June 22, 2000
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - On the day Armand Villasana faced a possible 40-year sentence for rape, he walked away a free man after coming up with DNA evidence that cast doubt on his guilt.
Back in November, a jury took only two hours to convict the 46-year-old Villasana of raping and kidnapping a woman in 1998.
But at his sentencing Wednesday, Villasana's new attorney was allowed to present DNA evidence he said proves authorities got the wrong man.
Jamie Harman, a scientist from St. Louis, testified that she analyzed three pieces of evidence and found DNA not consistent with Villasana's.
Prosecutor Jill Geary then dropped the case but said Villasana has not been cleared.
The state ``must conclude that the three pieces of DNA evidence, when taken together, make it impossible for the state to prove its case against Armand Villasana beyond a reasonable doubt,'' Geary said in a statement.
In front of the courthouse, an ecstatic Villasana was surrounded by family and friends, who took turns hugging and kissing him.
``All I know is, I didn't do it,'' he said. ``The DNA says I didn't do it.''
He spent 21 months behind bars.
Villasana became a suspect in the 1998 crime after a sheriff's deputy thought he resembled a sketch of the suspect.
At the trial, Villasana's roommate said that he bragged about having sex on the night of the rape. Witnesses also said Villasana owned a T-shirt like the one the victim said her attacker wore.
``It's the power of scientific evidence,'' said Villasana's new lawyer, Shawn Askinosie. ``It's so powerful we need to make sure we ask for it.''