DA: Man who spent 17 years in prison is innocent

March 2, 2011 1:41:17 PM PST
The Harris County District Attorney's Office says a man who was imprisoned for 17 years on kidnapping and rape convictions is actually innocent.

Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos announced Wednesday through a press release that she's requesting a full exoneration of 50-year-old George Rodriguez. Rodriguez was one of two men convicted in 1987 of kidnapping a girl from her Denver Harbor-area home and sexual assaulting her.

Rodriguez was sentenced to 60 years sentence in prison but was freed in 2004 when the verdict was overturned because of an appellate ruling that faulty scientific evidence had been introduced at his trial.

"When this scientific inquiry began, there was no legal requirement or mandate for any further work to be done by our Office, because the case had been dismissed," Lykos said. "Instead, we acted on the most important obligation of all -- to see that the truth emerges, and that justice is done. Today, we can state that an innocent man has been vindicated."

The district attorney's office says DNA analysis on the only remaining evidence -- hair collected during the original sex assault examination -- cleared Rodriguez and led them to the actual offenders, who they say are Manuel Beltran and Isidro Yanez.

Beltran, now 50 years old, was convicted in with Rodriguez and is still serving his 60-year sentence. Yanez, who's always been an alternative suspect in the case, is now dead.

Rodriguez had been requesting a pardon since his release, but it wasn't until 2009 that Lykos took office and created the Post Conviction Review Section to conduct reviews of credible claims of innocence.

Lykos received Rodriguez's application for a pardon and directed her Post Conviction Review team to look into his claims. She agreed with the recommendations of Assistant District Attorneys Baldwin Chin and Alicia O'Neill to submit the only remaining evidence for advanced DNA testing.