Indictment dismissed against man cleared by DNA

January 15, 2008 2:40:11 PM PST
The Harris County district attorney has dismissed a rape indictment against a Houston man who was freed in October after a DNA test showed he was innocent of a rape for which he spent 12 years in prison. The dismissal Monday represents the final major legal hurdle for Ronald Taylor, who is the third innocent man released from prison because of mistakes made by the Houston Police Department's crime lab.

Once District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal sends a letter to the state Board of Pardons and Paroles, Taylor will be eligible for up to $50,000 for each of the 12 years he spent behind bars. Rosenthal's letter probably will be sent Tuesday, said Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center that specializes in overturning wrongful convictions.

Taylor, 48, was convicted in 1995 and sentenced to 60 years in prison for the 1993 rape of a woman. The victim told authorities she glimpsed her attacker's face and identified Taylor as the rapist.

At the trial, a Houston police crime lab analyst testified that there was no semen on a bed sheet. But last summer, a private lab retested the sheet and found semen that was matched to Roosevelt Carroll, currently in prison for failing to register as a sex offender. Carroll also has been convicted of burglary with intent to commit sexual assault.

Rosenthal has said Carroll will not be prosecuted for the rape because the statute of limitations has expired.

The Innocence Project of Texas is reviewing about 180 serology cases from the Houston police crime lab that were identified by a county review as having "major issues." The crime lab's accuracy has been in question since at least 2002, when the DNA section was shut down. Inaccuracies were later found in four other lab divisions that test firearms, body fluids and controlled substances. The DNA section has since been reopened.

Taylor is the 30th Texan exonerated by DNA evidence. Those numbers do not include three recent cases from Dallas in which DNA testing showed the men were wrongly convicted. In those three cases, the men have not yet had their convictions vacated or indictments dismissed.

Texas leads the nation in DNA exonerations. There have been 212 DNA exonerations nationwide, according to the Innocence Project.

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