- County of Conviction: Douglas County, NE
- Convicted of: Rape and robbery
- Sentence: 32-90 years in prison
- Years Served: 42+
Juneal Pratt is innocent.
He was innocent for the entire 42 years he spent in prison for a rape and robbery he did not commit.
He was innocent when he was finally released after spending the majority of his life incarcerated.
And he is still innocent today, despite the fact that the eyes of the law never recognized it.
Juneal, after serving 15,236 days in prison, was granted parole for that crime. He is free, yes. But legally, he is still considered guilty of a crime he did not commit.
Juneal’s case highlights not only the pitfalls of cases that rest on eyewitness identification. But it also shines a light on the legal technicalities that can keep an innocent man “guilty” in the eyes of society, even after he walks out the doors of a prison.
In Omaha, Nebraska in 1975, Juneal was only 19 when he was arrested for a purse snatching. Detectives at the time noted his previous run-ins with the law, and rendered him a suspect for the rape, sodomy, and robbery of two Iowa sisters in 1975.
The victims picked Juneal out of a 3-person lineup – a lineup that violated nearly all of the Department of Justice guidelines. Juneal went to prison, despite several witnesses giving him an alibi for when the crime occurred. Fingerprints from the crime scene also did not match Juneal’s.
He was convicted and sentenced to 32-90 years, then earned additional time for two escape attempts.
Juneal appealed his conviction, and called for re-testing of DNA evidence using new technology. Each test corroborated Juneal’s alibi. But the degraded DNA evidence failed to provide cause for a new trial or exoneration. So, he continued to wait.
He was eligible for parole beginning in 2001, but was denied, in part, because he was unwilling to admit to committing the crime. Parole hearings like to hear remorse from the person convicted — but it’s impossible for innocent people to feel remorse for something they did not do.
The Pardons Board also denied Juneal a commutation hearing, saying he had not completed a sex offender treatment program — overlooking the fact he had completed 23 of the 24-month program, but was assaulted in the final month with a padlock on a belt and did not want to return afterwards.
Eventually in 2017, after more than 4 decades in prison, Juneal was granted parole. His life is still heavily restricted by the state — because of a crime he did not commit, and which all evidence shows someone else committed.
Juneal is free, in the sense that he is no longer incarcerated within a prison. But in the eyes of the law, Juneal is still “guilty.” He will not be fully free until he receives the exoneration or pardon he’s long deserved.
Stay up to date with Juneal by following his Facebook page, Justice for Juneal Pratt.