In the wake of Monopoly’s 80th anniversary, Donald J. Whittaker – known to most as the “The Dude in the Monopoly Jail” – was declared innocent and released from prison in light of new DNA findings.
In the summer of 1935, the body of a young man was found shot to death in a hotel room on the corner of Atlantic and Ventnor, his wallet emptied. A Water Works employee who worked nearby described a figure he saw fleeing from the crime and Whittaker was brought into the Atlantic City Police Precinct. He was then misidentified in a line-up.
“I looked like every other burglar at the time. White guy, black eye mask, horizontal-striped onesie covering my body. But that’s just what I wore everyday. It was profiling. Like the hoodie thing now.” Says Whittaker, now a free man after 80 years. For him, the time has not been easy.
“They designed the prison so that only MY cell faced the ‘Just Visiting’ area. I watched people ‘Just Visit’ for 8 decades. Like some zoo animal…” Whittaker choked, holding back tears. “Some people won’t listen, no matter how scary you make your face look through those bars.”
The toughest part, says Whittaker, was seeing, “People who were obviously guilty, just flinging their ‘Get Out of Jail Free’ cards or getting off with some paltry $50 fine. It’s a corrupt system.”
The Innocence Project – an organization devoted to clearing the names of wrongly convicted felons – has worked alongside the New Jersey Department of Corrections and Milton Bradley for the past 15 years to wipe the murder charges from Whittaker’s record. “The real evidence came from a speck of blood we found on the bottom of the boot piece, which was a negative match for Mr. Whittaker and the victim.” Claims State Attorney Deborah Yeets.
Yeets says the main suspect now is, “An older Caucasian gentleman, white hair, most likely wealthy. Maybe a cane or a top hat of some sort. Keep an eye out.”
The State of New Jersey will be issuing Whittaker a compensation of $1,000 which in Monopoly money, is actually a lot. When asked what his first endeavor will be when he gets out? “Disneyland! Haha kidding, I’m going to find somewhere to poop in private.”