Innocent Woman Imprisoned Two Months Because Nobody Checked Her ID

“Teresa” was the 226th most popular baby name in 1992 in America. So there are at least a few Teresas around.

But when Teresa Culpepper was arrested for a crime she didn’t commit, she didn’t expect it to be simply because she shared the same first name with the actual offender.

On August 21, 2011, Teresa Culpepper called the police to report her car stolen. Within hours, she was arrested on suspicion of aggravated assault — except the assault was allegedly committed by another Teresa, Teresa Gilbert. The police were confused because both Teresas were in the same neighborhood. Simple confusion, quickly resolved, right? No. Nobody bothered to verify her identity with the victim, nor did they bother to check their details that would have cleared up the confusion — such as ID, birth date, medical records, or anything that would have proven she did not have the same name as the woman they were seeking to arrest.

Instead, the police just threw Ms Culpepper in jail. She was indicted, handed a bond she couldn’t possibly cover and then was held in custody for 53 days — seven weeks. Even more incredibly, it took a court hearing and testimony of the complainant to actually get Ms Culpepper released.  She was finally set free on October 12 once the victim testified that she was not, in fact, the Teresa who had allegedly attacked her. Culpepper walked out of the jailhouse homeless and with her car in the police impound lot, with not so much as an apology.

Surely someone in Fulton County Jail, Atlanta knows how to, I don’t know, read a piece of identification? Apparently not. And that lack of ability to do basic investigative work may cost them: Ms Culpepper’s attorney has filed notice of intent to sue the city for wrongful imprisonment.

Tell me: is this the same police work that lands people on death row?

Related Links:

DNA and the Death Penalty

Let Them Eat Nothing – No Lunch For Prisoners

ACLU settles Miami Wrongful Arrest Suit

 

Photo Credit: Banspy on Flickr.

110 comments

Nimue Pendragon

How hard is it to check someone's ID? Prats! I hope she sues and wins.

Ruth R.
Ruth R.4 years ago

THE OTHER STORIES REPEATEDLY STATE THAT ID IS NOT CHEKCED, AND THAT MISTAKEN IDENTITY IS OFTEN WHY THE INNOCENT ARE IN JAIL.

THERE ARE MANY GOOD POLICE OFFICERS WHO REALLY CARE ABOUT THE PEOPLE AND WOULD NEVER HURT ANY PERSON IF THEY WERE ABLE TO AVOID THAT SITUATION.

However, there are many people who are innocent of the crime that they are accused of and they were in jail or are still there. This the whole system needing to be reviewed. People who maintian innocence until they die on death row -- Troy Davis, and the many others -- demonstrate that there is a hugely flawed system that would do better --- if some changes? of some kind were made? SOME OF THE PEOPLE WHO STUDY THIS TOPIC ARE PEOPLE WHO MAY KNOW WHAT CHANGES NEED TO BE MADE -- ALONG WITH THE PEOPLE AND THE VOLUNTEERS, AND SOME OF THE INMATES -- MAY HAVE SOME ANSWERS FOR BETTER SYSTEMS.

WHERE ARE THE PETITIONS AND LINKS FOR THIS LADY?

Patricia H.
Patricia H.4 years ago

The first thing to be checked is your identity....

monica r.
monica r.4 years ago

Well, from what is reported here, I think she should sue.

But how did they not run her prints to get any priors or out-of-state convictions? They don't go by your ID necessarily, but more likely prints and in some cases DNA. It's too easy to get fake IDs. For a while there, China was milling out fake IDs that looked absolutely real, and I bet they can still be gotten if you know how.

Lynn Squance
Lynn Squance4 years ago

While I agree, as presented, the scenario is outrageous and heads should role. However, I can't imagine such an event happening --- something smells. Police would normally check ID, check for priors, fingerprint, and interrogate a suspect. Why did it take so long for information to come out?

Martha Eberle
Martha Eberle4 years ago

Unconscionable. And I mightily hope Ms. Culpepper has a good attorney who will get her $$$ -- she needs it, after what the incompetent police did to her. Who will restore her faith in justice and an easy-going mind?

Nicole P.
Nicole Sedkowski4 years ago

*headdesk---cracks desk!* Cannot compute! CANNOT! Please let those idiots be fired a forced to pay a heavy, heavy sum of money to poor Teresa and her family! She better win that case or I will forever have lost what little faith I have in America's justice system.

Lori E.
Lori E.4 years ago

I hope she wins

Silvia G.
Silvia G.4 years ago

Wow! Really scary!! How can many people be that incompetent at the same time?

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

"All the officers involved and the prosecutor should be fired immediately."........why should anyone be fired immediately, with no proof of anything done at this point? Until there is substantiation, or facts, it's just an accusation. Nothing here "adds up" and if anyone is fired just based on an accusation, they THEY would have cause for a lawsuit as well, wouldn't they?