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Dallas Man Freed After DNA Evidence Cleared Him

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – A Dallas man who spent 27 years in prison for aggravated sexual assault is free after being cleared by DNA evidence.

Johnny Pinchback became the 22nd person exonerated through DNA testing in Dallas County when a judge ordered his release Thursday on ordered his release Thursday on a personal recognizance bond.

A courtroom packed with family, friends and other exonerees burst into applause when the order ended a brief hearing.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins did not contest the finding that the 55-year-old Pinchback was wrongly convicted of raping two teenage girls in 1984.

The girls claimed Pinchback raped them in a field as they were walking home from school. Their identification of Pinchback for police and again during the trial was the key evidence in his conviction.

Pinchback’s lawyer, Natalie Roetzel, the chief attorney for the Innocence Project of Texas, said it all started when police pulled her client over in 1984, when he was driving a friend’s car. It was a car officer’s had been looking for.

“That’s how he initially became a suspect,” she explained. “Within a week after that the police had presented them with photo lineups and they again selected him, but of course they had seen him in the vehicle about a week prior.”

After being freed, Pinchback said he does not blame the girls who pointed to him as the man who raped them. “I think they were probably pressured to stick with the story to get a conviction, because it was during election time when I was in court anyway,” he said.

The investigation initiated by the Innocence Project led to tests on body hair cuttings from one of the victims that showed the DNA of another man. Roetzel said Pinchback was fortunate because such cuttings don’t always yield DNA evidence and no other material from the rape kit could be located. “We got very lucky that they were able to find seminal fluid on the cuttings, which is rare,” she said.

Roetzel said Pinchback’s belief in his innocence was noticed in prison by another man who felt the same about his own Dallas County aggravated sexual assault conviction. That man, Charles Chatman, was exonerated in 2008 and then began lobbying the Innocence Project on Pinchback’s behalf.

“He was persistent in calling me and saying, ‘Look at Johnny’s case,”‘ Roetzel said. She said Chatman purchased a suit for Pinchback to wear at the hearing.

Pinchback says faith and support from his family kept him motivated to fight for his innocence. “I prayed,” said the newly freed man. “I kept praying and my mother she was like, ‘Don’t never give up son. God… all you got to do is just keep on praying. God will answer your prayer.’ Even though it took 27 years, he did.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


One Comment

  1. Gypsy says:

    There are many many more innocents in prison. Police have stopped investigating sex offense allegations so innocents are arrested. DAs often do not allow defense to show a grand jury that the accusation was not possible. When a grand jury only hears the accusation, they have to indict. Juries think children do not lie and even convict when the girl says it happened on a space ship in outer space. Unlike TV, no one is trying to find the truth. Shame on all of you that put these innocents in prison.

  2. JustWondering says:

    I am glad that someone is looking into innocent people convicted of crimes that can be proved they did not do. This raises the question about the quality of the investigative process. I also cannot help but notice that 90% of those the Innocence Project takes on are of one gender and one race. Is there something up with that?

  3. zagwee says:

    Wow thats so sad, the Kangaroo Court system is truly a big joke!

  4. PJ says:

    To JustWondering, you wrote: ‘. I also cannot help but notice that 90% of those the Innocence Project takes on are of one gender and one race. Is there something up with that?”

    If you live in this area, why do you wonder? Upon moving here over 20 years ago it was easy to see when one black male was wanted for something, any would do for the cops to bring in. From the looks of it, it has been happening for a very long time here and it still happens today.

  5. Dean says:

    They should DNA test men that have been put to death since way back to see how many have been put to death for nothing. I bet the list goes back past the 70’s !!!!

  6. vic says:

    Very sad story and a whole life of this man is ruined. There is no justice in this world, an innocent man was kept behind bars for 27 years. Terrible justice.

  7. callen says:

    I have said this before. We need a law that says the judge and prosecutor must suffer the same fate as the wrongfully convicted man. That would ensure judges and prosecutors exercise the proper amount of professionalism and due diligence in EVERY case that is brought before them. The way it is now, criminally lazy and incompetent officials simply DO NOT CARE if the convicted person is innocent or not. With the law, there would be attention to the real meaning of “beyond a reasonable doubt”. Can anyone think of any reason why we should not have this law??? Sound off!

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