Associated Press

DNA frees man 11 years after rape conviction

La. man had been convicted on witness testimony, blood type evidence

Oct 15, 2006

LAKE CHARLES, La. - Nine years after he was convicted of rape and burglary and 11 years after his arrest, DNA tests have cleared Allen Coco's name and record.

The 38-year-old man had insisted since his arrest in 1995 that he was innocent. The 28-year-old victim had chosen his picture from a photo lineup.

Prosecutor Wayne Frey dismissed charges against Coco on Thursday, after getting results from a second round of DNA tests, and Judge Kent Savoie released him.Savoie had ordered a new trial for Coco in July, after state and defense attorneys agreed that DNA tests failed to link him to the crime.

At the time, the judge refused to reduce Coco's $50,000 bond so he could get out of prison. Coco agreed to more tests last month, and Savoie scheduled a bond hearing Oct. 11, indicating he would release Coco if the tests were not done or there was again no match.

When the bond hearing began, Frey moved to dismiss the charge.

Savoie's predecessor on the bench, Judge Greg Lyons, had found Coco guilty of aggravated rape and aggravated burglary after the defendant gave up his right to jury trial.

Lyons sentenced Coco, a prior felon, to the mandatory term of life without parole on the rape count and a concurrent 15-year term on the burglary count.

Coco was convicted on the woman's testimony and evidence of blood type and enzyme makeup.

The DNA sample taken from the woman was too small to test in 1997, but now can be analyzed. A test paid for by the Innocence Project of New Orleans indicated the DNA did not match Coco's.

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