It Could Have Been You

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It could have been you who strolled into a Phoenix lounge in 1991 and into a death sentence for a heinous crime you did not commit.

It could have been you standing in front of a judge when the so-called courtroom "experts" testified that bite marks found on the victim matched your teeth.

It could have been you who lost 10 years of your life in prison, including two years and eight months on death row.

Yesterday, it could have been you who was finally freed when DNA findings not only proved your innocence, but by odds of 1.3 quadrillion to one the guilt of another man, a convicted sex offender, who'd been in the lounge that night.

And it could have been you that Maricopa County Attorney Rick Romley was talking about when he said, "He deserves an apology from us, that's for sure. A mistake was made here. ... What do you say to him? An injustice was done and we will try to do better. And we're sorry."

It was just a tiny twist of fate, a matter of timing, that it wasn't you who lived this nightmare, but Valley resident Ray Krone now the second Arizona convict to be exonerated by genetic technology, and the first in the wake of a death sentence.

Krone's story ignites a variety of emotions: Outrage at a legal system in which such a miscarriage of justice could occur; anger that, when it happens, all the jailed man gets is a warm apology, a handshake and a ride home; and hope that, at the very least, sufficient lessons will be culled from Krone's experience to keep the same thing from happening to ... well, to you.

But mostly, this particular case inspires admiration for Ray Krone a man who yesterday looked back on 10 years of hell and said, "I'm not pointing fingers ... maybe it was a mistake." A man who recalled reading from his Bible each night, and saying a prayer "for the truth to come out and, Lord, change the hearts of my accusers."

You have to wonder:

Could that have been me, too?

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