DNA evidence freeing dozens after years behind bars
HOUSTON (FinalCall.com) – Since being released from prison, Michael Anthony Green has had trouble readjusting to life as a free man after serving more than 27 years for a rape prosecutors now say he didn’t commit.
Mr. Green, who is Black, is due $2.2 million in compensation from the State of Texas but says that no amount of money can compensate for the mental torture he has faced behind bars.
“It felt good to be freed but that system has destroyed my life. I will never be the same. They took away 27 years that I will never get back. I couldn’t even attend my mother’s funeral because I was locked up for this crime I knew I was innocent of,” Mr. Green told The Final Call in an Aug. 14 interview.
According to research by the Innocence Project, an organization focused on freeing innocent prisoners, there have been 258 post-conviction DNA exonerations in the United States since 1989.
Out of those figures, Blacks have accounted for nearly 60 percent (152) followed by Whites at 30 percent (79) and Latinos at 8 percent (21). The average length of time served by those later exonerated is 13 years. The total number of years served is approximately 3,281.
A week before Mr. Green was freed, Allen Wayne Porter, who is also Black, was released in Houston due to DNA testing after serving 19 years in prison.
“When that door closed behind me in that prison, that’s when I went crazy. I was furious at the system and that’s why my disciplinary record in my first three years looked like it did. A trial is not about the truth. It’s not about the law. It’s about who can put on the best show,” said Mr. Green.
Mr. Green, 45, was released on July 30 on $500 bond after DNA tests on the rape victim’s clothing proved that he was not linked to the crime. According to his attorney, Mr. Green was sentenced to 75 years in prison for the 1983 rape of a Houston White woman based on faulty eyewitness identification.
Mr. Green served the longest time behind bars of any Texas resident who has been exonerated and his attorney believes the Houston Police Department is to blame.
“The Houston Police Department is the blame for this conviction. They used improper suggestive identification procedures in getting the victim to pick him out,” Attorney Bob Wicoff told The Final Call.
Mr. Wicoff explained to The Final Call that the Post Conviction Review Section of the Harris County District Attorney’s Office was responsible for finding a pair of jeans locked away in a warehouse that had been worn by the victim the day of the crime. The article of clothing was tested for DNA evidence, thus Mr. Green was excluded from those linked to the act.
According to Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos, their office has identified all four men suspected in the crime that Mr. Green was wrongfully convicted of.
One of the suspects reportedly admitted that he was present and Mr. Green was not at the scene. Two of those men are still behind bars serving time for other convictions. However, due to statute of limitations, none of the men can be prosecuted for the crime Mr. Green lost most of his life for.
In 2005, Mr. Green filed for post-conviction DNA testing and a swab of his DNA was taken by prosecutors in February 2009.
The results excluded Green, who had been appealing his case multiple times since 1983.
According to Mr. Wicoff, the final ruling on Mr. Green’s innocence will be made on August 26 by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He is confident everything will be cleared and that Governor Rick Perry will grant the necessary pardon.
Causes of Wrongful Convictions
According to the Innocence project, the first DNA exoneration in the U.S. took place in 1989. Exonerations have been won in 34 states. Since 2000, there have been 192 exonerations.
The Innocence Project notes that eyewitness misidentification testimony was a factor in 75 percent of post-conviction DNA exoneration cases in the U.S., making it the leading cause of these wrongful convictions. At least 40 percent of these eyewitness identifications involved a cross racial identification.
According to court documents, the White woman was talking on a pay phone in the Greenspoint area with her husband and was abducted at a gas station on April 18, 1983. They sexually assaulted her in a secluded area after midnight.
When police spotted the car they were in search of and pulled it over, the four Black men inside fled the scene. From there, the police began randomly stopping all Black men walking in the area and that’s how Mr. Green was detained.
The victim was brought back to the scene while Mr. Green and another man were being held in a police car. They reportedly saw both men but denied that either of them were the ones who raped her. Strangely, things would change eight days later. The police showed her multiple photos including Mr. Green’s. She picked his picture, then picked him out in a live line up, and eventually pointed him out in a courtroom.
“She shouldn’t have picked me. When she first saw me, she said I wasn’t the one and then all of a sudden I’m in jail for 75 years. I have a right to be upset,” Mr. Green told The Final Call.
One of the things from this whole experience that makes Mr. Green teary-eyed is the fact that his mother, Mary Ann Strait, died while he was in prison. He has trouble sleeping at night.
“They wouldn’t let me attend her funeral. That was a turning point in my life. I was heartbroken and I wish she was here to witness me being free,” said Mr. Green, who is now working as a paralegal for the Innocence Project in Houston.
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