Ernest Sonnier served 23 years of a life sentence for rape. On Friday he was released after DNA testing and his lawyers from the Innocence Project established his innocence:
It was a scene replayed with alarming frequency in Texas: a 46-year-old man walked out of prison here Friday afternoon after spending 23 years behind bars for a sex crime that the evidence suggests he did not commit.No thanks to this country's inept criminal justice system, Ernest Sonnier has lost 23 years of his life.
The man, Ernest Sonnier, was convicted of the crime and sentenced to life in prison largely on the strength of the victim’s testimony, even though the forensic evidence gathered from her body and clothes showed that someone with a blood type different from the defendant’s had raped her, lawyers from the Innocence Project in New York said.
“It’s just sloppy science, at best,” said Alba Morales, who represents Mr. Sonnier.
Over the last 18 months, genetic testing of evidence found on the victim’s clothing and at the scene of the attack had yielded no trace of Mr. Sonnier, the Harris County district attorney’s office said. Instead, it has implicated two other men. Both are felons and known associates. One is awaiting trial for a different rape.In light of the new evidence, Judge Michael McSpadden of Harris County District Court on Friday ordered Mr. Sonnier to be released pending further investigation, a first step toward exoneration, which under Texas law can be granted only by the state’s highest criminal court.