The conviction of a man for rape was recently reversed after a district judge reviewed the record of his criminal trial. The man was released from prison after serving 45 years. The case provides a powerful example of how prosecutors can exceed their powers and how criminal charges based on weak evidence can result in the imprisonment of an innocent person.
In October 1971, the defendant was charged with abducting and raping a woman outside a Baton Rouge hospital. The victim’s testimony was the only evidence linking the defendant to the crime, and the woman even questioned the reliability of her own identification. The woman told police that she thought the man who raped her was taller than the defendant and had a rougher voice. The defendant asserted that he was innocent, but he was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
In 2003, the Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO) decided to investigate the case. After reviewing many old rape files, the team discovered that a similar rape was committed weeks after the rape that led to the erroneous conviction. The two crimes were very similar: both victims were kidnapped at gun point in the same parking lot and raped. Despite the fact that both cases had a “plethora of similarities,” the prosecution failed to provide evidence of the second rape to the defendant’s original legal team.
The IPNO presented its findings to a trial judge, who characterized the prosecution’s case as “weak.” The judge reversed the guilty verdict and ordered the defendant’s immediate release. The district attorney’s office said that it plans to appeal the decision to the Louisiana Supreme Court.
Source: CNN, “Judge overturns rape conviction, frees man after 45 years in prison,” Joe Suttion, Nov. 16, 2017