Police jail man for 6 weeks for something someone else did

By Bob Unruh

Police in Houston have arrested and jailed a man for six weeks for something that someone else did.

And despite the apparent negligence by authorities – they didn’t even bother to check public records to verify they had the correct suspect – the Institute for Justice says it’s almost impossible to hold the law enforcement members accountable.

That’s because the Supreme Court refused to take action in a previous case where a man similarly was jailed for something someone else did for “only” three days.

The IJ warns, “Imagine police imprison you for a crime someone with the same name as you committed. You plead your innocence to the authorities, the judge, and your attorney but to no avail. Days go by, and ultimately, you’re able to prove your innocence, but the threat of being arrested again for someone else’s crime still looms over you.”

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That’s the scenario for Jabon “James” Barrett, who last November was mistaken for another man of the same name.

That other man had an outstanding warrant and police simply presumed his guilt when officers spotted a gun in his car at a gas station.

He’s a military veteran with no criminal record, but he was charged him with unlawfully carrying a weapon.

It shows, the IJ said, “just how easily someone can be stripped of their rights, and how hard it can be to hold officials accountable.”

There was no sudden surge of understanding on the part of police that finally got him freed, either.

“Authorities finally realized their mistake after Barrett’s mother emailed officers a packet of information that included mugshots of the real perpetrator and Barrett—publicly available information that police could have easily accessed themselves. After finally comparing fingerprints between the two men, police released Barrett and prosecutors dropped the charge. But by that time, they had already imprisoned Barrett for six weeks,” the IJ reported.

The earlier case handled by the IJ involved David Sosa, who had a different age, height, weight, Social Security number and tattoos than the Sosa who was wanted.

No matter. There officers arrested him and detained him for hour, before letting him go. Then, a few years later, they did it again, keeping him for days.

The IJ explained, “After his ordeals, Sosa attempted to sue the police for the unlawful arrest. Initially Sosa was able to overcome the officers’ argument that they were entitled to qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields government officials from being held liable when they violate constitutional rights. However, in 2023, the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Sosa did not have a claim against the officers. The court ruled Sosa’s detention based on mistaken identity ‘gives rise to no claim under the United States Constitution,’ because it only ‘lasted three days.'”

The Supreme Court then declined to review the injustice imposed.

The IJ said, “In both cases reckless policing resulted in innocent men being incarcerated for prolonged periods. This is why accountability matters. When government officials carelessly abuse their power and disregard the facts available to them, they should be held accountable.”

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