News 10.15.07

The Ronnie Taylor case: A chain of errors and a path to reform

In 1994, when Ronnie Taylor had been in a Houston jail for a year awaiting a rape trial, he wrote a note to the judge: "I've set here for over one year without bond on charges I didn't commit. As each day passes it gets harder and harder.”

He was wrongfully convicted in 1995 and it was over 5,000 difficult days later – last Tuesday – that he finally walked free after DNA testing proved his innocence. An article in the Houston Chronicle this weekend uncovers the errors that led to Taylor’s wrongful conviction, and an editorial calls for immediate reform in Taylor’s name.

Taylor was convicted based on shoddy police work, a questionable eyewitness identification and a major error by the scandal-plagued Houston crime lab. Hours after the crime, the police had the street name of the man who is now implicated in the crime by a DNA match. Instead, they pursued Taylor and charged him after the questionable identification.

As the case against Taylor unraveled, leading to his release from prison last week, weaknesses throughout the investigation have become clear, according to a review of police and court documents.


Read the investigative report here

. (Houston Chronicle, 10/14/07)

After Taylor’s release last Tuesday, he went straight to a Houston City Council meeting to ask officials to take action to ensure that no more innocent victims of crime lab error remain behind bars in Texas. The Chronicle pointed out this weekend that it has been five years since errors were first uncovered at the Houston Police Department Crime Lab, and yet hundreds of cases have never received a second look. The editorial praised a group of Houston judges for taking action last week by forming a panel to study 180 convictions for possible lab error. But private groups in Houston must work together to ensure that this effort is well staffed and moves quickly.

Among these inmates might be more Houstonians like Ronald Taylor: innocent men and women for whom each day behind bars is another robbed from their lives.

This is why it's so urgent to re-examine these documented miscarriages of justice. It's also why the job requires expert, disinterested professionals. Some judges presiding over the case reviews were prosecutors on some of the very cases in question.

The new panel must be able to publicly account for its progress by January. Ronald Gene Taylor should not have to wait one day longer to see Houston pursuing justice


Read the full editorial here

. (Houston Chronicle, 10/14/07)

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