Innocence Project client Ernest Sonnier has been in Texas prisons for 23 years for a rape DNA now shows he didn’t commit. He is expected to be freed tomorrow following a hearing at the Harris County Court.
“We fully expect Ernest Sonnier to be home with his family on Friday night for the first time in more than 23 years,” said Alba Morales, the Innocence Project Staff Attorney handling the case. “This is a complicated case, but the bottom line is simple: Ernest Sonnier is innocent, and his long nightmare is coming to an end. We have conducted nine rounds of DNA testing on multiple pieces of evidence for the last 18 months. Not a shred of evidence ties Ernest to this crime, but DNA testing has identified the two apparent perpetrators.”
Sonnier was convicted in 1986 based in part on a questionable eyewitness identification and forensic evidence that was improperly tested and presented. His is the latest in a string of cases where faulty forensics in the Houston Police Department Crime Lab contributed to the wrongful conviction. A comprehensive audit of cases in the lab found in 2007 that serology testing there from 1980 to 1992 was “generally unreliable.”
Read more and download the full audit report here
But the problem isn’t isolated in Houston. Among the nation’s 241 DNA exonerations to date, approximately 50% involved unvalidated or improper forensic science. Earlier this year, an unprecedented report from the National Academy of Sciences found serious deficiencies in forensic science and called for the creation of a National Institute of Forensic Sciences.
Learn more and join the call for federal oversight and support of forensics at the Just Science Coalition website