Innocent Texas Man Freed After Serving 12 Years

There's been another wrongful conviction and exoneration in Texas. Ronald Taylor was released from prison yesterday after serving 12 years for a rape he didn't commit.

Taylor was convicted of rape in 1995 and sentenced to 60 years in prison. The victim picked him out of a lineup but acknowledged she only caught a glimpse of her attacker's face.

During his trial, a crime lab analyst testified that no body fluids were found on the victim's bedsheet. This summer, the Innocence Project paid to have a New Orleans lab retest the bedsheet. Semen that lab found matched the DNA of a man already in prison.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal apologized to Taylor in court Tuesday, and several council members echoed his regret.

Taylor is the third person exonerated due to faulty lab work by the Houston Police Department.

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    Largest again (none / 0) (#1)
    by koshembos on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 02:02:22 AM EST
    We have the largest prison population percentage in the Western world and also the largest percentage of innocent people in jail.

    And we think that Bush is an aberation.

    Stats? (none / 0) (#4)
    by Pancho on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 08:50:40 AM EST
    also the largest percentage of innocent people in jail

    Where does this figure come from?

    Why did the jury convict him? Blame them.


    because (none / 0) (#5)
    by Jen M on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 10:15:25 AM EST
    the prosecutor convinced them? They believed the evidence to be more than sufficient?

    Easy victims (none / 0) (#16)
    by koshembos on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 09:33:07 PM EST
    Finding an innocent prisoner in European jail is a rare occasion. In the US, innocents in jail or even oon death raw is almost a weekly event.

    If quantitative measure are the only way to make a point, most human discourse is a waste of time.


    the lab didn't (none / 0) (#2)
    by cpinva on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 07:40:16 AM EST
    choose to try him, the prosecutor did. the lab didn't convict him, the jury did. the lab didn't allow the use of faulty eye-witness identification in court, the judge did.

    as they say in sports, it was a "team" effort.

    it's nice he got an apology, how do they propose giving him back his 12 years lost behind bars, for a crime he didn't commit?

    how do they tell the later victims of the real rapist, attacked after they stopped looking for him, that it was all just a terrible mistake, and they're really, really sorry?

    i truly hope mr. taylor is somehow compensated for his unjust loss of freedom. i'd like to know how the harris county DA plans to compensate the unnecessary victims for their pain? how does he plan to compensate the victim in this case, for involving her in a wrongful prosecution?

    these are questions i'd like answered.

    The eye for an eye crowd.... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 08:08:24 AM EST
    would say (or should say) that the DA, the lab, and even the victim of the rape should all do 12 years.  Right?

    Doesn't seem like enough to me. (none / 0) (#11)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 01:57:45 PM EST
    Assuming that Taylor eventually receives a pardon based on his innocence and does not pursue a lawsuit, he could receive $50,000 from the state for each year he was incarcerated, or as much as $700,000.

    14 years, not 12 (none / 0) (#6)
    by txpublicdefender on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 10:27:45 AM EST
    He actually did 14 years, not 12.

    Until juries stop convicting people on eyewitness testimony not backed up by other strong circumstantial evidence, this type of thing will continue to happen.  These types of convictions are still happening every day.  Juries can't resist a victim on the stand pointing at the defendant and declaring, "That's the man.  I'll never forget his face," or something like that.

    How many people have been convicted of robberies or assaults or burglaries or other offenses where there is no DNA to test based solely eyewitness testimony?  Plenty.  

    This case was just compounded by the fact that the Houston PD crime lab has been a fraud for years.  

    I think that a big part (none / 0) (#7)
    by Pancho on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 10:54:03 AM EST
    of the problem is that people like this have very spotty pasts and that juries believe that they are capable of the crimes. I am not defending that- just stating an opinion.

    How does a guy like this even end up in a lineup to be misidentified?


    bad checks (none / 0) (#9)
    by txpublicdefender on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 01:48:42 PM EST
    Apparently, he had a conviction for writing bad checks.  That's why they had his mugshot.

    Another "eyewitness." (none / 0) (#10)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 01:54:24 PM EST
    Taylor was accused in the 1993 rape of a woman attacked while sleeping in her Third Ward home. The victim never got a good look at her attacker, Taylor's lawyers said, but police showed her a video lineup. The woman identified Taylor, whose image was included because a neighbor reported seeing him in the area that night, his lawyers said.

    Additionally, (none / 0) (#8)
    by Pancho on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 10:55:13 AM EST
    no one should EVER be sentenced to death based solely on witness testimony.

    Man, he and his mother (none / 0) (#12)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 01:58:50 PM EST
    are amazingly sanguine about the whole thing, neither seems to have a vindictive bone in their bodies. In addition, she works as a supervisor in another Texas county jail, where I imagine, she is able to give some emotional support to the inmates.

    Also, there's this:

    This summer, a private lab in New Orleans retested the sheet and found semen that was matched to Roosevelt Carroll, currently in prison for failing to register as a sex offender.
    Maybe the DNA databases and SO registries do some good?

    databases and registries (none / 0) (#13)
    by txpublicdefender on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 02:48:44 PM EST
    I'm not sure about Jeralyn's position on DNA databases and registries, but I don't oppose them in some form.  I think DNA databases for convicted sex offenders are a good idea.  I also think sex offender registration with law enforcement for certain classes of sex offenders is a good idea.  I personally think public sex offender registries do MUCH more harm than good.

    the big problem i have with the (none / 0) (#14)
    by cpinva on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 07:59:26 PM EST
    sex offender registries is that, like all potentially good ideas, the politicians took them and ran. they used them for partisan political gain, not to actually make the streets safer.

    an example: in some states (va is one), if i really, really, really have to go to the bathroom, and there isn't one neaby, and i use a tree or nice, leafy bush, i can be arrested for exposing myself in public. this makes me a "sex offender" even though it clearly had nothing whatever to do with sex. as such, i would then be required to register as one, for the rest of my life.

    obviously, this isn't what anyone had in mind, when the subject was first proposed, but the politicos saw it as a way to show their "law n order" bona fides. it's cheap, for them; just add to the currently existing law. who's going to argue against that?

    i'd say the whole issue should be reviewed, but that isn't going to happen either.

    selection bias (none / 0) (#15)
    by diogenes on Wed Oct 10, 2007 at 08:15:16 PM EST
    If eyewitness/DNA testimony is made so strict, up to CSI standards, then guilty men will be found innocent or never have charges not filed due to "weak" evidence.  These men who are guilty of other rapes will commit other crimes against people just as innocent as Ronald Taylor is.
    Figure out the real ratio of number of crimes committed by the unconvicted but guilty to innocent men being imprisoned before being so sure about where to draw the line.