All charges against Ron Jacobsen were dropped by the District Attorney (DA) for Newnan County, Georgia, on September 1, 2021—over 30 years after he was wrongfully convicted of kidnapping and raping a woman in Covington in 1990.
Though Jacobsen was several hundred miles away with his fiancée and her family at the time of the crime, he was identified as the perpetrator by the victim, whom he had briefly dated several months earlier. He was then convicted and sentenced to prison, where he continued to maintain his innocence.
In 2017, lawyers from the Innocence Project secured DNA testing of evidence from the crime scene. The results excluded Jacobsen as a suspect. Yet the DA fought reopening the case for two years before an appeals court overturned the conviction in 2019.
The DA wasn’t through with Jacobsen, however, and announced a re-trial. The DA also opposed any bail, and a judge set it at $500,000. The DA then offered Jacobsen a deal that would result in his immediate release from prison in exchange for his guilty plea. Jacobsen refused.
Meanwhile some 1,300 people donated money to raise bail for him, and he was released on November 4, 2020. For the next ten months, he waited on home confinement at his sister’s house in his native New York until the charges were finally dropped.
“The District Attorney’s Office fought DNA testing in this case and then opposed a new trial even after DNA testing excluded Mr. Jacobsen as the assailant. It later fought to keep him in jail after his conviction was vacated, claiming that it would retry him for over two years in spite of the exonerating DNA evidence,” said Innocence Project attorney Vanessa Potkin.
“The District Attorney’s Office’s claim that Mr. Jacobsen was too dangerous to be released on bail while awaiting a retrial, but could walk free immediately if he pleaded guilty, is unconscionable. It also demonstrates how plea bargains can be used coercively to obtain and uphold convictions without truth or fairness. Not everyone is able to do what Mr. Jacobsen did — reject an opportunity to walk out of prison after 30 years of wrongful incarceration, knowing he could be imprisoned months or years more and that COVID-19 was spreading rapidly through jails. Ron’s perseverance and fortitude has enabled him to finally get justice.”
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