, fielding previously submitted questions from students.

The case is illustrative of how mistaken eyewitness identifications frequently are the results of improper or suggestive police procedures, Raley said.

Ten years ago this month, Siler was attacked by a man with a box cutter at a bus stop. Lying in a hospital recovery room, Siler gave detectives a description of a man in his 20s. The next day police spotted and apprehended Wilson, 41 at the time, at the same bus stop wearing clothes, including a black stocking cap, similar to those the assailant had worn.

Later when detectives showed Siler photos of suspects, she picked the only one wearing a stocking cap, who turned out to be Wilson. After seeing another photo of Wilson, without the cap, and his gray hair, Siler stated that he was too old to be the assailant. But she was ignored. Years later when she was certain that she had made a mistake, she called Wilson's attorneys to help exonerate him.

“We can all learn from these sorts of situations,” said Raley. “All of us would like to see juries be instructed by the court when they're evaluating eye-witness testimony. We need to think about bringing certain reforms to the justice system.”

Raley said Wilson and Siler's story is also one about forgiveness.

“Robert Wilson sees June Siler as his hero,” she said. “He thinks she's done a wonderful thing by coming forward, and he does not blame her. He blames the system.”

Siler and Wilson wanted their meeting to be in a university setting because they view it as having an educational component.

The Center on Wrongful Convictions is dedicated to identifying and rectifying wrongful convictions and other serious miscarriages of justice. For more information about the center, visit: <www.law.northwestern.edu/depts/clinic/wrongful/index.htm>.

Topics: Campus Life, University News