Innocence Project client Ernest Sonnier is free today after more than two decades in Texas prisons for a rape he didn’t commit. DNA testing has proven Sonnier’s innocence of the 1985 attack and implicated two other men. Sonnier was freed on bond today by a Texas judge while he continues seeking to fully clear his name in the weeks ahead.
His mother, Altha Davis, told reporters that she always knew he was innocent because he was with her when the crime was allegedly committed – on Christmas Eve 1985. “It’s been long for me, so long,” she said. “I’m happy and so sad at the same time.” Watch a video interview with Sonnier’s mother here.
Sonnier will stay with Davis while he adjusts to his newfound freedom. He was joined in court today by family members, Innocence Project Staff Attorney Alba Morales, Social Worker Angela Amel and several people previously exonerated by DNA testing in Texas.
Sonnier’s case is the latest in a string of wrongful convictions caused in part by faulty forensic testing at the Houston Police Department Crime Lab. Although blood-type testing on important crime scene evidence conducted before trial didn’t match Sonnier’s type – and even suggested that he may be innocent – an analysts testified at his trial that he could still be the perpetrator, based on a conclusion not supported by the analyst’s own report.
Houston has been an epicenter of forensic problems – but faulty forensic testing is a national problem and must be addressed in order to prevent more wrongful convictions. Earlier this year, the National Academies of Sciences called for the creation of a National Institute of Forensic Science to provide research, support and oversight in forensic disciplines to prevent wrongful convictions and help law enforcement identify the perpetrators of crime.
Read more about troubles in the Houston crime lab, and sign a petition supporting the creation of a National Institute of Forensic Science.