In the early morning hours of Dec. 4, 1975, in the close-knit community of Far Rockaway, Queens, Marcus Washington was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He heard something about the brutal murder of an old woman in the neighborhood. It wasn’t any of his business. He should have stayed quiet and walked away. He didn’t do either of those things. Instead, his non-criminal actions resulted in a life sentence. He wound up doing 29 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Today, he can hardly speak – without weeping – of the lost years he spent wrongly incarcerated. But, he has plenty to say about his gratitude toward Centurion, the non-profit organization that worked tirelessly for 15 years on his behalf. As a result of the group’s work, Washington is out on parole. He has yet to be exonerated but at least he is out of jail. Centurion remains on the job, however, working to clear Washington’s name.
It may sound like the storyline of a Law & Order episode. However, it’s as real-life as it gets. Mr. Washington is one of countless men and women who lost their freedom because of mistakes made during criminal investigations. Blame it on bad lawyering, eyewitness misidentification, false confessions, bad information obtained from informants, police misconduct or something else. Regardless, due to mistakes, so many people are convicted and thrown in jail all over the world, facing either life in prison or death sentences, for crimes they didn’t commit. They’ve drained their bank accounts and energy trying to fight what almost always is an unwinnable battle.
Centurion is dedicated to taking on hard cases of people wrongly convicted and sentenced to death or life in prison in the United States and Canada. The group’s success rate is unprecedented; since 1980, Centurion has helped to free 54 men and women from prison.
“We take on the hard cases, the ones others leave behind. We are a small but mighty organization that goes boots to the ground, uncovering lost evidence, finding new evidence, convincing a coerced witness to come forward with the truth, overturning false confessions and sometimes even finding the real criminal,” the group’s website proclaims.
It’s difficult and expensive work. It costs over $350,000 to get an innocent person exonerated. Centurion, a 501(c) (3) organization, bears all the costs. The work is never done; more than 1,500 new requests for help come in each year. At any one time, Centurion is working to develop winning cases for 150 people. The organization relies on the donations of those who believe in justice to pay for lawyers and more.
At its 20th anniversary Gala celebration held at Rat’s Restaurant on the spectacular Grounds for Sculpture in May, Internet Creations held a silent auction featuring a wide variety of interesting items as well as an exciting drone raffle. We raised more than $5,000 for Centurion and had the opportunity to celebrate in person with several of the exonerated individuals, including Mr. Washington.
Special thanks to all friends and family who participated in the fundraising activities as well as the businesses and individuals who so generously donated items for the silent auction. We would like to recognize the following local people and companies for their commitment to celebrating Internet Creations and supporting Centurion: Chaddsford Winery, Trenton Thunder, Billy Ray Davis, McCarter Theatre, Sidekicks, Mastoris, DeLorenzo’s, Alstarz, Mannino’s, Town & Country, Hightstown Diner, Gennaro’s, Tom & Patti Tafrow, Spigola Ristorante, Grounds for Sculpture, Howard Yermish, The Westin Princeton at Forrestal Village, and Rat’s Restaurant.