On September 27, 2020, the Washington Post featured Venable’s successful effort to clear Troy Burner of aiding and abetting a 1994 District of Columbia murder. Burner spent almost 25 years in prison.
In March, based on the exculpatory testimony of Mr. Burner’s co-defendants, evidence from two alibi witnesses, and the sworn recantation of the only eyewitness who testified against Burner at trial, DC Superior Court Judge Robert Rigsby reversed Burner’s convictions. He found Burner "was not present at the scene of the crime” and declared it “more likely than not that Burner is actually innocent." Five months later, at the end of August, prosecutors said they would not retry the case and dropped the charges.
Rosenthal told the Post that his client’s case exemplifies one frequent problem in wrongful conviction cases: reliance on witnesses seeking favor for their testimony. In Burner’s case, the lone eyewitness came forward three years after the crime, right after he was arrested for a different murder. As the Post reported, his account varied considerably over time.
"It demonstrates the real problems with cases that rest exclusively with cooperator testimony and how flawed those cases are,” Rosenthal said. “In these innocence cases, you often see incentivized testimonies that turn out to be false."
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