Man who spent 12 years in prison pardoned

June 20, 2008 4:04:01 PM PDT
A man who spent 12 years in prison for a rape that DNA evidence later proved he did not commit has been pardoned by Gov. Rick Perry, eight months after his release from prison. Perry signed the pardon June 13, but Ronald Gene Taylor and his lawyers received notice Thursday.

"It's been hard to get restarted," Taylor told the Houston Chronicle in a phone interview from Atlanta. "Little things, like filling out a job application or renting an apartment, are hard when you have to say you are a convicted felon. Now, I am officially a free man. I am so relieved."

The governor's pardon also clears the way for Taylor to collect about $700,000 from the state if he agrees not to sue. Taylor said he is weighing his options.

Taylor, 48, was convicted in 1995 of attacking a woman in her home less than a mile from where he lived in Houston; he was sentenced to 60 years in prison. Prosecutors built a case on the victim's identification of Taylor and the testimony of a Houston crime lab analyst.

The Innocence Project, a nonprofit that defends the wrongly convicted, accepted the case in 1998 after a request from Taylor's stepfather.

As the lawyers worked, a forensics scandal at the Houston Police Department crime lab raised doubts about thousands of convictions. In 2006, a judge ordered DNA tests on evidence from Taylor's case.

The new tests led authorities to believe another man committed the rape. Roosevelt Carroll, who has a history of violent sexual crimes and is serving 15 years in prison for failing to register as a sex offender, cannot be prosecuted for the 1993 attack because the statute of limitations has expired.

Taylor became the third man acquitted after being convicted with faulty evidence from the Houston crime lab.

More inmates have been exonerated by DNA evidence in Texas than in any other state. Since 2001, DNA testing has cleared 33 Texans who spent a combined 427 years in prison, according to The Justice Project, a Washington, D.C.-based group.

Taylor moved to Atlanta after he was released in October and got married two months later. This spring he started his own lawn care business.

On Friday the Innocence Project asked a Texas court to toss out convictions of another man freed last year with the help of DNA evidence.

Steven Phillips, who served 25 years in prison, was cleared of a 1982 sexual assault and burglary but remains on parole because of nine related sex crimes. The Innocence Project and prosecutors believe another man who died in prison years ago committed all 11 crimes.

Two judges will decide whether Phillips' remaining convictions should be vacated at a hearing likely to be set by late July.

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