27 Years Later, Donald Gates is Declared Innocent


Donald Eugene Gates was freed from prison and his conviction was vacated last week when a D.C. Superior Court judge acted at the prosecutor’s request and acknowledged Gates was wrongfully imprisoned for 27 years. DNA testing and other evidence showed that Gates was innocent. The U.S. Attorney’s Office initially said it would block Gates’ exoneration, but backed down late Friday.

The Washington Post writes:

“The court finds by clear and convincing evidence that Mister Gates is actually innocent,” Judge Fred B. Ugast wrote in his opinion issued Friday, clearing Gates of all charges.…

Prosecutors also acknowledged in a letter Friday to Ugast that they had found correspondence alerting them in 1997 to 12 discredited FBI crime analysts, including one whose testimony they had relied on heavily during Gates’s trial.  Prosecutors previously indicated in court that they had not been told about the analysts, a mistake that Ugast had called “outrageous.”  Also, prosecutors had relied on testimony from a paid informant who testified that Gates confessed the killing and rape to him.

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Gates, who is now 58, was released from an Arizona prison last Tuesday. A hearing in his case that was scheduled for today was canceled once prosecutors agreed to drop the case – and admitted that they have known for 12 years that the forensic expert who testified at his trial has been discredited.  

The Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia handled Gates’ post-conviction case. The Innocence Project has called for thorough review and follow-up of other cases involving the discredited FBI analysts who testified in Gates’ case.


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