Exonerated man cleared on a different case

May 25, 2010 10:00:24 AM PDT
A man who spent 23 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit was back in court Tuesday morning for a hearing on a murder case. Ernest Sonnier was actually a suspect in that 1984 murder case in which a Rice University student was killed. Sonnier was back in court because his attorneys asked for further DNA testing because they say they were that confident that he had nothing to do with that murder. Those DNA results just came back from a lab in Fort Worth and Sonnier is not linked to the 1984 murder.

It has been quite an emotional roller coaster ride for Sonnier and his family. In 1986, he was convicted on aggravated kidnapping charges for a 1985 rape in Alief. He spent 23 years in prison for that crime, which he did not commit. Sonnier was exonerated last August after at least nine rounds of DNA testing spearheaded by The Innocence Project of Texas.

We spoke with Sonnier Tuesday about being back in court.

"I'm just glad I got it behind me because I couldn't sleep. My mom was worried about me, things like that," Sonnier said. "I'm just glad to get it behind me. It shows everybody that I didn't have anything to do with that."

The judge, who exonerated Sonnier last year, Tuesday partially lifted his restrictions: he can now move outside county and state lines, and he will also report back to court for regular monitoring every month rather than every two weeks.

Sonnier will be back in court in three months once the district attorney has had a chance to fully review all results. It is expected he will be fully cleared at that time. Until then, he will continue to wear an ankle monitoring device.


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