Sunday, June 29, 2008

Man spent 23 years in prison for rape he didn't commit because woman 'thought' he looked like her assailant

Another tragic misuse of lineup evidence to convict an innocent man.


Texas Appeals court officially clears wrongly convicted man

AP 2008-06-11 22:44:36

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - The Texas state criminal appeals court has officially exonerated a man who spent nearly 23 years in prison for a rape he did not commit.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed Wednesday with a lower court ruling that DNA evidence proves Thomas Clifford McGowan is innocent of the 1985 rape of a Dallas-area woman.

This step clears his record and makes it possible for McGowan to pursue financial compensation from the state.

McGowan was convicted in separate trials in 1985 and 1986 of rape and burglary. He was sentenced to life in prison both times.

McGowan is one of 18 Dallas County men since 2001 to have his conviction cast aside because of DNA testing. That is the most of any county in America, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center that specializes in overturning wrongful convictions.

Thirty-two people have been formally exonerated through DNA testing in Texas, also a national high, according to the Innocence Project. That does not include at least three recent cases that will not become official until Gov. Rick Perry grants pardons or the Court of Criminal Appeals issues rulings.

McGowan's wrongful imprisonment began in 1985 when a woman happened upon a burglary in progress at her apartment. After tying her up, a man raped the woman at knifepoint and loaded his car with several items stolen from her apartment, according to court documents.

The victim eventually picked McGowan from a photo array of seven men, telling police she "thought" he was the attacker. Police pressed her, saying she must be certain and not "just think it was him." That's when she decided he "definitely" was the attacker, the woman testified in court.McGowan and his attorneys have said he was a victim of eyewitness misidentification. Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck said police initiated a "forced-choice response" from the rape victim.