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AP: Texas man convicted of rape freed after DNA tests

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Heidi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 01:02 AM
Original message
AP: Texas man convicted of rape freed after DNA tests
9 hours ago

HOUSTON A man who spent 23 years in prison for a kidnapping and rape that DNA tests show he may not have committed was released on bond Friday to his joyful family.

State district Judge Michael McSpadden asked for an expedited release for Ernest Sonnier, 46, who was convicted of a 1985 sexual assault and sentenced to life in prison. The Innocence Project, a national organization working to exonerate wrongfully convicted people, began conducting new tests last year that cast doubt on his guilt, attorneys said.

<snip>

Sonnier will become the sixth man to be released from prison after challenging results from the Houston Police Department crime lab. Inaccuracies and impropriety at the lab has cast doubts on hundreds of convictions, and the Harris County District Attorney's office has appointed a team to re-investigate more than 160 cases.

"This is yet another example that the criminal justice system is flawed," said attorney Alba Morales of the Innocence Project. "This case had all the hallmarks of wrongful conviction."


Read more


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babylonsister Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 01:03 AM
Response to Original message
1. How angry would I be? Beyond words. nt
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Liberal_in_LA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 01:12 AM
Response to Reply #1
4. lawsuit time. Hope he gets a bundle
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TransitJohn Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 01:04 AM
Response to Original message
2. Just a stab in the dark
but are the overwhelming majority of these 160 cases black men? Is Mr. Sonnier black?
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Cali_Democrat Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 01:20 AM
Response to Reply #2
6. Of course he's black
This is 'murka we're talking about....

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/656371...
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man4allcats Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 01:53 AM
Response to Reply #2
7. Mr. Sonnier, a black man, will perhaps be able to derive
Edited on Sat Aug-08-09 01:54 AM by man4allcats
at least some consolation for having been wrongfully deprived of 23 years of his life after he is compensated by the State of Texas at the rate of $80,000.00 per year for having been wrongfully convicted and subsequently imprisoned. An excerpt from Houston news source KHOU.com reads as follows:

"Sonnier's release comes just a couple of months after Governor Perry signed legislation increasing compensation for people who are wrongfully convicted.

The bill increased the payments from $50,000 for every year in confinement to $80,000 for each year.

- snip -

Exonerees also get 120 hours of paid tuition at a public college.

Sonnier's lawyer says he can't file for compensation until he's fully exonerated and that could take months."

According to my calculator, Mr. Sonnier is entitled to $1,840,000.00 for his twenty-three years behind bars - little enough payment for the prolonged suffering of an innocent person.
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TexasObserver Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 01:11 AM
Response to Original message
3. Recommend
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oldtime dfl_er Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 01:17 AM
Response to Original message
5. HALF his life!
wow.

I never understood how Barry Scheck, the co-founder and director of the Innocence Project, could be on OJ's defense team. Not that he shouldn't have been on it, but it just seems incongruous.
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OmmmSweetOmmm Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 06:32 AM
Response to Reply #5
14. I was just thinking almost the same thing. Barry is a hero.
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DeSwiss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 02:02 AM
Response to Original message
8. K&R

Ernest Sonnier was embraced
after being released from jail.
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deep1 Donating Member (252 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 02:22 AM
Response to Original message
9. Thank God for DNA tests
So many innocent men are freed after proving they did not commit a crime. And btw, did the victim not know what the suspect looked like? Or was she one of those trifling females who lie about rape? To me any woman who lies about rape should be thrown in prison for a long time. Pure demonic.


This poor man. I shudder to think how many men were thrown in prison for rape before the invention of DNA.
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Heidi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 02:40 AM
Response to Reply #9
10. There is no evidence to indicate the woman lied about being raped.
DNA evidence has implicated two other men in her assault.

Over the last 18 months, genetic testing of evidence found on the victims clothing and at the scene of the attack had yielded no trace of Mr. Sonnier, the Harris County district attorneys office said. Instead, it has implicated two other men. Both are felons and known associates. One is awaiting trial for a different rape.
Read more


The victim identified Mr. Sonnier in a police lineup and at trial as one of her attackers.
The crime for which Mr. Sonnier was convicted occurred on Christmas Eve in 1985. Two men abducted a woman at a gas station in Alief, Tex., and then repeatedly raped her during a seven-hour drive to San Antonio. She escaped at 4 a.m. Six months later, she picked Mr. Sonniers picture out of a photo array. Later, in a police lineup and at trial, she identified him as one of the attackers. Read more


According to The Innocence Project:
Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.

While eyewitness testimony can be persuasive evidence before a judge or jury, 30 years of strong social science research has proven that eyewitness identification is often unreliable. Research shows that the human mind is not like a tape recorder; we neither record events exactly as we see them, nor recall them like a tape that has been rewound. Instead, witness memory is like any other evidence at a crime scene; it must be preserved carefully and retrieved methodically, or it can be contaminated.
Read more

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TexasObserver Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 06:54 AM
Response to Reply #10
15. Eye witness testimony can be influenced, and can be wrong.
Edited on Sat Aug-08-09 06:57 AM by TexasObserver
First, prosecutors and police convince the victim they've found the right guy. They do this by making up things, or leaving out things, or simply pressuring them until the witness concedes this is the guy.

Second, they convince the person that unless they testify that they're really, really sure this is the guy, he'll go free to rape others.

Third, the judge does his part by appointing some lawyer to defend the defendant, a lawyer who relies on the judge to appoint him to cases, and then gets paid low wages to do so.

Fourth, the lawyer does the kind of job low rolling, court appointed defense lawyers tend to do.

Fifth, the appellate courts do their part, by bulldozing past any problems in the trial by finding a reason to let the conviction to stand, no matter how horrific it is.

And in some cases, the prosecution experts did their part by LYING about the nature of evidence, by hiding evidence, or by mischaracterizing it. Once police and prosecutors decide they want this guy for this crime, they manipulate everything else to make him appear guilty, whether he is or not.

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Heidi Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 07:14 AM
Response to Reply #15
17. ... lawyer who gets paid low wages AND
does not have nearly the resources at his/her fingertips as the prosecutor has, or, in many cases, the close, personal, mutually beneficial relationship that many prosecutors have with the local police.
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TexasObserver Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 07:48 AM
Response to Reply #17
20. It's a stacked deck in most states, but in Texas particularly.
Poor defendants don't have a slowball's chance in hell, even if innocent, even if there is forensics that could help them.
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DeSwiss Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 03:01 AM
Response to Original message
11. What was intriguing to me was....
The man, Ernest Sonnier, was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison largely on the strength of the victims testimony, even though the forensic evidence gathered from her body and clothes showed that someone with a blood type different from the defendants had raped her, lawyers from the Innocence Project in New York said.


All this suggests to me very clearly, that this man was railroaded. And he had a lousy lawyer. One that was so bad that even when the cops can't put his client at the scene with physical evidence, he gets convicted to a life sentence. Forget DNA, he wasn't even in the same blood type as her rapist. Blood typing's as physical evidence has been around for a good while.

- It's a good thing she wasn't murdered or he might have ended up on death row.
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Greyhound Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 03:07 AM
Response to Reply #11
12. Which in Texas means that he would have been murdered years ago,
and most Texans have no problem with this. How many innocent men and women have they murdered over the years?


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justabob Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 07:21 AM
Response to Reply #12
19. way too many
Dallas County has had many, many of these cases recently too, I can't remember what the exact number is, but it is a lot. I am glad these men are all getting released finally, and so sorry to see proven how fucked up our justice system is... especially in Texas.
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TexasObserver Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 07:08 AM
Response to Reply #11
16. People who get convicted in spite of forensics usually have a lousy attorney.
In our society, and in Texas in particular, indigent defendants don't have a snow ball's chance in hell. Their lawyers are appointed by the judge who hears the case. The judges tend to be right leaning and prosecution oriented. Half the time, they're former prosecutors. The money set aside for hiring attorneys for indigents is low, and the work pays poorly. The poor defendants get the poor representation that the state pays for.

And the lawyer who is hired to do that work doesn't have an army of experts, like the prosecution. He doesn't have the money set aside to hide forensic experts he needs to rebut claims of the prosecution.

And lets not let the jurors off the hook. Like many posters here, jurors tend to be lap dogs for police and prosecutors. They don't think "innocent until proven guilty." They think "why would a cop lie?"

Bad system, crooked cops, crooked prosecutors, biased judges, lap dog jurors, and terrible appellate judges all create a factory for finding defendants guilty and shipping them off to private prison, so GE can fill another of its penal hotels.
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Vidar Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 06:27 AM
Response to Original message
13. K&R
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tj2001 Donating Member (685 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Aug-08-09 07:15 AM
Response to Original message
18. And nothing happened to the Harris County District Attorney's office
or any other DA in Texas who prosecuted - and secured the convictions of - hundreds of innocent people.
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