Houston to pay $3M to wrongly convicted man

November 2, 2012 4:11:12 PM PDT
Tears flowed freely at City Hall on Friday as an innocent man who spent years behind bars for a crime he did not commit settled his grudge with the city.

"I just want to get on with my life, go on living, you know," said George Rodriguez. "Try to do whatever I can for my family."

There is no question George Rodriguez was wrongly put behind bars for a rape and kidnapping, now with 17 years of his life gone. On Friday he and the city came to an agreement on how to right a wrong that was made so long ago.

Surrounded by his family, Houston Mayor Annise Parker and other officials, Rodriguez tentatively stepped into the spotlight and spoke from his heart.

"It's kind of hard, really, you know, because I've been through a whole lot. Seventeen years," he said.

Rodriguez spent 17 and a half years behind bars for a rape and kidnapping he didn't commit. He was convicted in 1987, because of faulty evidence at HPD's then troubled crime lab. On Friday Rodriguez reached a $3 million settlement with the city and received an apology.

"Mr. Rodriguez, on behalf of the city of Houston and the citizens of Houston, I want to formally apologize to you," Mayor Parker told him.

Freed in 2004, Rodriguez sued the city in 2009 and was awarded $5 million by a jury. The case was tied up in appeals until now.

Rodriguez said, "I accept the apology for what happened to me. It could happen to anybody. It's hard, it's difficult for me."

The Rodriguez case was just one example of the many problems that plagued the crime lab for years. Changes in the past few years have greatly improved the lab and the city is developing an independent lab so what happened to Rodriguez won't happen to others.

State Rep. Scott Hochberg, chair of the crime lab board, said, "We look forward to creating an accurate lab, an efficient lab, and one that the city of Houston and this community can be proud of."

Rodriguez is also due some compensation from the state of Texas. His attorney says he plans to apply for that soon.

Load Comments