A Houston man prosecutors now say is innocent is expected to be freed this week after serving more than 27 years in prison — the longest time behind bars of any Texan who has been exonerated — for a rape he did not commit.The Harris DA's "Post Conviction Review Section" sounds a lot like the Conviction Integrity Unit Craig Watkins set up in Dallas. Lykos clearly is taking the issue of false convictions much more seriously than her predecessor, who tended to fight such claims tooth and nail. Her first assistant made that point:
Michael Anthony Green, 45, is expected to be in court Thursday where his attorney, Bob Wicoff, will ask that he be freed on bail while the case moves forward.
If freed, Green would be the eighth local man let out of prison in recent years, and the second in a week, after serving time for a crime he did not convict.
"He is innocent," Wicoff said. "We've got the bad guys too. We've pegged the bad guys."
Green was sentenced to 75 years in prison for the 1983 rape of a Houston woman based on faulty eyewitness identification, Wicoff said.
Wicoff credited attorneys and investigators in the Post Conviction Review Section of the Harris County District Attorney's office, created by District Attorney Pat Lykos, with finding clothing stored in a warehouse that had been worn by the victim during the crime, then testing it for DNA evidence. The results excluded Green.
Good for Pat Lykos. But even more to the point, good for Mr. Green! Imagine going to prison for a crime you didn't commit at 18 and being exonerated at 45! Unfathomable. I also feel terrible for the poor gal whose testimony put Green behind bars. First she was a crime victim, then her confused error inadvertently helped victimize someone else in a profound and dreadful way. Anybody would feel awful at learning of such a mistake.In a press release, Lykos' First Assistant Jim Leitner appeared to slam prior administrations for the length of time the case stalled.
"The evidence in this case had been sitting in the District Clerk's Office for 27 years, and no one had taken the initiative to do anything with it in the past," Leitner said. "The difference now is that you've got the Post Conviction Review Section looking into it — and that made all the difference in the case of Mr. Green."
Two quick takeaways from this story: 1) Police departments need to update their eyewitness ID procedures, pronto, to keep this from happening again, and 2) it doesn't make a DA weak to admit past mistakes, it enhances her credibility.