|------ Original Message -----
Cc: Kay Lee at Charter
Sent: Tuesday, April 13, 2004 12:07 PM
Subject: ANOTHER INNOCENT - Court recommends dismissal of Sutton conviction
The group THUNDERINGDRUMS@yahoogroups.com sent a new
innocence story to me. I just keep thinking of all the innocent people
in prison for less violent crimes.
April 12, 2004, 10:30PM
Court recommends dismissal of Sutton conviction
Ben DeSoto / Chronicle
The state's highest criminal court should throw out the rape conviction of a man who spent 4 1/2 years in prison before new DNA tests excluded him as a suspect, a Houston judge ruled today.
State District Judge Joan Huffman's recommendation was the latest court victory for Josiah Sutton, 22, who was freed from prison more than a year ago after new DNA tests discredited the original analysis performed by the Houston Police Department crime lab.
Huffman said "inaccurate scientific evidence was admitted during the trial" and there was "clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable juror would have convicted him in light of the new evidence." Huffman's ruling will be sent to the state Court of Criminal Appeals, which will decide what to do with Sutton's conviction.
At the same time, the judge rejected Sutton's claim of prosecutorial misconduct, finding that he failed to prove that the Harris County District Attorney's Office intentionally withheld evidence at the 1999 trial when Sutton was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Efforts to get Sutton a formal pardon have stalled, in part because of District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal's refusal to formally say Sutton's is a case of actual innocence.
"This young man should be given a right to put his life back together," said state Sen. Rodney Ellis, who left the courthouse with Sutton this morning.
Ellis criticized Gov. Rick Perry and the state Board of Pardons and Paroles for not acting more quickly in Sutton's case.
David Dow, Sutton's attorney, said Huffman's ruling is "a significant hurdle" and he hopes the state Court of Criminal Appeals will act expeditiously to throw out Sutton's conviction.
Sutton's case could be resolved if the court system overturns the conviction, or the entire episode could be cleared from his record with a pardon from the governor. A pardon would require a recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Dow said he will continue to seek a pardon while he waits for the Court of Criminal Appeals to act. He said he does not intend to appeal the judge's rejection of the prosecutorial misconduct claim.
Assistant District Attorney Roe Wilson said she was
not surprised by the ruling and expects the recommendation to be "helpful"
to the Court of Criminal Appeals.
Reporter Roma Khanna contributed to this story.