New DNA testing shows that Patrick Waller was wrongfully convicted and sentenced to life for a 1992 Dallas rape, and he may be released as soon as next week, Dallas County prosecutors said yesterday. Waller was 22 when he was arrested in connection with the rape, and he has served nearly 16 years in prison to date.
Waller was one of the first Dallas prisoners to request DNA testing after the state passed a DNA access law in 2001, but the office of former District Attorney Bill Hill refused to agree to testing. He was again denied in 2005. The office of current District Attorney Craig Watkins has taken a different approach, investigating the cases of prisoners previously denied access to testing and conducting new tests when appropriate. It was the investigation of Watkins’ Conviction Integrity Unit that has cleared Waller in this case.
Waller was convicted and sentenced to life in prison as one of two men who raped a woman in an abandoned Dallas building in 1992. DNA testing approved by Watkins’ office led to the identity of one of the two perpetrators – Byron Bell, 38, who is serving time in prison for a burlary committed months after the rape for which Waller was wrongfully convicted. Prosecutors have said that Bell admitted to his involvement in the case and disclosed the identity of the other perpetrator, Leonardo Simmons, who has also admitted to his role in the crime.
Waller is the 19
person cleared by DNA testing in Dallas County to date. He is represented by Dallas defense attorney Gary Udashen. The Innocence Project of Texas and the Innocence Project have consulted on the case.
Read today’s news report on the case
. We will post more on the Innocence Blog next week as the case develops.