Gossett is 199th person in the nation exonerated through DNA; 200th exoneration set for Monday, just as Texas Senate debates critical reform bill
(DALLAS, TX; April 20, 2007) – Andrew Gossett, who served seven years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of sexual assault in Dallas County, has been officially exonerated in the case, the Innocence Project said today. Gossett becomes the 199th person nationwide exonerated through DNA evidence. He was released from prison in January, but Texas procedures require approval from the Court of Criminal Appeals (which often takes several months) before an exoneration is official. This week, the Innocence Project verified that the Court of Criminal Appeals granted Gossett’s writ of habeas relief on the grounds of actual innocence.
Gossett’s exoneration makes him the 28th person exonerated through DNA in Texas since 1994 – more than any other state in the nation – and it comes on the eve of a full Texas Senate debate on a bill to create a state Innocence Commission, which is set for Monday. Also Monday (in Illinois), the 200th person in the nation will be exonerated through DNA evidence.
“It is only fitting that the Innocence Commission bill hits the full Senate on the historic day of the nation’s 200th DNA exoneration,” said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. “Texas is the epicenter of the seismic shift that these 200 DNA exonerations have created in the criminal justice system. The state Innocence Commission will allow us to learn the lessons of these exonerations and prevent them from happening in the future.”
According to the Innocence Project, the 28 Texans who have been exonerated through DNA served a combined total of more than 344 years in prison. (James Giles, who was cleared of a 1983 rape conviction in Dallas earlier this month, has not yet received a ruling from the Court of Criminal Appeals that will officially exonerate him; that process can take several months.)
The bill to create an Innocence Commission in Texas (S.B. 263) passed the Criminal Justice Committee earlier this month (several people who had been exonerated through DNA in Texas testified in support of the bill at the hearing).
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, which is scheduled for floor debate in the Senate Monday.