George Rodriguez Exonerated
George Rodriguez was convicted of a rape that he did not commit in 1987. His conviction was obtained through faulty scientific evidence.
At Rodriguez 's trial, HPD crime lab supervisor Jim Bolding testified that a hair found on the victim matched Rodriguez. He also told jurors that blood-type testing had eliminated another suspect, Isidro Yanez, as a possible participant in the attack, undercutting the defense theory that Yanez was the assailant. DNA tests conducted recently, however, proved that the hair could not have come from Rodriguez and likely came from Yanez. Other tests have shown that Bolding's testimony regarding the blood-typing was wrong and that Yanez could not have been eliminated as a suspect based on those tests. The exposure of HPD's errors prompted prosecutors to agree to release Rodriguez from prison. The GRACE team provided vital work from the summer of 2004 to secure Rodriguez’ release.
Rodriquez’s case is one of three recent Harris County cases in which mistakenly convicted men have been freed; Josiah Sutton, received a pardon in May after spending four years in prison for a 1998 rape that was based on faulty DNA evidence; Anthony Robinson, was pardoned in 2000 after 10 years in prison for a sexual assault that DNA testing indicated he did not commit.
Since his release, the District Attorney has decided not to seek a retrial for George Rodriguez. He can now rest assured that he is no longer in danger of returning to jail for a crime he did not commit.
On June 20, 2002 the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling ending the execution of those with mental retardation. In Atkins v. Virginia, the Court held that it is a violation of the Eighth Amendment ban on cruel and unusual punishment to execute Death Row inmates with mental retardation. The decision reflects the national consensus which has formed on this issue and influenced a 2005 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the execution of juvenile offenders, Roeper v. Simmons.
Previously, in 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on in a 5-4 decision, Penry v. Lynaugh, that executing persons with mental retardation was not a violation of the Eighth Amendment. Instead, they ruled that mental retardation should instead be a mitigating factor to be considered by the jury during sentencing. Writing for the majority, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said that a “national consensus” had not developed against executing those with mental retardation. Only two states, Maryland and Georgia, prohibited such executions at the time. Between the Penry and Atkins decisions, 16 additional states enacted laws prohibiting the execution of the mentally retarded. The federal death penalty statute also forbids such executions.
The decision in Atkins has had a profound impact on many states including Texas. Nine hours before the scheduled execution of Texas Death Row inmate Robert Charles Ladd in 2003, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit stayed the execution to allow Ladd’s attorneys enough time to file an appeal in a lower court raising questions about their client’s IQ. Ladd’s attorneys claim that a childhood test put Ladd’s IQ at 67. A person with an IQ of 70 or lower is generally considered to have mental retardation and would be ineligible for execution under the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Atkins v. Virginia. Robert Charles Ladd is still on Death Row in Texas.
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