- The Washington Times - Monday, March 10, 2003

HOUSTON, March 10 (UPI) — An attorney said Monday that new DNA tests have found that his client served nearly five years in a Texas prison for a rape he did not commit.

Josiah Sutton was sentenced to 25 years in prison based on DNA testing conducted by the Houston Police crime lab, which has been closed down because of allegations of shoddy work.

"The results found essentially that he was not an assailant," said Sutton's attorney, Bob Wicoff, in the Houston Chronicle's online edition. "They found the DNA of two assailants, neither of whom are identified."

Wicoff wants Sutton released from prison as soon as possible and a pardon from Gov. Rick Perry.

Sutton's case is one of about 20 being reviewed, including seven death row cases, because of questions raised by an audit and the county medical examiner. The Houston police chief said last week that execution dates should not be scheduled in the seven capital cases until DNA evidence can be retested.

Houston police had no immediate comment on the report about Sutton.

Wicoff said the ramifications might be far reaching because the Houston crime lab has evaluated critical evidence in the convictions of thousands of people.

Sutton was convicted in the October 1998 rape of a woman who was taken at gunpoint in her car and raped by two men before she was dumped in a rural area. She later saw two boys she believed were her attackers as she drove down a street and alerted police. Sutton, who was 16, and a friend were arrested.

Houston police compared evidence from the victim and her car to blood and saliva samples from the boys. The crime lab determined that Sutton might have been an attacker but said his friend could not have been. The test conducted last week also found Sutton's friend could not have been an attacker. The second boy was never charged.

California forensic scientists who reviewed the Houston police lab's work on the Sutton case said there were numerous problems with the lab's techniques and its conclusions.

The Houston police crime lab has examined 525 cases involving DNA evidence since 1997. None of the seven death row inmates whose cases are under review has a scheduled execution date. The district attorney says none will be scheduled until the evidence is reviewed by an outside lab.

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