Canoe News

Mon, March 10, 2003

DNA clears man convicted of rape

Canoe News

HOUSTON (AP) - A man who has served four years of a rape sentence was wrongly convicted, an independent lab said Monday, concluding that DNA evidence was incorrectly processed by Houston police.

Josiah Sutton was 16 years old at the time of the 1998 rape. He went to trial, was convicted and was sentenced to 25 years after a DNA test done at the Houston police lab said he could have been involved. The test was key to his conviction, the Houston Chronicle reported in its online edition.

But on Monday, Identigene lab president Caroline Caskey said Sutton's DNA profile was not found in evidence taken from the rape victim.

Houston Police Department spokesman Robert Hurst said Sutton's case was among 22, including those of seven death row inmates, forwarded to the independent lab by the district attorney's office after an independent audit uncovered widespread problems at the Houston police lab.

"I'm speechless," Sutton told Houston television station KHOU from jail. "It's something I've been trying to obtain for years."

Sutton's lawyer Bob Wicoff said Monday's results prove his client didn't commit the crime.

"Josiah has served four and a half years for nothing," Wicoff told the Chronicle.

Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal said if there is a question about Sutton's conviction, his office would return it to the courts for a possible retrial or a reversal.

"We'll do the right thing, whether it's with court intervention or our making a decision on our own," he said.

The review was prompted by a state-ordered audit in December that revealed, among other things, that there were holes in the roof that allowed rain to possibly contaminate samples. Following the audit, the department suspended DNA testing at the lab, and DNA lab chief Donald Krueger voluntarily retired last month.

In the case that led to Sutton's arrest, the victim was taken at gunpoint, raped and dumped in a field. Police arrested Sutton and one of his friends after the victim said she saw two men she thought had attacked her near her apartment five days after the rape.

Sutton and his friend provided blood and saliva samples, which were compared to evidence obtained from the woman. The police department's crime lab determined Sutton's friend was not involved in the rape but Sutton may have been, the Chronicle reported.

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