Friday, 8 August 2008

Steven Phillips cleared in Dallas

Innocence Project client Steven Phillips was cleared today in Dallas more than a quarter-century after his wrongful conviction of a string of sex crimes when a judge recommended that his convictions be vacated. He became the 19th person cleared by DNA evidence in Dallas County, and his case will now go to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which could make his exoneration official.
“What a great day. Today is the day the Lord has made and I am grateful to him,” Mr. Phillips said.
Read the full story here. (Dallas Morning News, 08/05/08)

Read more about Phillips’ case here.

By DIANE JENNINGS / The Dallas Morning News 08/05/08

Steven Charles Phillips walked into a Dallas courtroom this morning as a registered sex offender and 25-year veteran of the Texas prison system. He walked out with a grin and a chance at a new life after being completely cleared of a series of sex crimes in the 1980s.

“What a great day. Today is the day the Lord has made and I am grateful to him,” Mr. Phillips said.

Mr. Phillips, 50, was initially cleared of two charges of sexual assault and burglary of a building last fall after DNA evidence identified another man, who died in a Texas prison 10 years ago. Clearing his name of nine other charges took months because Mr. Phillips had pleaded guilty to them in an attempt to avoid a life sentence.

He is one of 18 men exonerated by DNA evidence in Dallas County since 2001.

Dallas County assistant district attorney Mike Ware, who heads the conviction integrity unit, said though DNA evidence was not available in every rape Mr. Phillips had been accused of, “I don’t have any doubt that he didn’t do these.”

Mr. Phillips fought his convictions for years but made little headway until the Innocence Project championed his cause. Attorney Barry Scheck said the Phillips case was “one of the worst cases of tunnel vision we’ve ever seen. Police seized on Steven Phillips as a suspect and refused to see mounting evidence that someone else actually committed these crimes.”

Mr. Phillips was identified by 10 different victims, many of whom had described the attackers striking blue eyes. Mr. Phillips’ eyes are green and his wife and two other relatives testified that he was with them when the crime occurred.

Mr. Ware was unwilling to characterize the original investigation as sloppy or intentionally misdirected, but said he hoped his office could “reach some sort of reasonable opinion as to what went wrong, and then, you know, begin to talk about what can be done to fix this (procedurally).”

The real perpetrator of the crimes has been identified as Sidney Alvin Goodyear, who died while serving a 45-year-sentence for a burglary of habitation with intent to commit sexual assault. Mr. Goodyear’s DNA was identified in the first two crimes. He also admitted to, and was convicted of, a series of offenses similar to those in Dallas before and after Mr. Phillips was arrested.

The crime sprees were distinctive – in addition to women who were raped after their homes were broken into, the perpetrator held groups of women at area health spas at gunpoint, forcing them to disrobe and commit sexual acts.

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