Thursday, January 3, 2008

Another Dallas Man to be Exonerated after 27 Years in Prison

As we've mentioned before, Dallas County leads the country in wrongful convictions. Most of those wrongful convictions resulted from faulty police lineup procedures. Yesterday, the number of wrongfully convicted individuals to be freed as a result of DNA testing in Dallas County grew to 15, as news broke that DNA proved that Charles Allen Chatman could not have committed the rape for which he spent nearly 27 years in prison.

In Mr. Chatman's case, previous DNA tests failed to yield discernible profiles, but the more recent attempt to develop a Y-STR profile (a powerful method of isolating male DNA from a mixture, often successful in rape cases where tradition DNA testing was not) was successful, and definitively cleared Mr. Chatman:

State District Judge John Creuzot, who pushed for the genetic test that cleared Mr. Chatman, scheduled a hearing for this morning during which he is expected to order the 47-year-old man released on a personal bond and find him to be innocent.

"My attitude is that if the man is innocent, he needs to be free," the judge said.

As we've also mentioned previously, Dallas County is at least ostensibly making efforts to remedy its significant wrongful conviction problem by taking part in a federally funded study designed to identify more reliable protocols for police lineup procedures. It remains to be seen, however, whether the study will be a legitimate scientific endeavor, or just another attempt to rubber-stamp the same status quo procedures that led to all these wrongful convictions.

UPDATE: As Maggie at Of Counsel points out, this may be the first time that an exoneration investigation was actually prompted by a judge. Hopefully others will follow Judge Creuzot's excellent example.

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