Target: Jacqueline McMurtrie, Director of the Innocence Project Northwest
Goal: Congratulate the two law students who secured the release of a wrongly convicted man
Ten years is a huge span of time. You could do a lot in ten years: go to college, get married, get a great job, and start a family. Or you could spend it in jail, wrongly convicted for a crime you did not commit. That is what happened to Brandon Olebar.
Convicted on eyewitness testimony, Brandon Olebar spent the last decade in prison. He might have spent a lot more time in prison, too, if two law students working for the Innocence Project Northwest hadn’t found compelling evidence to suggest that Brandon Olebar was not even at the scene of the crime when it happened.
The crime he was wrongly convicted of was brutal: someone broke into his sister’s boyfriend’s house and beat him until he lost consciousness. The victim claimed Olebar was involved, so he was charged for breaking into the house and stealing personal possessions.
The police should never have charged Olebar to begin with. For one thing, he had an alibi. For another, the only evidence that he was at the scene of the crime was the victim’s word. Despite the lack of evidence, a jury convicted Olebar to almost 17 years in prison.
Olebar deserves justice. He has served over half of a term for a crime he did not commit. Applaud the two law students who were pivotal in securing his release. Demand that Washington state law enforcement workers figure out a better way to prevent wrongful convictions in future cases.
Dear Jacqueline McMurtrie,
Because of your role as Director of the Innocence Project Northwest, I am writing to ask you to heartily congratulate the two law students who worked to gather the evidence necessary to reopen Brandon Olebar’s case. As you are aware, Brandon Olebar was wrongly convicted for a crime he did not commit, all because he was misidentified by the victim in a line-up.
Unfortunately, Brandon Olebar’s release came ten years into a 16 1/2 year sentence. Under current state law, he can request $50,000 from the state for every year he wrongly spent in prison. This will go part of the way toward paying for the damage done to him and his family, but nothing can buy back the ten years Brandon Olebar spent in jail.
While other people were lucky enough to spend those ten years with the people they love, Brandon Olebar was trapped by a system that convicted him simply based on the eyewitness testimony of a single individual: the man he supposedly attacked.
This should not have happened to Brandon Olebar. It should not happen to anyone. In a system like ours, a man with an alibi should not be sent to prison for almost two decades based on one person’s eyewitness testimony.
In addition to thanking the two students who helped secure Brandon Olebar’s release, I thank you, too, for fighting so hard for everyone who is wrongly convicted. Law enforcement officers need to figure out a way to keep this from happening in future cases immediately, but until then, thank you for everything you do.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: timpearcelosgatos via Flickr