Refusing to Lie, an Innocent Man Spent 22 Extra Years in Prison to Protect the Truth

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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Published February 5, 2020 by Mother Jones

He could have gotten out of prison years earlier. But he wouldn’t take a plea—because he didn’t do the crime.

Last week, after 25 years behind bars and 10 more years outside of prison shadowed by his unjust “record,” a judge in New York vacated Rafael Ruiz’s rape conviction in light of DNA evidence exonerating him. Ruiz had been convicted despite the fact that he did not match the description of the attacker.

If he would have pleaded to a lesser charge, he would have been out in three years, he was told. That’s the coercive calculation that leaves many innocent people with a criminal record, unable to vote in many cases, and tarnished as they search for jobs.

“I was thinking about my freedom all the time I was in there, the best way I could,” Ruiz said. “I didn’t want to take no deal, because I’m not a criminal. I’m glad I ain’t took no bid, I’m glad I tried to prove my innocence, I’m glad people came along and helped me.”

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