News 11.28.08

Carlos Lavernia Marks Eight Years of Freedom

Tomorrow marks the eighth anniversary of

Carlos Lavernia

’s exoneration in Texas. He spent 15 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit before he was finally exonerated by DNA testing in 1998.

In June 1983, a Texas woman was walking to a park for her daily jog. On her way to the park, she walked past a Latino man, who she would later describe as about 5'6” tall, wearing a maroon shirt and baggy pants. When she began her jog, the same man began jogging behind her. Suddenly, he attacked her and dragged her off the trail. The perpetrator held her at knifepoint and raped her.

Although police stopped Lavernia four times, he did not become a suspect until one year after the crime. Police showed the victim three rounds of photo lineups before she identified Lavernia as her attacker. She testified that Lavernia was the only one in the lineup who "anywhere near resembled" the police sketch. Based on the victim’s identification, Lavernia was convicted and sentenced to 99 years.

Writing his own appeals, Lavernia repeatedly claimed ineffective counsel and problems with the victim's identification, and he repeatedly lost. It was not until 1999, when he asked for DNA testing, that his case was finally revisited. A detective and a police officer visited Lavernia in prison. They took a sample of his DNA, and compared it to the victim's stained running shorts and hospital swabs from the rape kit. Lavernia was exonerated in 2000, when the test results excluded him as a suspect. 

Since his exoneration, Lavernia still thinks about his time in prison: "I dream too much about it all. Too much. Almost every day. All the pain. I don't want to go nowhere. I still got it on my mind."

Other exoneration anniversaries this week:


John Dixon

, New Jersey (Served 10 years, Exonerated 2001)


Ronnie Mahan

, Alabama (Served 11.5 years, Exonerated 1998)


Dale Mahan

, Alabama (Served 11.5 years, Exonerated 1998)

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