Jabbar Collins is not the first convict to have spent years in prison pondering the trial that led him there. However, he may be the first to have effectively used that energy to significantly contribute to the legal defense that resulted in his exoneration. Falsely convicted for the murder of a rabbi in 1994, the American Bar Associated reports that Collins is expected to receive a total of $13 million in settlements from New York City and the state of New York, tying the record for a wrongful convicted defendant in the city. And he never would have gotten this result without his own research.
The incredible part of Collins' exoneration—unfortunately—is not that he spent 16 years in jail before his case was brought to trial. What's harder to fathom is how much he was able to accomplish on his own in a prison without any computers or other technology to aid him, and without even a high school education. When Joel Rudin, the attorney who chose to represent Collins, came on board 10 years into his sentence, he was amazed by the research Collins had done. He had by that point studied legal processes and procedures and jumped through myriad obstacles to access information. According to the Wall Street Journal's report, he even posed as a district attorney's investigator, routed a phone call through his mother's home, and successfully recorded a witness saying he was not given help promised to him by prosecutors in his trial.
Collins' case is on one hand frustrating (after all, if a prisoner could find evidence to support his innocence with virtually no real resources, certainly he must have been denied some defense in the first place) and on the other hand hopeful as an example of other wrongful convictions still lingering. If one man was able to recognize the injustice done to him and fight back for himself, perhaps others can do the same.