Sherman Townsend was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned for over 10 years after being falsely identified by the true perpetrator of a 1997 home invasion. Townsend always maintained his innocence and reached out to anyone who would listen.
Townsend brought his plight to the attention of the Minnesota Innocence Project in 2002 as soon as we began accepting cases. His case was worked on by a number of law students at the Hamline University School of Law and the University of Minnesota Law School, as well as professors and attorneys who believed in Sherman's innocence. This is how the search for the true perpetrator of the crime began.
The search ended when David Jones, the neighbor of the victim, came forward and confessed to the crime. He gave a chilling and detailed description of the events that occurred that night. Jones had been intoxicated and was attempting to sexually assault his female neighbor when he discovered her boyfriend in her room, causing him to flee the scene. In an attempt to avoid going to prison himself in case the victim recognized him, he went back to his neighbor’s home
after the crime and acted as a concerned neighbor when the police arrived on the scene. Jones claimed that he saw a man fleeing the scene and falsely identified Townsend after Townsend was picked up by the police and brought to the scene.
Despite numerous inconsistencies and a lack of any physical evidence tying Townsend to the scene, Jones testified at trial that Townsend was the man that ran into him that night, and Townsend was subsequently convicted. Years later, Jones went to prison himself for rape. While in prison, he suffered a true crisis on conscience when he realized Townsend was still in prison for the crime Jones had committed.
After Jones came forward with a map and affidavits detailing his guilt, and a lengthy hearing where Jones admitted under oath his guilt in the offense, the prosecutor agreed to release Mr. Townsend from prison immediately. After serving over 10 years for a crime he didn’t commit, Mr. Townsend remains upbeat stating, “I don’t think they took my life away; I think I go from this day forward.”