When this innocent man was sent to prison for 38 years for a crime he didn’t commit, the love of his dog got him through some of the darkest days until finally he was released.
Malcolm Alexander was from Louisiana and had hopes and dreams just as all young men do. Sadly, his were cut short after a traumatized woman tentatively identified him as her rapist.
The tragedy began in 1979 after a woman opened an antique store in Gretna, Louisiana. One day after her grand opening, a man entered her store, put a gun to her head, and then forced her into a backroom where he raped her, while she was facing away from him.
When the police began investigating, a second woman who was later proved to be lying, made an accusation which resulted in Malcom’s photograph being presented to the victim along with other men in a photo lineup.
Police records show that the woman “tentatively” chose Malcolm’s photo as a “possible match.” Yet, despite her hesitation and lack of evidence, by the time the case reached trial, she was 98% certain it was Malcolm who raped her.
Despite Malcolm’s innocence, the trial went forward. Then the unimaginable happened, Malcolm was wrongly convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison, without the possibility of parole. He was remanded to Louisiana State Penitentiary to live out the rest of his days behind bars.
In the maximum security “prison farm”, Malcolm maintained his innocence. Finally, the Innocence Project began looking into his case and decided to help him. However, it would be 17 years before any real advancements in his case were made.
Meanwhile, Malcolm was surviving in prison as best as he could while fighting to prove he didn’t commit the crime. During that time, he was friends with a fellow prisoner who participated in a program that allowed inmates to raise dogs. When his dog had a litter of puppies, that was when Malcolm met the dog that would become his beacon of hope behind bars. The pup was the runt of the litter. Malcolm said he chose her because she needed him the most. He went on to explain how she got her name:
“I named her Inn because I was innocent and she was innocent,” says Malcolm in an interview with TODAY. Malcolm went on to say that, as a prisoner, he would hold conversations with Inn and dream of the day they’d both gain their freedom. “One day we’ll be out of here. Just be patient,” he recalls telling her.
In the meantime, The Innocence Project coordinated with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and local counsel from Innocence Project New Orleans were reviewing Malcolm’s case. They discovered his lawyer has failed miserably to defend him.
“The stakes in this case couldn’t have been higher for Mr. Alexander who faced a mandatory sentence of life without parole, yet the attorney that he entrusted with his life did next to nothing to defend him,” said Innocence Project’s post-conviction litigation director, Vanessa Potkin.
Despite the availability, his lawyer never requested a rape kit, blood typing, failed to sign important pleadings, never gave an opening statement at trial, failed to cross examine defense witnesses, and didn’t even bother to show up for court on many days. As a result of his carelessness, Malcolm spent 38 years behind bars.
Finally, in 2013, The Innocence Project discovered the solid evidence that would set Malcolm free. Hair strands were found in evidence at the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab. The hair was DNA tested and revealed that it belonged neither to him nor the rape victim. Someone else committed the crime.
Malcolm was finally released from prison and one day later, Inn was also returned to him. He said:
“To have a dog is a privilege. It makes the world different,” Malcolm says of Inn. “Let what happened be gone, and let’s move on. Simple. I’m surrounded by love,” he explains his feelings on his wrongful conviction.
Please share his story with your family and friends.