The Innocent Project mourns the loss of Alfred Swinton, a former client and member of our family. Mr. Swinton, who spent 16 years in prison for a murder he did not commit, passed away last week. He was 64 years old.
Mr. Swinton was wrongly convicted of a 1991 murder in Hartford, Connecticut, largely based on bite mark analsysis — an invalid forensic method.
When I met Mr. Swinton for the first time in January 2016 at the Macdougall-Walker Correctional Institution in Suffield, Connecticut, it was clear that the years he had already spent in prison had destroyed his health. He could barely see through the prison-issued eyeglasses, which did not have a proper prescription, and could hardly walk even with his prison-issued cane since what he actually needed was a walker. And it was plain Mr. Swinton’s mental health had deteriorated as a result of his wrongful imprisonment as well.
All that changed the moment he walked out of jail a year and half later. With freedom, new glasses, a walker, proper medical care and his family’s support, the real Alfred Swinton emerged — a man with an infectious smile, charm, and an irrepressible optimism that his many friends at the Innocence Project will always remember.
On March 2, 2018, Mr. Swinton was fully exonerated, and he celebrated with his beautiful family, who stood by him throughout his nearly two-decade-long ordeal.
Mr. Swinton was compensated only a few months ago for the years he spent wrongfully incarcerated. He went on his first real vacation — flying first-class to Florida — in April. But his health rapidly declined, largely the result of years of neglectful prison health care.
Sadly, his years of indifferent medical treatment could not be overcome, and as a result Mr. Swinton spent far too little time enjoying the freedom that he was denied for so long.
In his few years of freedom, Mr. Swinton touched so many here at the Innocence Project, myself included. Below are some of the memories our staff shared:
My heart breaks for Mr. Swinton’s loving and supportive family, especially his sister Jessie White. She has always been there for him; advocating for him when he was in prison, when he was getting out of prison, and when he was adjusting to life as a free man. She used her platform from Mr. Swinton’s case to advocate for criminal justice reform in Connecticut which will make it easier for others to prove their innocence. I will miss Mr. Swinton’s infectious smile and laugh, he was such a kind soul.
— Adnan Sultan, staff attorney
Mr. Swinton! What fortitude, what a spirit. As your body deteriorated behind the prison walls, you immersed yourself in every article and forensic science textbook you could come upon and fought for your liberation — and you prevailed! Such a beautiful soul, radiating a positivity and love that defied all that you endured. I cherish the memories of the time I spent in your presence. We are only just beginning to see the extent of the change you have inspired.
— Vanessa Potkin, director of special litigation
The picture of Alfred being released with his arms raised in victory is an image I will carry with me for the rest of my days. It captures triumph, perseverance, and happiness in a bittersweet moment. Thank you for the motivation.
— Kareem Belt, forensic policy analyst
Just seeing Mr. Swinton’s infectious smile and joy one time was enough for me to adore him forever. After all that he suffered, his spirit remained resilient and he inspired everyone in his path. I wish he had more time on Earth to relish in his freedom and make up for lost time with his loved ones. Mr. Swinton, for you I will smile and keep fighting for justice each day just as you have taught me.
— Alicia Maule, digital engagement director
This content originally appeared on Innocence Project and was authored by Dani Selby.