A Past Plagued With Violence
When he was just 8-years-old, he witnessed his father beat his pregnant mother to death. He and his siblings were later sent to foster care. When he was 16, one of his brothers was stabbed to death. Another was shot to death. Another died of AIDs.
He had trouble with the law at age 17, with arrests for theft and attempted robbery, landing him in jail for nearly three years.
With all of his personal hardships and legal issues, Bozella found himself in more trouble than he could have ever imagined during the summer of 1977.
Bribes and False Testimonies
According to the National Registry of Exonerations:
“Police suspected the involvement of brothers Lamar and Stanley Smith, as well as Dewey Bozella, who had a record of petty crime and was known to hang around the area. The Smith brothers initially denied any knowledge of the crime, but they changed their story when police lied to them, stating that Bozella had accused them of the murder.
Lamar then told police he had seen Bozella and another man, Wayne Mosley, on the front porch of the victim’s house trying to break in. Stanley told police that he had seen Bozella, Mosley, and a third man in a nearby park before the burglary.”
After returning home from a church bingo game, 18-year-old Bozella was arrested. He of course denied the whole thing. He said he was far from the crime when it took place, and there was no physical evidence linking him to it.
A fingerprint was even found at the crime scene that matched a separate individual – an individual who had committed an identical murder around the same time.
In court, the first grand jury refused to issue an indictment against Bozella. The charges were dropped. That should have been the end of the case. There was no physical evidence.
But prosecutors were eager to find him guilty, even if it meant granting immunity and a reduced prison sentence to Wayne Mosley, a man who was currently serving time, in return for a testimony against Bozella.
So 6 years after the charges were dropped, Bozella heard that there was a warrant out for his arrest. He was taken in and convicted of the murder based on the testimonies given by Wayne Moseley and Lamar Smith.
He was found guilty and sentenced to 20-years-to-life on December 3, 1983.
The Plea Deal
He had hopes and dreams. He wanted a family. He wanted to be a professional boxer. He wanted life out of prison. All he had to do was sign the papers. His response?
He was again found guilty on December 13, 1990.
Contradictions and Hidden Evidence
In 2007, after both Smith brothers had recanted their testimonies, Bozella’s attorneys were prompted by the Innocent Project to investigate.
Olga Akselrod, an attorney for the Innocent Project, knew they could find a way to grant Bozella his freedom:
"I knew he was innocent, and I knew that if somebody just dug in there - if somebody just did some more investigation - then they would find something that would overturn that conviction."
According to ABC News, the attorneys did find something.
After examining a copy of the lead detective’s 30-year-old case file, they found interviews with witnesses that directly contradicted testimonies given by Lamar Smith and Wayne Mosley.
They also found a file which revealed “that prosecution witnesses had lied, and that another suspect had confessed to the crime – information that had been withheld from Bozella's lawyers all those years.”
On February of 2015, he was granted a settlement of $7.5 million, even though, according to the New York Times, the payment did not “admit any fault or liability on the part of any of its officials.”