Mistaken Identity – the Mamadi III Fara Camara case
March 22nd, 2021
After a violent arrest and spending six days behind bars, Montreal PhD student Mamadi III Fara Camara was released and exonerated of all charges due to mistaken identity in February, 2021.
Mr. Camara had witnessed an officer being assaulted and did what any civic-minded person would do: he called 9-1-1 and remained on the scene to provide his witness account to police. It was quite unexpected, then, when police showed up at his home hours later, forced him to the ground and put a boot to his face before taking him away in handcuffs.
In a matter of minutes, the 31 year old went from being a good samaritan, to being charged with attempted murder of a police officer. His home was torn apart in the search for the weapon used in the attack and his wife, pregnant with twins, was left to deal with the trauma of seeing her husband injured and hauled away by police – the very people he tried to help only hours earlier.
Innocent until proven guilty
In situations like this where police have identified and charged the wrong person, presumed innocence, the legal principle that you are innocent until proven guilty, is key. Accidents such as mistaken identity can and do happen. Thankfully, in the case of Mamadi III Fara Camara, DNA tests from crime scene evidence proved his innocence before the case even went to court and his jail stay ended after six days.
Even without the DNA evidence though, a judge would have had to consider Mr. Camara innocent of the charges until sufficient evidence was submitted to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Other than the fact that the alleged assailant was in close proximity to the crime scene at the time of the assault, we will likely never know why police though that Mr. Camara had committed the crime. Similarly, we will never know how a court case would have gone in this situation because the DNA proof exonerated him relatively quickly (although nobody wants to spend almost a week in jail waiting on proof).
Not every person mistakenly identified and charged with a crime is as fortunate as Mr. Camara. Not every case has clear-cut DNA evidence that proves innocence before the case goes to trial. Not every case of mistaken identity ends in an exoneration of charges and an apology from the police commissioner. Even with the law on your side, it’s important to advocate for your innocence with the help of a lawyer.
Have you been mistakenly identified for a crime?
If you have been accused or charged with a crime that you didn’t commit, you might be a victim of mistaken identity. Court cases are not always about proving whether or not a crime has been committed, they are also about proving that the person charged with the crime was in fact the perpetrator.
What should you do if you’ve been charged with a crime you didn’t commit?
- Call your lawyer.Only then will you be able to stay calm and trust that the law is designed to protect you.
Remember that you are innocent until proven guilty but also keep in mind that you need a good lawyer to advocate for your innocence.
- See step 1!It is easy to assume that cases of mistaken identity will work themselves out when the real culprit is caught. But keep in mind that if the police believe they have the right person in custody, the investigation might not continue to look for other possible suspects. If you have been mistakenly identified and charged with a crime that you did not commit, take immediate action by contacting a lawyer to help you assert your legal rights.