News 05.27.09

Freed in Dallas

On May 27, Jerry Lee Evans (left) walked out of a Dallas courtroom a free man for the first time since 1986, when he was arrested for a sexual assault he didn’t commit. Prosecutors say DNA testing has proven his innocence, and they will seek his complete exoneration.

Evans and several other Dallas exonerees will appear May 27 on Larry King Live. Read more about Evans’ case here. Like most of the people exonerated through DNA testing in Dallas County – and nationwide – Evans was convicted, at least in part, because of an eyewitness misidentification. Legislation is pending in the Texas Legislature that would improve eyewitness identification procedures statewide.

Learn more about reforms that can reduce eyewitness misidentifications

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Eighteen other men who were wrongfully convicted in Dallas have been exonerated by DNA testing since 2001. Below are summaries of their cases. (Evans and two other people in Dallas County have been cleared with DNA testing, but their exonerations will not be official until the Court of Criminal Appeals acts on their cases or the governor issues pardons for them.)



David Shawn Pope


David Shawn Pope was convicted in 1986 of a 1985 aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to 45 years. He was pardoned in 2001 after spending 15 years in prison.

Background:

In the evening of July 24, 1985, in Garland, Texas, an unknown man knocked on a woman’s door, asked for someone who did not live there, and left. At 6 a.m. the next morning, she woke up to a man standing over her bed with a knife, and she was raped. After her assault, the victim followed her attacker to the patio door and stood next to him. She described her rapist to the police as a young white male, around 5' 8" tall, 140 pounds, blond, slim, very tan, and wearing beige pants and no shirt. The victim was unable to identify Pope in a photographic lineup, but over a month later, she identified Pope in a live lineup. The victim also identified Pope in court as the man who raped her. The prosecution’s evidence also included a knife found in his car that resembled one stolen from the victim’s kitchen and used during the attack, and a “voice print analysis,” which was said to match Pope’s voice to messages left on the victim’s answering machine in the weeks after the crime. (Scientists have questioned the accuracy of voice print analysis, and it is no longer used in courts.) Pope maintained his innocence and testified on his own behalf in the punishment phase of his trial. He testified that he had lived in the same apartment complex as the victim until the month prior to the rape when he was evicted, and that during the month of the attack, he at times lived out of his car on the apartment complex’s grounds. In January 1999, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office received an anonymous call that supported Pope’s claim of innocence. The case was reopened and the rape kit was submitted to DNA testing, which excluded Pope as the perpetrator and matched a convicted rapist. Governor Rick Perry pardoned Pope on February 2, 2001.



Wiley Fountain

Wiley Fountain was convicted in 1986 of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to 40 years in prison. Fountain was released on parole in February 2001, but his parole was revoked months later when he failed to find a job and pay fees as a registered sex offender. He was finally released from prison in 2002 after DNA excluded him from rape kit evidence, and he was pardoned by Governor Rick Perry in 2003.

Background:

A pregnant woman was grabbed from behind while walking to a bus stop in Dallas and raped at knifepoint. The perpetrator dragged the victim to a nearby driveway, raped her, and stole money from her. The victim told police that moments before she was accosted,

she saw her attacker, whom she believed to be Fountain because she had recently seen him in her apartment complex. According to the victim, she and her attacker were face to face, just inches apart, at different points during the attack. She later gave police a description of her attacker, and an officer stopped Fountain (who was on parole at the time for a 1983 burglary conviction) a block from the victim’s apartment because he was wearing clothing that matched the description of the suspect. The victim later identified him in a photo lineup. Fountain asserted that he had been at home when the rape happened, and he had an alibi witness at trial. Testing of the biological evidence was inconclusive at that time. He was convicted in 1986 and sentenced to 40 years in prison. In 2002, with the urging of the Dallas County Public Defender’s Office, DNA testing was conducted on a vaginal swab and excluded Fountain as the perpetrator. After the DNA was submitted for testing twice more with the same results, Governor Rick Perry pardoned Fountain on March 18, 2003.



Donald Wayne Good

Donald Wayne Good was convicted in 1984 of committing a 1983 rape and burglary. He was sentenced to life in prison. He was paroled in 1993, but his parole was revoked in 2002 (for a minor property crime); he is still serving a five-year sentence for the property crime. In 2004, DNA testing proved that Good could not have been the man who committed the 1983 crimes, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals exonerated him in 2004.

Background:

A perpetrator broke into a Dallas County woman’s home, restrained her daughter in one room, then put a pillowcase over the victim’s head and raped her in a separate room. Both the daughter and mother identified Good. He was in police custody on unrelated charges when a police officer saw a resemblance with the composite sketch and included his photo in a photo array. Good’s first trial ended in a hung jury. At the second trial, in 1984, Good was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Good represented himself in an appeal and lost. Besides the identification, the prosecution also relied on serological testing of the victim’s clothing and a blanket, which matched Good as well as a significant percentage of the white male population. In 1993, Good was paroled and registered as a sex offender. In 2002, he was arrested for a minor property crime and had his parole revoked and his life sentence reinstated. He received a five-year sentence for the property crime. In 2003, Good’s motion requesting DNA testing was granted and the court ordered testing of the rape kit. In April 2004, DNA test results excluded Good as the perpetrator. In November 2004, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Good's writ of habeas corpus. He remains in prison for the minor property crime charge and is expected to be released in May 2007.



Keith E. Turner

In 1983, Keith E. Turner was convicted of a 1982 aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to 20 years in prison, of which he served four years. Turner was exonerated and pardoned in 2005.

Background:

A rape victim in Dallas identified Turner as her assailant. She and Turner worked for different branches of the same company and came into contact when Turner was transferred. She identified him both visually and by his voice. Turner provided an alibi, but he was convicted in 1983 and spent four years in prison. He was out on parole when Governor Rick Perry pardoned him on December 22, 2005, based on exculpatory DNA test results.



Entre Nax Karage


In 1997, Entre Nax Karage was convicted of committing a 1994 murder and sentenced to life in prison, of which he served seven years. He was exonerated and pardoned in December 2005.

Background:

In 1994, Karage’s 14-year-old girlfriend was murdered. Three years later, Karage was convicted of the crime by Judge Karen Greene in a non-jury trial. DNA testing at the time of the trial did not match Karage, but this was consistent with the prosecutors’ belief that Karage had found his girlfriend with another man and killed her in a jealous rage. Karage provided a written statement asserting his innocence, but he didn’t have a solid alibi. Also, some of his girlfriend’s blood was found in the trunk of Karage’s car. None of the prosecution’s evidence linked him to the scene of the crime. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Seven years later, authorities finally ran the DNA test through the federal database of convicted offenders and found a match to another man who was previously convicted of a similar crime. Karage was pardoned by Governor Rick Perry in 2005.



Eugene Ivory Henton

Eugene Ivory Henton was convicted of sexual assault in 1984 and sentenced to four years. He served 18 months in prison on that charge. DNA testing exculpated Henton in 2005, and he was exonerated the following year.

Background:

On Febraury 18, 1984, a woman awoke in her Dallas County, TX home to find an intruder in the house. The man sexually assaulted her, locked her in a closet and left. The victim told police that she did not know the man and had never seen him before.

In exchange for a guilty plea, Henton was sentenced in 1984 to four years in prison. He was paroled 18 months after he entered prison, but continued his pursuit for DNA testing in order to prove his innocence. In 2005, he was finally granted testing, which proved that he was not the man who had raped the victim in 1984. He was officially exonerated in 2006 when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted his writ of habeas corpus.

 



Gregory Wallis

Gregory Wallis was convicted in 1989 of burglary of a habitation with intent to commit sexual assault in 1988. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison and served 18 years. He was released in March 2006 and officially exonerated in 2007.

Background:

In January 1988, a man talked his way into an Irving, Texas, condo and for two hours repeatedly raped and assaulted the woman living there. The victim gave a description to police, but without any leads, the investigation went cold. Four months later, after police circulated a flier about the attack in a local jail, an inmate made a deal with Irving detectives and became a confidential informant. The informant told police that Greg Wallis had a tattoo similar to the description given by the victim. After Wallis became a suspect, the victim picked him out of a photo array. The police had no physical evidence tying Wallis to the crime, and his wife testified that he had been with her at the time of the attack. Weeks before his trial, he was offered – and rejected – a plea bargain offer of 10 years. At trial, the victim testified that she knew for a fact Wallis was the man who raped her. He was convicted and sentenced to 50 years. In December 2005, results of a first round of DNA testing could not entirely exclude Wallis. He was offered his freedom if he would agree to be a life-time registered sex offender. He declined. In 2006, another (more advanced) DNA test was conducted and the results proved that Wallis was not the perpetrator. He was released from prison in March 2006, and in January 2007, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted his writ of habeas corpus, officially exonerating him.

 



Billy Wayne Miller


Billy Wayne Miller was convicted of abducting and sexually assaulting a woman and sentenced to life in 1984. He was released from prison in May 2006 after serving 22 years, and he was pardoned in December 2006.

Background:

In 1983, a Dallas County woman was given a ride by a man she didn’t know. As the man approached the victim’s house, he pulled out a gun and kept driving. The man raped the victim in the car and then drove to a local house, where he raped her again. Eventually he drove the victim to her friend’s house and released her. She later led police to the house where she believed the crime had occurred. Miller was inside and was arrested immediately. He would be convicted of aggravated sexual assault with a deadly weapon.

Miller began to seek DNA testing in 2001 but it wasn’t granted until 2005. Testing showed that biological evidence collected from the victim in a rape examination could not have come from Miller. The victim was located and she told state investigators that the only possible source of the evidence was the attacker. Miller was released in May of 2006 and was officially pardoned by Gov. Rick Perry in December 2006.

 



Billy James Smith


Billy James Smith was convicted of aggravated sexual assault while using and exhibiting a deadly weapon in 1986. He was sentenced to life in prison. Smith was released in July 2006 and officially exonerated in December 2006.

Background:

Smith was convicted of raping a woman while using a knife as a weapon. His conviction was based in part on an incorrect identification made by the victim’s boyfriend – who did not witness the attack (the Court of Criminal Appeals called this identification “questionable”). The police who searched Smith’s belongings did not find clothing that the victim said the perpetrator wore. The clothes that police confiscated from Smith contained no DNA evidence whatsoever. Also, Smith’s sister testified at trial, corroborating his alibi. There was no evidence in the record that the victim had engaged in sex with anyone besides her attacker in the 24 hours prior to her rape. The prosecution used the presence of semen to prove that a rape had occurred, and Smith was convicted.

After Smith requested DNA testing in 2001, the state argued that because the victim had a live-in boyfriend, it may have been possible that the semen belonged to him and therefore, according to the state, results excluding Smith would not prove his innocence. Both the trial court and an appeals court denied his requests for DNA testing. Finally, in June 2005, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overruled the two lower courts and granted Smith’s request for testing, which would set him free in July 2006. In December 2006, he was exonerated when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted his writ of habeas corpus.



Larry Fuller


Larry Fuller was convicted in 1981 of aggravated rape and sentenced to 50 years. (In 1999, he was released on parole, but in YEAR, he returned to prison because of a minor parole violation.) DNA testing in 2006 proved that he could not have been the man that committed the crime, and he was released. In January 2007, he was pardoned.

Background:

In the pre-dawn hours of April 26, 1981, a woman woke up to find a man sitting on top of her with a knife in his hand. When she resisted, he cut her hand, both sides of her neck, and her buttocks. He then raped her and left. The victim claimed that she could see her attacker from a crack of light from her window and the light of her digital alarm clock. She identified Fuller from a photo array and also at trial. The victim was shown two photo arrays. She was unable to make a positive identification from the first array. In the second array, a more recent picture of Fuller was included showing him with a full beard. She identified Fuller from this photo – even though she didn’t remember her attacker having any facial hair and the photo had been taken only one week after the attack. Fuller was the only man to appear in both arrays. According to a state serology expert at Fuller’s trial, testing of the blood and semen sample showed it to be consistent with Fuller and exclusionary to 80 percent of the population. However, upon cross-examination the expert conceded that the results were not definitive. Fuller’s alibi was corroborated and he had no record of sex crimes. Nevertheless, he was convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison.

He first contacted the Innocence Project in the mid-1990s. After his release in 1999, he continued to seek post-conviction DNA testing to prove his innocence. In 2003, an initial round of DNA testing was inconclusive. Finally, in 2006, more advanced DNA testing showed that Fuller was not the perpetrator, and he was released. Texas Governor Rick Perry pardoned Fuller on January 11, 2007.

 



Andrew Gossett

In February 2000, Andrew Gossett was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to 50 years. Gossett was finally released on January 4, 2007, after DNA test results proved his innocence.

Background:

The victim in this case was abducted at gunpoint while stopped at a traffic light, taken to a secluded area, and orally and vaginally raped. After the attack, she drove to a hospital, reported the incident, and a rape examination was conducted. Police apprehended Gossett near the intersection where the victim had been abducted because they believed he matched the general description. The victim then identified Gossett from a photo array. The detective administering the lineup later expressed surprise at how quickly the victim made an identification. No physical evidence linked Gossett to the crime. Initial DNA testing in his case was inconclusive. Hair samples retrieved from the victim’s vehicle did not match Gossett. The victim testified that her assailant had a state of Texas map ring on his finger, but detectives who searched Gossett’s residence did not find a ring. Also, a videotape recovered from a convenience store showed Gossett shortly after the attack, wearing clothing that was inconsistent with the victim’s description. Gossett claimed that he had been at his girlfriend’s house all night except for this trip to the store. However, Gossett was found guilty. He spent seven years in prison before DNA testing led to his release. He was officially exonerated when the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted his writ of habeas corpus in early 2007.

 



James Douglas Waller


James Douglas Waller was convicted in 1983 of aggravated sexual abuse and sentenced to 30 years in connection with the rape of a 12-year-old boy. He was released on parole in 1993. In 1989, he began seeking DNA testing at his own expense, and in 2006, testing supported his claim of innocence. He was pardoned in 2007.

Background:

The 12-year-old victim, alone in his apartment except for his younger brother, was awakened when an African-American man entered at around 6 a.m. His mother and other family members had already left for work. The man wore a bandana tied around the lower half of his face, and the victim testified later that he did not have any opportunity to see him face to face. The man ordered the boy to put his face down on a pillow and then orally and anally sodomized him. The next day, the victim believed that he heard the voice of the assailant while in a 7-Eleven store near his apartment. When he saw the man, James Waller, he further believed that this was the man who assaulted him. Waller and his family also lived in the victim’s apartment complex and were the only African-American residents. Waller was substantially taller and heavier than the victim’s initial description of the assailant. At trial, the apartment manager also identified Waller. She said she saw an unknown man walk by her door toward the victim’s apartment the morning of the attack. Her testimony was inconsistent with the fact that as a resident of the same apartment complex, Waller would have been known to her. In addition to these eyewitness identifications, a trace evidence analyst testified that a collection of hairs from the crime scene did not match Waller’s. The defense also presented an alibi; yet after just a few hours of testimony and 46 minutes of deliberations, the jury convicted him. Waller initially sought DNA testing in 1989, and redoubled his efforts in 2001, eight years after his release, when the State Legislature passed a law granting post-conviction access to DNA testing. The state denied Waller’s request for the testing to be conducted at a private laboratory and instead had the evidence tested at the Department of Public Safety. The Department was unable to obtain a result and the evidence was entirely consumed in its analysis. In 2004, with the help of the Innocence Project, Waller was granted permission to have previously unavailable Y-STR DNA testing conducted on liquid extracts of the evidence. The results proved that Waller could not have been the man who committed the crime. Waller was pardoned by Texas Governor Rick Perry on March 9, 2007.



James Curtis Giles

Giles was convicted in 1983 for allegedly raping a victim with two other men. He was released on parole in 1993 but continued to pursue legal action to prove his innocence. The Innocence Project began investigating his case in 2000 and DNA evidence proved that Giles was innocent. He was finally exonerated in 2007.

Background:

A Dallas woman was raped in her house by three men on August 1, 1983. DNA testing and other evidence has since proven the identities of all three men involved in the 1983 rape, and one of them was another James Giles: James Earl Giles, who lived across the street from the victim. Police allegedly had evidence proving to James Earl Giles before trial, but did not hand that evidence over to the defense attorney representing James Curtis Giles. Giles was convicted and served 10 years before being released on parole. He has continued to proclaim his innocence and prosecutors announced on February 22, 2007, that they would join with the Innocence Project in seeking to clear Giles' name. A Dallas judge agreed that Giles should be cleared and he was officially exonerated when the state's highest court granted his writ of habeas corpus on June 21, 2007.



Charles Chatman

Chatman was convicted in Dallas of a 1981 rape after he was misidentified in a photo lineup. He served nearly 27 years before DNA testing proved his innocence in 2007, leading to his release on January 3, 2008.

Background:

In the early morning hours of January 15, 1981, a woman was raped in her Dallas apartment by a male African-American intruder wearing a dark cap pulled down over his head. She says she kept her eyes closed during most of the attack, but had one brief chance to see the attacker from the nose up. She also said she felt the man's facial hair during the attack. Chatman became a suspect when the victim identified him in a photo lineup. She then identified him again in a live lineup. The same officer conducting the rape investigation administered both lineups.

A Dallas jury convicted Chatman of aggravated rape in 1981 and sentenced him to 99 years in prison. On appeal in 2004, Texas Judge John Creuzot approved DNA testing in Chatman’s case, but these tests were inconclusive. Chatman’s appointed attorney, Michelle Moore (who was co-counsel with the Innocence Project of Texas on the case), then asked that the evidence be tested using Y-STR testing, an advanced form of DNA testing that can determine a profile from a small sample. The risk was that this final test could have consumed the last of the biological evidence in the case. Chatman agreed to take the risk, and it proved to be the right decision. The results of the Y-STR testing proved Chatman’s innocence and he was released on January 3, 2008. His exoneration became official when charges against him were dropped February 26, 2008.



Thomas McGowan

Thomas McGowan served nearly 23 years in Texas prison for a rape he didn’t commit before DNA testing proven his innocence and led to his release in 2008. Like many wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA testing, McGowan’s conviction rested in part on an eyewitness misidentification in a faulty lineup.

Background:

Around noon on May 7, 1985, a woman returned to her Richardson, Texas, to find her television on the floor and pry marks on the door. Seconds later, she was assaulted by an African-American man who beat her severely, threatened her with a knife and forced her to undress. He wrapped a robe around her head, tied her hands with his belt and raped her. Moments later, the man fled her house, taking several pieces of her property with him.

Several days after the crime, the victim viewed an improper photo lineup – consisting of three black-and-white photocopied mugshots and four color photos. Of the four color photos, three defendants were holding placards with the “Richardson Police,” the town where the crime took place. One of these three was McGowan, and the victim said she “thought” he was the perpetrator. When an officer told her she needed to be sure, she changed her statement and said it was “definitely” him. Her identification was the central evidence against McGowan at trial. He was convicted and received two life sentences.

The Innocence Project accepted McGowan’s case in 2007, and the Dallas District Attorney’s Office was cooperative in locating biological evidence from the crime and pursuing testing. DNA test results in 2008 proved that another man committed the crime, and McGowan was released on April 16, 2008. He was officially exonerated by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on June 11, 2008.



Steven Phillips

In two separate trials, Steven Phillips was convicted of burglary in 1982 and rape in 1983.  He was sentenced to 30 years in prison for these two convictions. Before a third trial could begin, Phillips pled guilty to charges stemming from five other similar crimes in exchange for an additional sentence of 10 years. In 1996, Phillips was released on parole but was arrested again in 1997 for an alleged parole violation and returned to prison. More than 24 years after his conviction, Phillips was released on parole in 2007. One year later, DNA testing proved his innocence and he was formally exonerated in 2008.

Background:

During a six-week crime spree in 1982, approximately 60 women at gyms, spas and other facilities in the Dallas area were accosted by a male attacker who forced them at gunpoint to engage in sex acts. In one incident, a Dallas woman was raped at home. The victims gave similar descriptions of a man with striking blue eyes in a hooded gray sweatshirt, who covered the lower half of his face with a piece of cloth. Police determined that the same man was responsible for all of the incidents.

 

Although Phillips has green eyes, the rape victim identified him as the rapist and several other victims identified him as well. However, many of these subsequent identifications came after police had circulated photos of Phillips in the media. As police focused on Phillips, they ignored strong evidence that another man, Sidney Alvin Goodyear, actually committed the Dallas-area crime spree and identical crimes in Kansas City.

Phillips began to seek post-conviction DNA testing in 2002, but his requests were initially denied. With the help of the Innocence Project, DNA testing was finally conducted in 2006 and proved that Phillips was innocent of the rape. A DNA database hit revealed that the real perpetrator was Goodyear, who had died in prison in 1998. An investigation by the Dallas prosecutor's office concluded that Phillips was also innocent of all other related charges. On October 1, 2008, Phillips was officially exonerated through a writ of habeas corpus from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.



Patrick Waller

Patrick Waller was wrongfully convicted of robbery and kidnapping in 1992. He spent nearly 16 years in Texas prisons before DNA testing proved his innocence. He was exonerated of all charges by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on September 24, 2008.

Background:

On March 25, 1992, a Dallas couple was abducted at gunpoint by two men. The couple was taken by the assailants to an abandoned house where the woman was raped. During the assault, another couple was taken at gunpoint into the house, forced by the assailants to remove their clothes and then tied up. The perpetrators fled the scene when a school district security officer happened to drive by the house.

 

One week after the abduction and rape, all four victims picked Waller out of either a photo lineup or a live lineup. Waller was also identified by the first couple as the man who held the gun during the attack and who raped the female victim. Waller, who was on probation for an unrelated incident, was then arrested and charged with aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping. The Dallas Police Department never identified or charged a second suspect. Despite alibi testimony at trial, the eyewitness testimony of the four victims, as well as forensic testing of semen from the crime scene which did not exclude Waller, led to him being convicted of all charges and sentenced to life in prison.

In late 2007, DNA testing paid for by the Innocence Project of Texas excluded Waller and implicated the real perpetrator. Waller was freed on July 3, 2008, after serving more than 15 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.



Johnnie Lindsey


In 1982, Johnnie Lindsey was wrongfully convicted of aggravated rape and sentenced to life in prison. He was officially exonerated and pardoned on April 24, 2009.

Background:

In 1982, a 28-year-old woman was raped in a Dallas park. It was not until a year after the assault that the victim identified the perpetrator in a photo lineup that police sent through the mail. She had originally described her attacker as a shirtless African-American man. Lindsey was one of the two shirtless men in the six-photo lineup, and she identified him.

Lindsey was arrested and charged based on this misidentification. Despite testimony at trial from his boss corroborating his claim that he was at work at the time of the assault, Lindsey was convicted. He served 27 years in Texas prisons before DNA testing proved him innocent and led to his release in September 2008 and his official exoneration in April 2009.

 

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