June 6, 2007
Contact:

Anna Christopher, NPR
Emily Lenzner, NPR
   

NPR NEWS REPORTS ON
“THE EXONERATION OF LARRY PETERSON”

NPR’S ROBERT SIEGEL LOOKS AT A NEW JERSEY MAN’S STRUGGLE
TO REENTER SOCIETY AFTER NEARLY 18 YEARS
OF WRONGFUL IMPRISONMENT
ON NPR NEWS ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, JUNE 12 & 13




June 6, 2007; Washington, D.C. – Since 1989, more than 200 American citizens have been cleared of crimes they did not commit thanks to the propagation of DNA testing and the efforts of organizations such as The Innocence Project, a nonprofit litigation and public policy group dedicated to overturning wrongful imprisonments. But what happens to these individuals after they are released? Are they accepted back into the community and able to find and hold a job? And what does their release mean for the victims’ families, suddenly without a face to pin the crime?

NPR host Robert Siegel explores one man’s pursuit of vindication after nearly 18 years behind bars in “The Exoneration of Larry Peterson,” a two-part documentary airing June 12 and 13 on NPR News All Things Considered. For stations and broadcast times, visit www.NPR.org/stations.

In 1989, Larry Peterson of Burlington Country, New Jersey, was sentenced to 40 years in Trenton State Prison for the 1987 rape and murder of Jacqueline Harrison. “The Exoneration of Larry Peterson” begins in April 2005, when Peterson is 54 years old and awaiting release from Trenton State after a DNA test cleared him of a connection to the crime scene. “Many people say, ‘Can any good thing come out of Trenton State?’” Peterson tells Siegel. “Well, something is about to come out of Trenton State that’s good. …Larry Leon Peterson.”

But, as Siegel reports, freedom for Peterson does not come easy. A Burlington County prosecutor commits to retrying Peterson for the same crimes, although his case quickly falls apart when a key witness, Robert Elder, recants his testimony that Peterson bragged about the crime. Elder tells Siegel, “I feel real bad about telling a white lie.” Elder says that he made up the story about Peterson to satisfy the detectives. “I was scared,” he says. “I was like – let me give these guys what they want. I’ll make up a story or something.”

Finally free, Peterson struggles to hold down a job and become financially independent. “Everyday I wake up is a challenge,” says Peterson. “You try to put your life in order, there’s always something above you, you know. New Jersey -- I just can’t get rid of New Jersey. New Jersey have a stench on me.” He sues the state, seeking recognition of his innocence and compensation for years spent behind bars. The state refuses his claims. The burden is on Peterson to prove his innocence.

Siegel also visits with the victim’s family, stunned and unable to accept Peterson’s exoneration. The victim’s sister Patricia tells Siegel that despite the DNA results and Elder’s recantation, she still believes Peterson raped and murdered her sister. “If I had my way, Mr. Peterson would be dead,” she says. “At minimum, he would be still in Trenton State.”

Additional information about “The Exoneration of Larry Peterson” will be available at www.NPR.org and will include audio extras and a timeline of the State of New Jersey vs. Larry Peterson. The senior producer is Julia Redpath Buckley and the executive producer is Christopher Turpin.

All Things Considered, NPR's signature afternoon news magazine, is hosted by Melissa Block, Michele Norris, and Robert Siegel and reaches 11.5 million listeners weekly. To find local stations and broadcast times, visit www.NPR.org.