Houston Crime Lab Scandal: After DNA Proves Innocence

"For Josiah Sutton, the Houston man released from prison last week after DNA tests concluded he could not have been the rapist prosecutors said he was, there would be no more football heroics, no prom or graduation, no shot at a gridiron scholarship. But thanks to the momentum to reopen old criminal cases, generated by a burgeoning scandal in the Houston Police Department crime lab, there may be a future."

Josiah's story is one we are hearing far too often.
Sutton was arrested Oct. 30, 1998, five days after a woman had been taken at gunpoint from her southwest Houston apartment, raped by two attackers and dumped in a field in Fort Bend County.

Sutton, who was 16 at the time, was walking down the street with a friend when the woman, driving past in her car, identified them as her assailants. She would later testify that she recognized them by their hats, which looked like the ones worn by the men who raped her.

Once charged with kidnapping and rape, Sutton and his friend submitted saliva and blood for comparison to material recovered from the attack. DNA tests conducted by the now-discredited HPD lab ruled out Sutton's friend as one of the rapists but included him.

At his trial, an HPD analyst testified that DNA from the rape was an exact match for Sutton, who turned 17 in jail while awaiting trial. But new tests of the samples have found the DNA of two unidentified men, neither of whom could be Sutton.
At 17, here are some of the things he witnessed and had to learn to be prepared to defend himself against, according to his mother, Carol Batie:
In the early months of his incarceration, Sutton faced a difficult adjustment to the Clemens Unit in Brazoria.

"This was a (teenager) physically defending himself against men," Batie said. "He witnessed another inmate getting his throat slashed. He saw the guy lying on the ground kicking, dying before his eyes.

"He saw another prisoner die after he was thrown over a railing. These are not things my child should have been watching."
Sutton served 4 1/2 years before being released last week. He had been captain of his high school football team and on his way to earning a football scholarship for college when he was arrested. He had attracted the interest of college scouts in his sophomore year. What's ahead for him now?
Sutton, who already has a GED, wants to go to school. He would like to revive an old talent that earned the family extra cash when he was a teen, cutting hair, and may one day open his own barbershop. After he walked out of the jail, Sutton declared, "I am looking for success, period."
The Houston Chronicle has full and excellent coverage the Houston crime lab scandal, including today, an article about a prosecutor's shaken faith in the system, and another on the increased use and precision of DNA testing .

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