Ali-Spinks may have the key to a man’s innocence

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Maybe you remember the story of the Juan Catalan, who spent more than five months in jail after a witness falsely accused him of murdering a 16-year-old back in 2003. His alibi was that he couldn’t have been the gunman – he was at the Dodger game that night with his 6-year-old daughter. He had a ticket stub to prove it, but prosecutors didn’t believe him.

It wasn’t until Catalan remembered that an HBO crew was there to film an episode of Larry David’s “Curb Your Enthusiasm” that, with a little more probing by his attorney, video evidence was uncovered that proved him right.

A judge finally released him citing insufficient evidence, and Catalan filed a claim against the city for false imprisonment.

(Some versions of that story linked here, here and here)

That may set the stage for another sports-related incident that could help another allegedly wrongly accused man go free.

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The Chicago Sun-Times reports today (linked here), in a story headlined “Muhammad Ali bout could clear man of murder,” that Anthony McKinney could be the latest version of Juan Catalan.

The 18-year-old McKinney was charged with robbing and killing a security guard in Harvey, Ill., on Sept. 15, 1978. McKinney had confessed to doing it, although no evidence was ever found. In 1981, McKinney was sentenced to life in prison without parole.

But a new trial is being sought based on evidence turned up by the Northwestern University Law School, uncovered by journalism and law students.

On that date of the crime, Muhammad Ali made boxing history by defeating Leon Spinks to win the heavyweight title for a third time. A witness who told a grand jury that he left his house at the end of the 10th round and ran into another man, and they said at that time they saw McKinney commit the crime. McKinney testified he watched the entire fight and left his house at 10:30 p.m.

The Northwestern students believe that the two witnesses, and McKinney, were coerced into a false confession and testimony, and the TV logs of the Ali-Spinks fight help their case.

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