Alan Crotzer and another man were convicted in 1982 of robbery and the rape of a mother and her 12-year-old daughter. Both men were sentenced to 130 years. DNA testing later proved that Crotzer, who had claimed innocence, was not the rapist, and another convicted of the crime admitted Crotzer wasn’t involved. In 2006 a Hillsborough (FL) Circuit judge threw out his conviction. Wrongly incarcerated for 24 years, Crotzer received a $1.25 million settlement from the state of Florida with strong bipartisan legislative support. Last Sunday Crotzer was arrested and charged with attempted murder.
Antoine Davis, an acquaintance with whom Crotzer had argued months earlier, accused Crotzer of shooting at him through an open car window while driving alongside his car, both moving at 40 mph. Davis was wounded. Crotzer was picked up based on Davis’s description of his car, and Davis selected him out of a lineup. The crime itself would probably not make national news, but when alleged of a DNA-proven innocent, it has been widely reported.
In the years following his release from prison, Crotzer has been an articulate spokesman for the wrongfully convicted, has mentored at-risk boys, and now serves on the board of the Florida Innocence Project. His arrest has stunned and saddened those who know him.
There are no guarantees that a person wrongfully convicted and imprisoned will never commit a crime, but, as reported in the Tampa Bay Times here, Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, provided an important reminder to withhold judgment. “Mr. Crotzer has been arrested. He hasn’t been tried or been given the opportunity to present his case,” Sen. Gaetz said.
It is such a sad commentary on our society as a whole that most people are tried and convicted by the press long before they have their day in court.