Woman who helped free innocent man gets award

A CORK woman who uncovered vital evidence to free an innocent man from prison was named Cork Person of the Month yesterday.

Niamh Gunn, 30, from Rochestown was presented with the award to mark her dedication to American Walter Swift’s case since 2003.

Swift was wrongly convicted of rape and armed robbery in 1982, sentenced to 55 years, but always protested his innocence. He even refused parole as it would have meant admitting guilt.

He finally walked free from a Detroit prison last month after serving 26 years for a crime he did not commit.

He was in City Hall for yesterday’s ceremony to mark Ms Gunn’s work on his case.

“If I was to choose one individual instrumental in helping me regain my human compassion, it’s Niamh,” he said.

He is touring Ireland with Ms Gunn as part of a huge fundraising campaign to help him rebuild his life because he is not entitled to compensation in Detroit.

“Niamh never gave up until justice was done, and she continues today to help Walter Swift start a new life,” awards organiser Manus O’Callaghan said.

Ms Gunn’s name now goes forward for possible selection as Cork Person of the Year.

She began working on Swift’s case in 2003 during a six-month stint in New York working with Barry Scheck, the tough lawyer famous for representing OJ Simpson and Louise Woodward, on his Innocence Project.

It uncovers evidence to free the wrongfully convicted from life sentences and even death row.

Ms Gunn tracked down crucial witnesses and discovered information that was never admitted to the court, which put Swift’s guilt into serious doubt.

The biggest breakthrough came when Gunn tracked down the phone number of Janice Nobliski, the chief investigating officer who had initially dealt with Swift’s case, and who arranged a dodgy police line-up. which gave Swift no chance.

“We sent an innocent man to prison,” Nobliski told her.

* www.walterswift.com

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