Innocent man sues city over conviction

June 16, 2009 3:57:27 PM PDT
George Rodriguez served more than 17 years of a 60 year sentence for a kidnapping and rape that he didn't do. He was cleared because of new DNA evidence back in 2004, but he is taking the city of Houston to court, saying they were partly to blame for his wrongful conviction.Opening arguments got underway in the civil case Rodriguez is bringing against the city of Houston. It's a day his family says has been a long time coming.

The day Rodriguez got out of jail five years ago was an emotional one for him and his family.

His daughter Marlene Thomas said, "He's been going through a lot, a lot of changes. He lost being with us in our childhood, and all of us growing up."

George's brother Julio Rodriguez added, "He lost a lot of time, you know. My father passed away like a month after he got out of jail."

George spent 17 years in prison after he was wrongfully convicted of the 1987 kidnapping and rape of a 14-year-old girl. Now the jury trial in his lawsuit against the city is underway. The complaint alleges that "during 1987 the city systemically failed to adequately train or supervise its employees in the crime lab." It also alleges that the city's crime lab routinely failed to follow generally accepted forensic science practices prevailing in 1987.

The lawsuit also says, "These failures resulted in the wrongful conviction of George Rodriguez."

He was exonerated by DNA retesting in 2004, although the city says the crime lab was not the problem. Rodriguez's multi-million dollar lawsuit also accuses the Houston Police Department of misconduct.

In the meantime, his family hopes the jury sees things their way.

"We're here supporting my dad in his trial in this case, and making sure everything comes out the way it's supposed to," Thomas said.

George Rodriguez did not want to speak with Eyewitness News on camera. His attorney said in opening arguments that he does plan to testify in this civil trial. The jury was seated this morning. There are five men and three women on the jury. The judge expects the trial to last about 10 days.

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