Release delayed for man cleared of 1983 rape

July 29, 2010 8:45:10 PM PDT
A man who spent 27 years in prison for a crime he apparently did not commit will have to wait one more day until he is released, and his family members are frustrated. Prosecutors say new DNA evidence proves Michael Anthony Green did not commit the rape for which he was convicted in 1983. On Thursday morning, just hours before he was to be released, he was told that he would have to wait one more day.

Green is 44 years old now, having spent the last 27 years of his life in prison on a rape conviction. The crime happened in April 1983 when a woman was kidnapped by four men in the Greenspoint area, raped by three of them. She later picked Green's photo from a lineup.

Green reached out to Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos and after review, DNA evidence did not point to Green.

The family members of Green all expected he would be free today, but according to Green's attorney, he became emotional and made threats while in the holding cell and the hearing was postponed until Friday.

For the extended members of Green's family, the day started joyous with promise of seeing Green free for the first time in 27 years.

"Thank God for his grace and his mercy that Michael was able to be here in this free world again," said Michelle Willis, Green's cousin.

"We've been waiting for him to get out for 27 years," said one family member. "Everything changed. He lost his mom, he lost his stepdad, aunt, uncle, grandfather. He lost everything, and half of his adult life."

"It's a poor system and the governor should have had that investigated. They have forensics, it shouldn't have taken this long," said Adrian Taylor, Green's brother.

However, the happiness quickly turned into anger, when they were told that Green's hearing to let him out on bond would be delayed until Friday.

"That is ridiculous, that is totally ridiculous. It's been too long, too many days, too many hours. This is ridiculous," said Brenda Murray, Green's aunt.

Green's attorney Bob Wicoff says his client became emotional while in the court's holding cell, and after some discussion with everyone involved, the decision was made to postpone the hearing for one day.

"We did not feel that it was appropriate, and the judge and all of us got together, and the decision was made that he should come back tomorrow when he's had time to compose himself," said Wicoff.

Wicoff says after spending 27 years behind bars for a rape he didn't commit, it's certainly understandable that Green would be emotional.

But we learned that the jailers put Green in leg irons, and that may have exacerbated situation, leading to a postponement of freedom no one expecting.

"He's been locked up too long. The judge system is just dead wrong. It is messed up," said Taylor.

The Harris County Sheriff's Office told us that because Green was placed in administrative separation, which is akin to solitary confinement, it is standard procedure for those inmates to be in handcuffs and leg irons when they're transported to the courthouse.

The Timothy Cole Act signed into Texas law last year states that people who are wrongfully incarcerated are eligible to receive $80,000 for every year that they are in prison. If the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals determines that Green was innocent, he could be eligible for more than $2.1 million.

The bond hearing is now scheduled for 10am Friday.

Stay with Eyewitness News and abc13.com for the latest on this case.

Second overturned conviction in two weeks

For the second time in two weeks, a man is set to be released from prison after DNA showed he didn't commit the crime he was convicted of.

In April of 1983, a woman was raped by three men, then let go in northeast Houston near Tidwell. Michael Anthony Green, who was still a teenager, was arrested while walking his that neighborhood. He was convicted largely on eyewitness identification alone and has been behind bars for 27 years.

"There were all sorts of suggestive identification procedures done by the police in this case," said Green's attorney, Bob Wicoff. "They botched it, this was HPD's fault."

Wicoff was turned onto the case by the Harris County District Attorney's Office. Assistant District Attorney Alicia O'Neil has worked on the case for two years. She found the original pants worn by the victim. DNA testing proved Green couldn't have been the attacker.

"And it makes us feel absolutely wonderful to know in our jobs, we're able to do justice for anyone," said O'Neil. "Because in this case, not only were we able to show Mr. Green wasn't the true perpetrator of this crime, but we could tell the victim who actually did this to her."

Based on the new DNA evidence, prosecutors have identified the three attackers, and a fourth man involved in the incident in northeast Houston more than 27 years ago.

Unfortunately, the statute of limitations has run out and those four can no longer be charged with this crime.

But our legal analyst says at least one man will get the rest of his life back.

"Unfortunately in 1983, if you're a black young man in a black neighborhood and there's a crime committed, you're going to jail," said KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy. "That's the sad reality. They didn't do the sufficient testing, and all this photo identifications was fraught with so many problems."

If all goes as planned, Green, now 44 years old, should be granted bond today. The hearing is scheduled for 10am. And while Green's mother died several years ago, some of his brothers and sisters are expected to be at his hearing this morning.

If he is released, he'll be the fifth person to be released since Pat Lykos became district attorney and set up a bureau to look into possible convictions of those who may be innocent.

Just last week, the Harris County DA determined that Allen Porter, who had been behind bars for 20 years for sexual assault, didn't commit the crime. He was released on bond.


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