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Monday, July 4, 2011

Josiah Sutton

Josiah Sutton was 16 in 1998, when he was arrested for rape. A victim
driving by claimed to be able to identify him by his hat. He and a
friend were brought in and DNA samples were taken. The friend was
excluded, but investigators claimed that they were able to match
Sutton's DNA to a sample taken from the victim. The victim's
description of her attacker said he was 5'7, about 135 pounds. Sutton
was 6' and weighed 200. Convicted by the victim's identification and 'indisputable' DNA evidence, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

In 2002, the atrocious conditions of the Houston Police department's
crime lab came to light; an independent investigator said he would
expect better science from a junior high science project. After seeing
a local news show on the terrible state of the lab, Sutton's mother
contacted the reporters and arranged for them to take a look at her
son's case.Those findings led to the retesting of the evidence, which
revealed that her son's DNA was not even in the sample.

Sutton was convicted based on a DNA 'marker' that could have
implicated 1 out of every 16 black men in Houston. The victim
continued to say that Sutton had attacked her, even though the
evidence exonerated him.

Rosenthal's office initially refused to issue a pardon which would
allow Sutton to receive compensation for his years in prison. He
wanted to 'restore his rights', but not allow him to clear his name.
He was finally forced into giving a full pardon by the reccomendation
of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

At the very end of Coy vs. Texas, the prosecutor made a point of
asking why the defence had not paid for independent testing of the bed
sheets that the accuser had slept on during the supposed molestation.
I think that this might have seemed like a smart move at the time.
If Coy had ever sat in his daughter's bed to read a story,
comfort her during a thunderstorm, etc, his DNA would be all over
those sheets. We leave microscopic bits of ourselves wherever we go.

But given the unbelievable state of the Houston Crime Lab, the DNA on
the sheets didn't even have to be his. His daughter carries
genetic similarites. If Carly drooled a little when she slept, or wet
the bed, that would have put similar DNA markers onto the sheets.
A competent laboratory would be able to differentiate between the DNA
of a male and a female, between saliva and urine, but the HCL was not
competent. They claimed a semen sample represented two people, one
of whom was Josiah Sutton, when it actually came from only one man, who
was NOT sutton. Any DNA evidence they got from the sheets
could have convicted Coy, even if it was fabricated or 'tweaked'. Since there
was no DNA tested initially, there is none to retest now. IF the sheets are still in the possesion of the Houston PD, odds are good that they were stored improperly, any evidence they might have held rotted away.


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