Thursday, 6 August 2009

Inmate could be freed while DNA retested

A Houston man sentenced to life in prison in 1986 is expected to be released Friday pending further investigation of the DNA evidence that put him away for aggravated kidnapping in the abduction and rape of an Alief woman more than 20 years ago.

Innocence Project lawyers for Ernest Sonnier are expected to ask for the 46-year-old's release on bond pending further investigation, a move that will not be opposed by the Harris County District Attorney's Office, according to spokeswoman Donna Hawkins.

DNA testing over the past 18 months implicated two convicted felons as the actual perpetrators of the 1985 crime, said representatives of the Innocence Project.

State District Judge Michael McSpadden is expected to consider releasing Sonnier, while the legal process of fully exonerating him moves forward.

In a statement released by the Innocence Project, Co-Director Barry Scheck said called Houston “Ground Zero” of a national epidemic of faulty forensic science.

“This case is the latest in a well-documented and disturbing pattern of analysts making misleading interpretations to support the prosecution's case and explain away evidence that defendants may be innocent,” Scheck said. “There are still thousands of cases from the Houston Crime Lab that need to be reviewed, and that needs to happen quickly. In many ways, Houston is a symptom of the root problem, which is a lack of national standards and oversight for forensic science.”


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