Obituary

RIP: Recanter Who 'Opened the Floodgates' to DNA Exonerations


A woman who falsely accused an Illinois man of rape and later recanted after the man spent eight years in jail died of breast cancer May 15 in New Hampshire. She was 46.

Cathleen Crowell Webb’s decision to recant led to the DNA exoneration of Gary Dotson and opened the door to hundreds of post-conviction DNA reviews of cases.

Steven Drizin, who directs Northwestern University’s Center on Wrongful Convictions told the Chicago Tribune that the Dotson case “opened the floodgates for using DNA testing in criminal cases.”

Since the Dotson case in the mid-1980s more than 200 people have been exonerated by DNA evidence, Drizin noted.

“Her death is much more than just a footnote. As is the case of many of these exonerations, her decision to come forward was initially met with great skepticism by both prosecutors, police and the general public,” Drizin is quoted saying.

Webb, who co-wrote a book entitled Forgive Me and gave a portion of the proceeds to Dotson, is survived by her husband and four children.

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