It is a sad truth throughout America’s prison system. There are countless incarcerated men and women who were wrongfully convicted of crimes. Whether it was mistaken identity, a biased jury, insufficient evidence or the result of an incompetent defense attorney, many of these prisoners will never regain their freedom. But Terry Olson is one of the fortunate. The 57-year-old Olson was released from prison in Faribault, MN after serving almost ten years for a murder he did not commit.
Olson was convicted in 2007 of the murder of Jeff Hammill, whose body was found on a road in Buffalo, MN in 1979. Olson faced another 7 years in prison. But thanks to the tireless efforts of his attorneys and the Innocence Project of Minnesota, he is now a free man. Olson accepted a deal that would allow him to help his mother, who is currently in a Twin Cities nursing home. According to Julie Jonas, legal director of Innocence Project of Minnesota, says more than 3,000 legal hours were spent on the case. According to Jonas, the victim’s mother agreed to the release.
Hammill’s body was discovered at 4 am on August 11, 1979. Olson and a friend had been at a bar the night before going to his sister’s house for a party. Olson and his friend picked up Hammill, who was hitchhiking. Olson had met Hammill three weeks earlier at a fabricating plant. They had been co-workers. After arriving at the party, Hammill requested a ride home. He left the house and was not seen again until police discovered his body with a head wound. After an initial investigation, nobody was charged with murder and the medical examiner listed the cause of death as undetermined. However, the case was reopened after an inquiry by Hammill’s daughter. The examiner changed the cause of death from undetermined to homicide. Olson friend then made a statement that implicated him and another man who attended the party. All three men were with Hammill’s murder.
After being convicted of second and third-degree murder, Olson was sentenced to 7 years in prison. Although the friend testified at the trial and said none of the three men were responsible for Hammill’s death, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reaffirmed the conviction. The State Supreme Court refused to review the case.
The case of Terry Olson is hardly unusual. According to the National Registry of Exonerations, a project at the University of Michigan Law School, 149 people spent an average of 15 years in prison before being cleared of their convictions in 2015. Five of the convicts were facing executions. Another sad truth is most prosecutors never double check past convictions. Most see their job as simply to convict a suspect and to defend their victories during appeals–never reassessing if new evidence overturns their conviction.
When your freedom is at stake, your choice for a Salt Lake City criminal defense attorney is crucial. Do not leave your selection up to chance. Contact David Paul White, a defense attorney with a track record or more than 25 years of protecting the rights of clients and looking out for their best interest.