A writ hearing on actual innocence has been scheduled for the court to enter findings on the post-conviction DNA test results of Johnny Pinchback. Prosecutors from the Dallas County District Attorney’s (DA) Conviction Integrity Unit will ask the judge for a favorable finding of actual innocence for Johnny Pinchback. Mr. Pinchback was granted post-conviction forensic DNA testing under Chapter 64 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The hearing will take place on Thursday, May 12, 2011, at 9:00 a.m. CST in Criminal District Court 2, Judge Don Adams presiding.This is another instance where the Dallas DA's office worked effectively with the Innocence Project of Texas to facilitate testing, a partnership which, despite rocky moments, has been really effective at identifying and processing potentially valid innocence claims. Even really old ones like Mr. Pinchback's who was misidentified by two teenage girls from photo spreads, according to the Dallas DA's office, as the stranger who attacked and raped them. Nearly three decades later, though, Pinchback's DNA didn't match the rape-kit sample. Makes you wonder how many other innocent people, and guilty ones, might be identified if the tens of thousands of backlogged rape kits were ever finally tested?
While Pinchback, now 55, pled not guilty to both crimes, he was convicted by a jury on October 5, 1984, of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to 99 years in prison. He has served 27 years of that sentence. Pinchback will be the 26th exoneree overall and the 22nd cleared by DNA in Dallas County since a law (article 64.01) was passed in 2001 allowing convicted inmates to request post-conviction DNA testing.
This case is almost a poster child for SBs 1616 and 1636 by Senators West and Davis respectively, both of which have passed the Senate and await the judgment of a lately-tempestuous House. And of course it's another great example of the need for eyewitness ID reform (HB 215). If there was ever an argument for improving eyewitness ID procedures, proper maintenance of biological evidence, and reducing the backlog of untested rape kits, Mr Pinchback's example seems to scream out for such reforms.
MORE: From the Dallas Observer and the Austin Chronicle.
AND MORE: From AP:
an investigation initiated by the Innocence Project of Texas led to tests on body hair cuttings from one of the victims that showed the DNA of another man.
Natalie Roetzel, the chief attorney for the nonprofit organization, said Pinchback got a break because such cuttings don't always yield evidence of DNA 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 of Texas on Pinchback's behalf, she said.
"He was persistent in calling me and saying, 'Look at Johnny's case,'" Roetzel said.
She said Chatman has purchased a suit for Pinchback to wear at the hearing.
Roetzel said the excitement Pinchback feels about his pending release is tempered by the notion that he was wrongfully imprisoned for so long.
"He's obviously very excited," she said. "But he's also calm, because he's known for 27 years he's not the man who did these crimes."