News 04.15.08

Another bad photo lineup, another wrongful conviction

Innocence Project client Thomas McGowan is expected to be released from prison tomorrow in Texas after serving almost 23 years for a rape he didn’t commit. McGowan was convicted in Dallas, where 14 people have already been exonerated by DNA evidence – more than any other county and all but three states. Twelve of those Dallas exonerations involved an eyewitness misidentification, often with an improper lineup procedure, as in McGowan’s case.

When McGowan was arrested in 1985, he was in his mid-twenties, a high school graduate. The victim in the case was shown a photo array with seven photos – but there were effectively only three photos in the array, since two of them were photocopies of photographs, one was a black-and-white photo (all the others were in color), and one was marked “Garland Police Department” (while the remaining three were marked “Richardson Police Department,” which is where the crime took place)..

McGowan’s photo was on record from a traffic violation. The victim told the officer conducting the lineup that she “thought” McGowan was the perpetrator. “You have to be sure, yes or no,” she was told. After hearing these instructions, she said McGowan was “definitely” the perpetrator. With this as the main evidence against him, he was convicted and sentenced to two life terms in prison.

Decades of social science research have led to significant improvements in the way lineups are conducted in many towns, cities and states. Tomorrow, Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck plans to join Thomas McGowan outside the Dallas Courthouse in calling for better lineup procedures in Texas. Last year, an eyewitness reform bill was approved by the Texas Senate and the House Law Enforcement Committee but did not pass the full House before the session ended. It will be introduced again in the next session.


Read today’s press release

on McGowan’s expected release and stay tuned tomorrow for more news. We will send an email to our breaking news subscribers as soon as McGowan is free. Subscribe today to make sure you get tomorrow’s email –

www.innocenceproject.org/signup

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