Matthew's Foray into Blogging

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Why I Do Not Like Chuck Rosenthal

In 1998, at age 17, Josiah Sutton was sentenced to 25 years in prison. His conviction for rape was based on DNA evidence. The Houston crime lab that processed the evidence that sent Sutton to prison was discredited 4 ½ years later amid investigations that showed its testing practices were flawed. The Houston Police Crime Laboratory has been the subject of much controversy. Its problems range from ineptitude to falsification of results. Mr. Sutton served 4 ½ years in prison before new DNA tests showed that he was innocent of the crime for which he was convicted.

Gov. Rick Perry granted Mr. Sutton a pardon on the basis of innocence, rather than a lesser “full” pardon – what Sen. Rodney Ellis calls a “half-assed” pardon.

Texas law allows wrongfully convicted individuals to receive $25,000 for each year they spent in prison. To be eligible to receive compensation, the wrongfully convicted person must have received a full pardon on the basis of innocence and “the attorney representing the state in the prosecution of felonies in the county in which the sentence was rendered,” in this case Harris County District Attorney Chuck Rosenthal, must sign a letter stating that the person is actually innocent.

However, Chuck Rosenthal refused to write a letter to the state calling Mr. Sutton actually innocent. Rosenthal has steadfastly refused to call Sutton innocent, saying, “The complainant in the case still believes that he is not innocent and I do not know that she is incorrect.” The story has a happy ending, because Rosenthal finally wrote a letter stating that he acknowledges the pardon and is not opposed to the compensation.[1] Senator Ellis, lawyers, and the Comptroller’s Office, which pays the reparations, agreed that such a letter from Rosenthal would satisfy the requirement.

Rosenthal should know how inherently unreliable eyewitness accounts are. Eyewitnesses to crimes are often certain of what they observed, but they are frequently proven to have mistakenly identified suspects. A crime lab that is more reliable than the Houston crime lab is, using DNA evidence, has eliminated Mr. Sutton as a suspect. Nonetheless, Rosenthal refuses to acknowledge Mr. Sutton’s innocence. Perhaps the voters like Rosenthal, despite his arrogance, because he is a “hard-nosed” prosecutor who is tough on crime. Meanwhile, a truly guilty person is not behind bars for the rape of which Mr. Sutton was convicted.

[1] The story has a happy conclusion because Mr. Sutton will receive his checks; he still is trying to get back on his feet after having spent four-and-a-half years of his life in prison.


  • OMG that's horrendous. I'm so glad there's a kind of happy ending. Although how can anything make up for being wrongfully imprisoned?

    By Blogger Lesley, at 7:24 AM, October 03, 2005  

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