- Hudson man seeks to clear name after spending 15 years in prison on charges of molesting boy
- Hudson man who claims he spent fifteen years in prison on a wrongful conviction: ‘It’s hard out here. I’m not free’
- Man's attorney: Overturning man's conviction could take time
“My memories of that time are vague, however, I do not have any memory of Tony Hall molesting me or touching me inappropriately,” the victim’s statement read. “I do remember my mother telling me to say Mr. Hall touched me. I was very scared and told my mother what she wanted to hear so that I would not get a beating. I remember arguing with my mother about this and I remember my mother threatening me.”And from the aunt:
“(She) picked up (the boy) and placed him on the table with his legs hanging over the edge. He was wearing shorts,” the aunt’s statement read. “(She) repeatedly said to (the boy) ‘Tony messed with you, didn’t he?’ (The boy) kept answering no. Every time he would say no, she would slap him on his bare legs, making him cry harder. Eventually (he) answered yes and she stopped slapping him. She would not stop slapping him until he answered yes.”The mother, for her part, says:
“I vehemently deny that I ever did anything physically or emotionally to (my son) to cause him to make up allegations against Tony Hall or testify falsely against Tony Hall,” the woman’s statement read. “I stand by my prior testimony at trial that my son outcried to me about Tony Hall’s sexual abuse against him. I was not responsible for sending an innocent man to prison.”Family dynamics being what they are, it's hard to peel these narratives apart to discern the truth except for this glaring reality: The case is an excellent example why, in biblical law, "two or three witnesses" were required to secure a criminal conviction. Basing a conviction solely on the uncorroborated testimony of a 7-year old invites this sort of second guessing, since children both sometimes lie and are easily manipulated by their parents or other loved ones. Without the recanted testimony, and with no corroboration beyond the mother's claim her son "outcried," there's simply a vacuum in Hall's case where the legal system typically expects evidence to be. That's a slim reed on which to send someone to prison as a child molester.
Which is apparently why a state district judge signed off on Hall's habeas corpus writ, which now heads to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Though Hall was released a couple of years ago after serving his full sentence, he still must comply with sex-offender registration requirements and the shunning associated with that stigma living in a small town. One usually thinks of habeas relief as getting someone out of confinement, but in this case Hall is seeking to get out from under registration requirements.
Since there's no DNA evidence - or really, after the recantation, no evidence at all - it's impossible definitively to "prove the negative," i.e., that Hall didn't do something 17 years ago. Since the 1970s, there's been a steady push to make it easier to prosecute sex crimes, which often stem from he-said she-said circumstances. I understand the motive behind that push, but this type of situation demonstrates the flip-side of the equation. Making it "easier" to prosecute child molesters is a great thing if they're really child molesters, but it also makes it easier to convict the innocent based on relatively flimsy evidence.