spent ten years in prison for a rape he didn't commit and 13 years fighting for the DNA testing that would finally exonerate him. Today, he is a successful attorney practicing in China and Texas and Saturday marks the ninth anniversary of his exoneration.
An eyewitness misidentification played a key role in Robinson’s wrongful conviction. On the day of the crime, he was picking up a car for a friend at the University of Houston. University police blocked his car and accused him of raping a woman. According to the victim, her attacker was a black man wearing a jacket. Although the victim said the perpetrator had a mustache and Robinson didn’t, he was brought in for questioning. No physical evidence linked him to the crime. Based almost entirely on the victim’s testimony, Robinson was convicted in 1987 and sentenced to 27 years in prison.
He would later reflect on the feeling of being wrongfully accused: “It was not so much the fear of imprisonment. It wasn’t so much the fear of what was going to happen. Everything that I had lived for, everything that I had done had been boiled down to — we think you’re a rapist with no evidence whatsoever other than your skin and someone saying you did this.”
After serving ten years of his sentence, he was paroled and began raising funds to obtain DNA testing on the evidence used in his trial. He worked a variety of temporary jobs to raise the funds for DNA testing. Although he was a college graduate and a former Army officer, his status as a registered sex offender excluded him from higher paying jobs. Robinson hired an attorney, Randy Schaffer, and obtained access to DNA testing on evidence in his case. The results proved what he had known all along – another man had committed the crime.
On November 14, 2000, Governor George W. Bush pardoned Robinson. Since his exoneration, Robinson has spoken actively about the issue of wrongful conviction to lawmakers and the media and played a key role in the passage of a law in Texas compensating the wrongfully convicted after their release.
After Robinson was cleared, Texas State Senator Rodney Ellis and other Houston attorneys helped raise funds for him to attend law school. He graduated from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas Southern University in 2004, and currently works in international law. He is also a member of the
Innocence Project of Texas Board of Directors
Texas Exoneree Council
Other exoneration anniversaries this week:
Bruce Dallas Goodman
, Utah (Served 19 Years, Exonerated 11/9/04)
, Nebraska (Served 19 Years, Exonerated 11/10/08)
David Brian Sutherlin
, Minnesota (Exonerated 11/13/02)
, Illinois (Served 9 years, Exonerated 2002)