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DNA clears man of 1982 rape conviction

A new DNA testing helped clearing a Texas man of several sex crimes. He could eventually be exonerated after 25 years in prison, Dallas County authorities said.

The Dallas district attorney's office said DNA evidence proves Steven Phillips did not commit a 1982 rape and burglary, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Prosecutors said they will work with Phillips' lawyers to have his name cleared, but that he cannot be released from prison unless he is cleared of another sex crime from the same time period.

Phillips pleaded guilty to eight sex-crime charges and was found guilty of three others in the early 1980s. After the exoneration, Phillips would be serving time for only one crime; he has finished serving his sentences for the others.

The remaining crime was similar to the case now disproved by DNA testing. It took place on the same day in May 1982, Nina Morrison, an attorney with the Innocence Project legal clinic, told the Morning News.

To be exonerated, a judge would have to decide that the DNA results cleared Phillips of the other cases that do not include DNA evidence. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals must then approve the exoneration.

"It's pretty exciting, and it won't be the last," Morrison told the newspaper.

Mike Ware, who oversees conviction integrity at the district attorney's office, told the paper that Phillips pleaded guilty to charges that police at the time said were committed by the same man who committed the rape.

Morrison said Phillips could be cleared in those cases, even though there is no DNA evidence. She said Phillips pleaded guilty to the other charges because he felt he had no chance in court.

Morrison said police maintained all along that the crimes were committed by the same man. "DNA now proves Steven Phillips was not that man," she said.

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