Innocent Texas Man to Be Freed After 23 Years

At a hearing in Texas today, Thomas McGowan will be freed from a Dallas prison after serving 23 years for a rape and burglary DNA has proven he didn't commit.

McGowan will be the 25th person in Texas to have been convicted of a crime based on faulty eyewitness testimony and later exonerated by DNA testing.

Thomas McGowan was in his mid-20s when he was arrested, and he’ll turn 50 later this year. He has lost nearly his entire adult life to a wrongful conviction that could have – and should have – been prevented,” said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “This is the 25th case in Texas where DNA proved that eyewitness identification was incorrect. How many more people need to lose years or decades of their lives before the state implements simple reforms that are proven to make eyewitness identification more accurate?”

The Innocence Project has much more on the case.

In Michigan, 29 year old Nathanial Hackett has been freed after serving 12 years for a rape DNA testing as shown he did not commit. His conviction was based in part upon a coerced false confession.

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    Dallas DA (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by workingclass artist on Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 07:05:06 AM EST
    Just wanted to say the new Dallas DA has been doing a great job cleaning up this mess....He made it a priority. Details of past cases can be read at Dallasobserver.com. Thanks for the post.

    gah (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by myed2x on Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 07:08:40 AM EST
    thats terrible.  I read Grishams novel An Innocent Man, a true story, that involves Sheck and the innocent project, people are lucky that project exists, and yes the method used for eyewitness testimony and even the photo-lineup is a flawed system, which could be easily corrected.

    I only wish this kind of cases (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by Florida Resident on Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 09:26:50 AM EST
    would get more MSM attention like those blond, young & kidnapped cases do.

    A sad and happy occasion (none / 0) (#3)
    by BarnBabe on Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 08:11:15 AM EST
    25th case in Texas. I wonder over the years how many for whom it is too late. Having 25 cases overturned in such a short period of time insinuates that there must be and have been many more that need reviewing. I would think any case where DNA evidence is involved would be the first ones to review. I hope they review them all.

    I remember years ago on 60 minutes they had a fellow who was in jail for a crime because of eye witnesses but his family and friends insisted he was with them at the time. I don't know how that case came out as it was up for appeal, but it was an example of how easy it was to convict a person.  

    They do this in our name. (none / 0) (#4)
    by reality based on Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 08:19:22 AM EST
    Setting him free is not really enough.  My deepest apologies to you, Mr McGowan, and to all the innocent who are and have been caught up by the leviathan of of the criminal injustice system.

    I'm glad (none / 0) (#5)
    by madamab on Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 09:19:23 AM EST
    that this unfortunate man was finally freed, but imagine how his life was completely destroyed by his incarceration. It's truly bone-chilling.

    Thank goodness he didn't get the death penalty.

    Luckily, the victim didn't die ... (none / 0) (#6)
    by Tortmaster on Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 09:20:48 AM EST
    ... otherwise McGowan would be DEAD by now.

    That's why the death penalty needs to be thrown out forever. Great post, Jeralyn!

    Legislation? (none / 0) (#8)
    by gyrfalcon on Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 10:15:08 AM EST
    Jeralyn, is there any role federal legislation could play anywhere in this?  Is there any way for Congress to, for instance, mandate a review of all state convictions where there's DNA evidence that hasn't been tested and fund the testing?

    I understand there are still lots of cases out there where prosecutors are adamantly fighting having DNA from old cases tested and state courts are going along with them in some cases.

    The very LEAST justice could do is clean the system of all these folks who can quickly and easily be exonerated.  Busting the myth of the reliability of eyewitness testimony seems to be just about impossible, but at least the people for whom there is irrefutable scientific evidence that hasn't been used can be helped.

    It's an absolute disgrace there even has to be something like Scheck's Innocence Project to pry these people out.

    Compensation for the victims of false testimony would be a nice next step, although how you compensate somebody for losing half or more of your life I don't know.

    Is Congress permitted any kind of action on state criminal justice systems under the Constitution?


    A thorough review of conviction methods (none / 0) (#9)
    by wasabi on Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 10:25:53 AM EST
    needs to be done in all states.  It's not enough to demand that DNA testing be done where possible.  Many verdicts are rendered with the absense of DNA.  It makes me physically ill to think about wrongful convictions.
    Everyone remember the Tulia cases?

    Kudos to Sheck and the Innocent Project. (none / 0) (#10)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 01:32:55 PM EST
    'Tis a noble thing they do.

    the denominator??? (none / 0) (#11)
    by diogenes on Wed Apr 16, 2008 at 03:39:43 PM EST
    How many people were convicted of crimes during the period during the years from which twenty-five were later cleared by DNA?