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Old 12-22-2004, 07:06 AM
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Default Innocent Man Released After 16 years Inside--2 Years After DNA Proof

Dec. 22, 2004, 1:38AM

Questions remain after man's release

Inmate finally freed; prosecutor wonders how the case went wrong
By STEVE MCVICKER
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle

With a new white cowboy hat covering his graying red hair, Brandon Lee Moon walked out of the El Paso County Jail on Tuesday after serving more than 16 years in prison for a rape that new DNA testing says he did not commit.

Moon wanted to wear the white hat, said one of his attorneys, because "he is one of the good guys now."

His parents, Frank and Shirley Moon, were on hand to see him walk free. He has said he plans to move to Missouri, where his family lives.

His release on $1 bail followed a court hearing in which El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza joined Moon's Innocence Project attorneys from New York in a motion to vacate his 75-year sentence.

Esparza acknowledged Monday that recent DNA tests by the Texas Department of Public Safety prove someone else committed the 1987 crime. He also apologized to Moon, 43, who accepted it at Tuesday's hearing.

Afterward, Esparza said he found little comfort in knowing that he was doing the right thing. "When you have a system failure of this proportion, it's not a good day,"said Esparza, who was first elected district attorney in 1993.

Winding road to freedom
Moon was convicted of the aggravated sexual assault of an El Paso woman five years before Esparza took office. The woman and another sexual assault victim identified him as their attacker, and he was convicted although he had a partially corroborated alibi.

The victims' testimony in the trial was bolstered by testimony from a DPS serologist, who said blood-typing analysis of semen found at the scene probably was from Moon.

Moon had DNA tests conducted on the evidence in the early 1990s, but they were inconclusive. However, DNA tests performed in November 2002 cleared him of the crime and showed that the real rapist was never apprehended.

Nevertheless, Moon was not made aware of the results until two years later, after his attorneys filed an open-records request. They charge that foot-dragging by DPS and prosecutors needlessly extended Moon's time in prison.

Esparza refused to concede that any of his prosecutors are guilty of wrongdoing.

"At first, I was cautious," he said, describing his initial telephone conversation with Innocence Project attorney and co-founder Barry Scheck.

But after reviewing the case, he said, he realized that the wrong man was in prison.

"We are disappointed that the criminal justice system made such an error," Esparza said. "And, as prosecutors, we are major participants in that system. As prosecutors, we're charged to do what's right. And for the conclusion to be so wrong back in 1988, it really makes you think twice about what you do and how you do it."

Among the changes he plans for his office, Esparza said, is closer scrutiny of eyewitness identification in criminal cases.

Moon attorney Nina Morrison said all DPS crime labs should be reviewed to ensure that other innocent people aren't in prison or on death row.

A statement issued by the DPS on Tuesday defended the department's work in the case.

"The evidence was tested in 1987, using the most up-to-date serology tests available at the time," agency officials stated.

Even so, said Moon's attorneys, DPS misinterpreted the data.

Lawmakers seek answers
Esparza stopped short of calling for a DPS audit but did say, "The DPS expert testimony was a key part of the trial."

As a prosecutor, he added, "I need to be able to rely on expert testimony.

"We want to do it right," he continued. "When you get it wrong like this, you've got to ask yourself, 'How did it go wrong?' "

At this point, he said, he isn't sure. Some state lawmakers are joining him in the search for answers.

State Sen. John Whitmire,

D-Houston, announced that he will hold his first round of hearings into problems at crime labs operated by the Houston Police Department and DPS on Jan. 4 at the Houston Community College Conference and Training Center.

The HPD crime lab's DNA division was closed two years ago because of serious quality-control problems.

Two men have been released from prison after new DNA tests showed that they were wrongly convicted on the basis of faulty work by the lab.

State Sen. Rodney Ellis,

D-Houston, said his upcoming legislative package will include a bill toughening laws governing the use of eyewitness testimony in criminal proceedings.

He already had announced that he would sponsor a bill increasing the amount of state compensation for wrongly imprisoned people to $50,000 for each year served, with a cap of $1 million. The amount now is $25,000, with a cap of $500,000.

Esparza said he believes Moon is entitled to compensation. He said the legal process calls for the case now to go to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which Esparza believes will act quickly to resolve it.

The district attorney said he had not yet talked with Moon and doesn't know if there is anything else he could say to him.

"I don't think there's anything I can tell Mr. Moon that will make it any better," Esparza said. "I do think an apology is inadequate, but I think it's important for him to hear."

steve.mcvicker@chron.com

This article is: http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory...olitan/2959295

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Old 12-22-2004, 07:07 AM
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HOME: DECEMBER 24, 2004:

Naked City

Man freed in (another) crime-lab fiasco
BY JORDAN SMITH

After spending 17 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, former UT-El Paso student Brandon Moon was released from prison on Dec. 21, the latest defendant on a growing list of those exonerated by modern DNA testing. Moon was convicted and sentenced to 75 years in prison for the 1987 rape of an El Paso homemaker, reports the El Paso Times . The original case against Moon was based on eyewitness testimony and DNA testing performed by the Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab in Lubbock.

The New York City-based Innocence Project, co-founded by Barry Scheck, took up Moon's case earlier this year, and was instrumental in securing the testing needed to exonerate the 43-year-old. Scheck told the Times that he plans to call for an audit of all cases handled by Lubbock-based DPS serologist Glen David Adams, who left the lab in 1991. "There are serious problems across this entire country in the way crime labs do business," Scheck said. "That has to be corrected in a systematic way."

To be sure, Texas is no stranger to crime lab fiascoes. On Dec. 20, state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, chairman of the Senate's Criminal Justice Committee, announced plans to hold hearings in January into the ongoing problems in crime labs across the state – including the now-infamous Houston Police Department crime lab. "It's just sad that it's taken so long," Whitmire told the Houston Chronicle . "And one of the things we hope to accomplish in our hearings is to hold people accountable for why it's taken so long."

Also on Dec. 20, the Texas House Research Organization released a report on state oversight of crime labs – aptly titled "Should Texas Do More to Regulate Crime Labs?"

See the report at http://www.capitol.state.tx.us/hrofr...me_lab79-2.pdf .

http://www.austinchronicle.com/issue...ls_naked5.html


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Old 01-01-2005, 08:11 AM
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Besides contacting the media, hoe do you get someone's case moved closer to the top of the pile to be reviewed? My Mom's case was thru the Houston crime lab around 1990-1991

I am willing to do anything to move her case up, but the media will be reserved as a last resort..

Any suggestions?
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