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Aug 7, 2009

Ernest Sonnier Freed After 23 Years [wrongful conviction for rape]

Today is the first day of Ernest Sonnier’s new life.

The 46-year-old Houston man walked out of a courthouse today free for the first time since 1986. Sonnier was wrongfully convicted of a rape he didn’t commit based on a shaky eyewitness identification and shoddy forensic science. DNA testing obtained by the Innocence Project on his behalf now proves his innocence and implicates two other men as the perpetrators of the crime. A Texas judge freed Sonnier on bond today while proceedings to fully exonerate him move forward.

He was joined in court this morning by his family, along with Innocence Project Staff Attorney Alba Morales, Social Worker Angela Amel and several other Innocence Project clients exonerated with DNA testing in Texas in recent years. Sonnier will live with his mother, Altha Davis, while adjusting to freedom and continuing his fight to fully clear his name. Davis told reporters she knew Sonnier was innocent because he was with her on Christmas Eve 1985, the night of the crime, and she never gave up hope that her son would come home. “It’s been long for me, so long,” she said. “I’m happy and so sad at the same time.”

Read more about Sonnier’s case at Innocence Project website, and send him a personal message welcoming him home after 23 long years of wrongful incarceration.

Sonnier’s case is the latest in a string of wrongful convictions caused in part by faulty forensic testing at the Houston Police Department Crime Lab. Although blood-type testing on important crime scene evidence conducted before trial didn’t match Sonnier’s type — and even suggested that he may be innocent — an analysts testified at his trial that he could still be the perpetrator, based on a conclusion not supported by the analyst’s own report.

Houston has been an epicenter of forensic problems but faulty forensic testing is a national problem and must be addressed in order to prevent more wrongful convictions. Earlier this year, the National Academies of Sciences called for the creation of a National Institute of Forensic Science to provide research, support and oversight in forensic disciplines to prevent wrongful convictions and help law enforcement identify the perpetrators of crime.

You can help prevent future wrongful convictions today — sign a petition urging Congress to implement forensic reform.
http://www.just-science.org/

The Innocence Project will post updates on the Innocence Blog in the weeks ahead as Sonnier’s continues his quest to fully clear his name.

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Posted: Aug 7, 2009 3:27pm

 

 
 
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Author

Mary Neal
, 5, 2 children
Atlanta, GA, USA
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