It’s not every day that both a rescue dog and a prisoner take their freedom-walk together.
Can you imagine spending nearly 40 years in prison in a state penitentiary for a horrendous crime that you had nothing to do with? It’s a nightmare that, tragically, is etched in reality for Malcolm Alexander. The Louisiana-based man was wrongfully convicted of a crime he never committed in 1980 and spent the next 38 years fighting it with everything he had from within the cell walls of a maximum-security prison.
Thankfully, though, he wasn’t completely alone. He had his Dog, Inn, with him to get him through the lowest points in the battle for his freedom.
Inn’s devotion to her dad finally paid off two years ago when the prisoner was exonerated of all charges after proving his innocence.
In 1979, a white woman opened a new antique store in Gretna, Louisiana and shortly after was raped by a black man. He had entered the store and grabbed her from behind then forced her into a dark bathroom. There, he held her facing away from him with a gun to the back of her head while he committed the horrendous crime.
Due to another accusation from a different woman who was proven to be lying, Malcolm’s photo ended up being presented to the rape victim with several others as part of an identification procedure. Though it was recorded that she “tentatively” chose Malcolm’s picture as a “possible” match, by the time it went to trial she said she was 98% positive it was Malcolm.
Malcolm was then wrongfully convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
The prisoner was sent to the Louisiana State Penetentiary to serve out his setence.
The Angola prison has a history as a plantation that was later converted into the maximum security “prison farm” that it is now. Since he arrived all those decades ago, Malcolm has maintained that he is innocent of the crime every single day.
Thankfully, The Innocence Project believed Malcolm and started working to prove his innocense in 1996, but it would be 17 years before they made any headway.
Thankfully, in the meantime Malcolm met Inn and the dog was able to keep the prisoner’s spirits lifted in hope of better days.
While there are several official programs that allow inmates to raise dogs, that wasn’t how the prisoner met his dog. Inn happened to be the runt of the litter of another inmate that Malcolm was friends with in the prison. According to him, he picked Inn out of the litter because she needed him the most.
“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 his devoted dog.
That day finally came on January 30th, 2018, when Malcolm was exonerated of all charges and he stepped out of the Angola institution, leaving his days as a prisoner behind him for good.
The Innocence Project staff coordinated with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office and local counsel from Innocence Project New Orleans to pour over Malcolm’s case and find the missing link that would prove his innocence.
The Projects mission is to help free the thousands of people that have been wrongfully convicted as a result of inadequate legal representation. Whether it’s because a lawyer is neglectful or if they are just overloaded, tragically there are too many that let innocent clients fall through the cracks. The Project aims to set that to rights.
Malcolm fits into that category perfectly.
It was found in the court transcript of Malcolm’s trial that his lawyer failed horribly 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.
Though it was available, Malcolm’s lawyer never sought rape kit blood-type testing, something that would have proven his innocence beyond a doubt. He also didn’t show up for court on more than one occasion, failed to file significant pleadings (such as challenging the means of Malcolm’s identification in 1980), and didn’t give an opening statemet in Malcolm’s trial.
If that weren’t bad enough, he didn’t call any witnesses to Malcolm’s defense and even failed to “adequately cross-examine ” state witnesses regarding his identification.
Then, in 2013, The Innocence Project discovered hair strands found in evidence at the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office Crime Lab. The counsel overseeing Malcolm’s case sought DNA testing which revealed that the hair belonged neither to him nor the rape victim, indicating it was someone else who committed the crime.
Eventually, after a long, arduous legal process and cutting through red tape, Malcolm’s innocence was finally proven and he was released.
Thankfully, Inn was given her freedom as well just one day after her dad walked away from the prison.
Malcolm and Inn are staying with his son, Malcom II, who is now in his forties. He and his son will reconnect while Malcolm works on piecing his life together after so long in prison. He and Inn will continue leaning on each other through the good times and even the tough ones.
“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.
While in prison, Malcolm learned the craft of woodworking and jewelry-making and is hoping to start his own business in carpentry and selling his jewelry at New Orleans market booths. If you would like to help him get his life going, you can donate to him here. To see the tearjerking moment that he and Inn were reunited as free beings, watch the video below.
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