Source AP ©

DNA to exonerate the man convicted of gang rape

It seems that DNA will help to exonerate a Texas man who spent over 10 years in the prison for a gang rape he said he didn’t commit.

The Dallas County District Attorney's office and James Curtis Giles' lawyer both planned to present evidence they say proves his innocence, including that another man by the same name lived across the street from the victim of the 1982 attack.

Assistant Dallas County District Attorney Lisa Smith said her office's investigation into the 25-year-old case found that a co-defendant's statements implicating another man were never presented at James Curtis Giles' trial nor provided to his lawyer.

The case turned on a case of mistaken identity, she said.

In statements to police after his arrest, Stanley Bryant, who pleaded guilty to the rape, implicated two others in the crime: a James Giles and a Michael Brown.

DNA evidence later linked Brown and Bryant to the crime, Smith and Potkin said. Brown was never tried and died in prison after being convicted of another gang rape.

Police eventually arrested Giles, who lived 25 miles (40 kilometers) away and did not match the description given by the rape victim, Potkin said. Giles was about 10 years older and had gold teeth. He also had an alibi; he and his wife told police he was asleep in bed.

Investigators ignored another man with a similar name: James Earl Giles lived across the street from the victim and had previously been arrested with Brown on other charges, the attorneys said. He died in prison in 2000 while serving time for robbery and assault.

Dallas County prosecutors also recently interviewed the victim and a witness, Smith said. She said the victim acknowledged some doubt as to whether James Curtis Giles was among the rapists. The witness identified the other man, James Earl Giles, in a photo lineup, Smith said.

"It is persuasive that the victim is now acknowledging some doubt," Smith said.

The judge who hears the case Monday will make a recommendation to a criminal appeals court in Austin on whether to grant James Curtis Giles' writ of habeus corpus. If the appeals court grants the writ, Giles' conviction will be vacated.

"He is overjoyed to finally have this day," said Vanessa Potkin, Giles' lawyer and a staff attorney with the Innocence Project. "It's been a long journey for him. He says he has to laugh to keep from crying."

The DNA evidence that linked Brown to the crime was one factor that helped convince the district attorney's office to investigate Giles' claim of innocence, especially because of Brown's "overwhelming connection" to the other James Giles, Potkin said.

"DNA evidence alone didn't exonerate our client, but it has played an instrumental role," Potkin said.

Giles has had to register as a sex offender since his release. He is married and lives in Lufkin, Texas, with his wife, working for an accounting business, Potkin said.

Next week after the hearing, he is scheduled to appear at the state Capitol in Austin with Barry Scheck, the co-director of the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center that specializes in overturning wrongful convictions. They are scheduled to speak at Senate hearings regarding three reform bills designed to reduce wrongful convictions in Texas, said Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Innocence Project.

If Giles wins his case, he would become the 13th Dallas County man since 2001 exonerated by DNA evidence, the most of any county in the nation. It would be the third exoneration since District Attorney Craig Watkins took office on Jan. 1 pledging to free anyone wrongfully convicted.

Texas leads the nation with 27 DNA exonerations, one more than Illinois, according to Innocence Project figures. There have been 198 exonerations nationwide.

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