Thursday, October 04, 2007

Innocence Project Exonerates Another Inmate

From the county with the highest death row population in the number one state for executions, Harris County has absolved yet another inmate in Texas who'd been wrongfully convicted through a faulty eyewitness account.

The Houston Chronicle reports today that the "scandal-plagued Houston Police Department crime lab was responsible for sending yet another wrong person to prison." At the time of 47-year-old Ronald Gene Taylor's conviction for rape, Houston's crime lab asserted that a bed sheet from the crime scene did not contain any semen; they were WRONG!

And this incorrect pronouncement "led an appeals judge to deny a request for additional testing." Without any forensic evidence, when the victim picked Taylor out of lineup, he was a doomed dead duck -- especially since he'd suspiciously and revealingly lived nearby.

New tests on the sheet, done this summer by ReliaGene Technologies, yielded the DNA profile not of Taylor but another convicted sex offender serving time in Texas prisons. The statute of limitations for prosecuting that case has expired, Rosenthal said.
Oops. Well, thankgawd at least he wasn't fried.

Of course the prosecution's office is just sick with remorse that another poor black man had to waste away in prison for a crime he didn't commit. In the case of Taylor, just a mere 14 years.

"I feel awful, " District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal told the press, "Nobody wants to have an innocent person wrongfully convicted and sent to prison. It's a very regrettable thing."

"They got lucky when the Innocence Project agreed to take the case," the Chronicle characterizes. Lucky, if you can call 14 years of sheer hell luck. Mr. Taylor stands to receive at least $600,000 from the state. Texas law reimburses wrongfully convicted inmates $50,000 for each year served.

Confident that Mr. Taylor was innocent, his family had contacted the Innocence Project and pleaded with them to take the case. Two other inmates from Harris County have also been exonerated through DNA evidence.

Josiah Sutton was released from prison in March 2003 when DNA tests challenged the HPD work that helped secure his conviction in a 1998 rape. Sutton received a pardon on the basis of innocence and the state has compensated him with more than $118,000 for the time he served.

George Rodriguez served more than 17 years in prison in the 1987 rape of a 14-year-old girl before new forensic evidence discredited the HPD crime lab work on his case and led prosecutors to dismiss the case against him.
Even for hardcore death penalty proponents, it's kinna hard to argue that faulty lab work and false eye witness accounts have not been responsible for the wrongful execution of an innocent inmate. But of course, dead bodies tell no tales to an uncaring society.

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