DNA Tests Free Man Who Served 17 Years for Rape
The Texan may be eligible for $425,000 in compensation.
By Associated Press
December 22, 2004
EL PASO— A man who served nearly 17 years for rape was freed from prison Tuesday after DNA tests determined he was not responsible for the crime.
Brandon Moon, 43, joined his parents, Frank and Shirley Moon, for the drive to their home in Kansas City, Mo., following his release from the El Paso County jail. He said he felt "numb."
"Have you ever had Novocain? It's a lot like that, just from head to toe," he said.
Moon had been serving a 75-year sentence after his 1988 conviction for sexual assault. The El Paso district attorney and defense lawyers filed a successful joint motion to vacate the conviction.
Nina Morrison, an attorney with the New York-based Innocence Project, said he would be released on $1 bond until his conviction was officially vacated by the state Court of Criminal Appeals.
"My office and the state of Texas, in the interest of truth, recognize the injustice Mr. Moon has suffered," said El Paso County Dist. Atty. Jaime Esparza, who did not prosecute Moon.
He may be eligible for compensation from the state of $425,000, or up to $25,000 for each year of his incarceration.
Moon said he never lost faith when officials wouldn't listen while he maintained his innocence. "They're listening now," he said.
As for his future, "At least in part I'll continue making belt buckles, which has kind of kept me going over the years," he said of his silversmith work. "What I'll be doing other than that, I don't know."
The motion to vacate Moon's conviction was based on recent DNA tests by the Texas Department of Public Safety, which defense attorneys and Esparza say prove Moon did not commit the April 1987 aggravated sexual assault.
Serologist Glen Adams had testified that Moon was among the 15% of the population that could possibly have been the source of the semen evidence.
Innocence Project lawyers contended the testimony implied Moon was the likely rapist — despite other biological evidence that exonerated him.
"This case shows that the well-documented problems of crime lab error … occur all over Texas," said lawyer Barry Scheck, the Innocence Project co-director. "This is also a classic case where faulty eyewitness identification procedures implicated the wrong man."
Department of Public Safety officials disputed that analysis.
"During the original trial, the DPS analyst's testimony concluded that Brandon Moon could not be eliminated as a suspect," the agency said in a statement.