Man walks free after 22 years

April 30, 2009 5:05:26 PM PDT
A man who spent 22 years behind bars for kidnapping and rape is now free, the result of a review showing questionable evidence was used against him so long ago. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Gary Richard has been in jail since 1987, the same year he was accused and convicted in a rape and robbery. On Thursday, he walked out with the chance to clear his name.

"I'm glad to be out. I just want to thank everybody, family, attorneys," he said.

Twenty-two years after his conviction, those closest to him seemed to be the most affected.

"My son's father has spent the last 22 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit," said Zoe Woodard, the mother of Richard's child.

Richard was convicted of attacking a nursing student back in 1987 based heavily on blood evidence. However, a later investigation revealed some evidence that could have cleared Richard was not testified to by the crime lab technician.

"I have mixed feelings," said Robert Wicoff, Richard's attorney. "I'm grateful for Gary Richard. I'm glad we were able to find justice for Gary, but there are a lot of other cases, where I'm convinced innocent men are in prison."

If exonerated, Richard would be the fourth Harris County man cleared because of problems within HPD's crime lab. The lab has been under review since it was revealed tests of bodily fluids were faulty.

District attorney Pat Lykos believes Richard's case highlights the need for an independent crime lab run by scientists, not police.

"I'm going to make sure 100 percent that whatever we present is totally absolutely valid," said Lykos.

Thursday's ruling does not end the case for Richard. The DA's office now must determine if his case merits a new trial or even charges dropped. Richard, who will spend the first night with his family in 22 years, is confident he'll be proven innocent.

"Because I am," he said.

No timetable has been set yet for Richard's case. The DA says she's confident a decision will be made quickly on whether or not a new trial will take place.

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