Were men wrongly convicted of rape?

August 14, 2008 4:49:31 PM PDT
Four men who claim they were wrongfully put in prison 25 years ago are putting up a new fight to be released.Thursday afternoon, lawyers filed a suit demanding the release of four men who were convicted of gang raping a six-year-old girl. They want a new trial for men accused of a crime seemingly so brutal it deserved long sentences. The problem is that now the victim says it never happened.

Twenty-three years after they saw their family members convicted and sentenced to decades in prison, family members of four convicted rapists stood on the courthouse steps asking the justice system to send their loved ones home.

Johnny Edwards, a convicted man's brother, said, "It's a lie. Bottom line, it's a lie."

Donald Thompson was one of four men convicted in 1985 of gang-raping a six-year-old girl at a birthday party for the victim's father. The girl's father, who we are not identifying, was one of those convicted.

Sean Buckley, attorney for the convicted men, explained, "The bottom line is, you're dealing with people's liberty, and there comes a time to figure out if someone is telling the truth or not."

Buckley is the attorney working for the four men he says were wrongly convicted. He's relying on an audio tape of the victim made four years ago to make his case.

Victim on audio tape: "You have to believe me, my daddy didn't do it."

The tape was secretly made by a private investigator. On it, the victim, now nearly 30 years old, is recanting her story. We're not naming her or her father. She told the private eye the four men did not assault her.

Victim on audio tape: "It wasn't my daddy. And can you can you just get him out of jail? And I'm sorry."

Two of the men have been out of prison. They were paroled years ago. But when they wouldn't admit to the crime during counseling, they were sent back.

Community activist Quanell X said, "Those brothers went back to prison voluntarily because they refused to admit to a crime they didn't commit."

Donald Thompson is still there. His family says the only way he'll walk out is as an innocent man.

"They just want their men to come home," said Buckley.

The young victim in this was sexually assaulted in the early 80s -- likely repeatedly assaulted. There was evidence of that, but no DNA.

On that audio tape, the victim tells the private eye who she believes did assault her. Even if lawyers could find that man, he likely couldn't be charged. The statute of limitations on rape from 1984 has run out.

The DA's office had no comment. They haven't received this case yet.

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