Even with all of the safeguards built into the criminal justice system, innocent people are still sent to prison. This possibility is why prosecutors — and not the accused individuals — must prove guilt in court and beyond a reasonable doubt. A case in point involves a former Texas police officer who spent 21 years in prison for a rape he says he never committed.
In 1994, a then 13-year-old girl accused the officer of raping her. Ten years later, the girl’s stepbrother told officials that she admitted to him that the story she told about the officer was untrue. When questioned about it, the woman told authorities that she lied about being abused by her stepfather. Even so, she maintained that the officer raped her.
Prosecutors and investigators relied on the now-woman’s original story despite the fact that no DNA evidence connects the officer to the girl. As for her stepfather, he entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors that resulted in a sentence of 10 years’ probation. Meanwhile, the officer continued to languish in prison. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that there was enough evidence to substantiate giving the officer a new trial. He was finally exonerated and released recently after a not guilty verdict was handed down in less than two hours.
This man lost 21 years of his life due to a rape conviction based on a lie and mistakes. This is one reason that it is crucial to enlist the advice and assistance of a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after being accused of a crime, especially if that crime is a felony. A wrongful conviction can change an individual’s life forever, and even rob him or her of freedom for decades.
Source: People, “Former Texas Police Officer Exonerated After Spending 21 Years in Prison for Rape“, Blake Bakkila, Dec. 17, 2016