Patrick Waller is Dallas County’s 18th Wrongfully Convicted Citizen; DNA results clear him of 1992 robbery and kidnapping convictionsThis one blows my mind: In this case four different witnesses wrongly identified the defendant as the perpetrator - three in photo arrays and one in a live lineup - but we now know they were all unquestionably wrong!
(DALLAS – June 26, 2008) – Today, the Dallas County District Attorney’s (DA) Office announced that Patrick Waller, 38, is the County’s latest wrongfully convicted citizen. Waller, who is represented by Gary Udashen, has spent the past 16 years in prison and was serving a life sentence for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, along with two 30-year sentences for aggravated kidnapping which arose from the same incident. He is the 18th person in Dallas County cleared of crimes by DNA evidence.
“Technological advances in science have proved another Dallas County man’s innocence and identified the actual perpetrator, but because the statute of limitations has run on these offenses, the State cannot prosecute the two men who did this 16 years ago,” said Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins. “This is a perfect example of why I plan to address the current statute of limitations on certain offenses during the 2009 Legislative session in Austin. It is a gross understatement to say that we are displeased with the fact that we cannot seek justice for the victims in this case because of the laws back in 1992.”
On the night of March 25, 1992, a man and his wife were abducted from the West End in downtown Dallas at gunpoint by two men. This occurred as the couple was returning to their parked vehicle. The two abductors kidnapped the couple in their vehicle, forced one of the victims to drive to an ATM in the Oak Cliff community of Dallas and then forced them to withdraw the maximum amount of cash that could be withdrawn from the bank account in one transaction, which was $200. The two abductors then made them drive to an abandoned house. The two men forced the couple inside the house at gunpoint, made them disrobe, tied them up in the basement and sexually assaulted the woman.
Testimony from Mr. Waller’s trial reveals that sometime during this episode, another couple drove up to the abandoned house and the man got out of the vehicle to relieve himself. One of the abductors, identified in court during the 1992 trial as Waller, approached the couple, forced them inside the house at gunpoint and assaulted them with his Tech 9 firearm. The second couple also was forced to disrobe and tied up in the basement with the first couple. The woman from the second couple made a remark about her feminine hygiene product and, at about the same time, a DISD security officer drove past the house — both of which, apparently contributed to scaring the two abductors off without sexually assaulting the second woman. One abductor left the scene in the first couple’s vehicle and the other abductor left in the second couple’s vehicle.
Approximately one week later, Waller’s photo was put in a photo line-up by the Dallas Police Department for reasons that are unclear and three of the four victims picked him out as one of the abductors, resulting in Waller’s arrest. The testimony at trial indicates that the fourth victim (the woman who was sexually assaulted) later picked him out of a live line-up.
There was never a second suspect. Waller testified at his trial that he had nothing to do with the offense and knew nothing about it. He also presented alibi witnesses; however, the jury convicted him and sentenced him to life in prison for aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon.
As part of the Conviction Integrity Unit’s DNA Review initiative, the DNA from the sexual assault kit in Waller’s case was tested late last year (2007). Testing was paid for by the Innocence Project of Texas. The DNA test results concluded that there was only one male profile present and that profile was not from Patrick Waller. During the DA’s investigation, the Conviction Integrity Unit ran the unknown male profile through the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) CODIS Convicted Offender File, which is a national database of DNA profiles from convicted offenders.
Through CODIS, the unknown male profile came back as a match to Byron Bell, who when confronted about the 1992 crime, confessed to committing the offense. Bell said that his co-actor in that offense was, a 19-year-old (at the time of the offense) African-American male named Mondo Green, whom he had not seen since the night of the offense. Bell later passed a polygraph test as to the identity of his co-actor. Bell also said that he had a 9 mm Glock that night but never carried or used a Tech 9 and did not remember Mondo having one.
The DA’s Office, working with the Dallas Police Department in reinvestigating the case, established that a man by the name of Lemondo Simmons had been associated with the address where Bell said Mondo Green’s grandmother lived. After Bell passed a polygraph as to the identity of his co-actor, they found Simmons and the State subpoenaed him to appear before the grand jury on June 25, 2008.
Because grand jury proceedings are secret and cannot be disclosed, the DA’s Office is prohibited from releasing any of the testimony from that hearing without a court order. However, it is confirmed by the DA’s Office that Mr. Simmons, who unfortunately cannot be prosecuted for the crimes because of the expired statute of limitations, confessed to committing the offense with Bell in 1992.
A previous request by Waller for post-conviction DNA testing was denied prior to District Attorney Craig Watkins’ administration. Records indicate Waller was the third inmate from Dallas County to file a Chapter 64 motion for post-conviction DNA testing after the statute was passed in 2001.
Those kind of seemingly unfathomable results make me think about research I've been reading recently on "The Role of Interviewer Behavior in Eyewitness Suggestibility" in prep for my new consulting gig with the Innocence Project of Texas. Unless Waller was simply a dead ringer for one of the actual perpetrators, which can certainly happen, it's hard not to think that biased interviewers somehow influenced these eyewitness IDs, and that the lack of double-blind identification procedures may have contributed to Waller's false conviction.
Faulty eyewitness identifications are the leading cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, but I've never before heard of a case where four different witnesses misidentified the same man in varying versions of police lineups!
I'd like to see police departments shift to these best practices regarding eyewitness ID of their own accord, but since the likelihood of that happening en masse is slim to none, it's definitely time for the Lege to require them to do so in 2009. I'm sick of reading these exoneration stories only to discover that the police practices causing the false conviction are still common as dirt today.