Falsely accused: the case of Ronald Gene Taylor.
Subject: News agencies (Cases)
Author: Goeke, Kara
Pub Date: 12/22/2008
Publication: Name: The Forensic Examiner Publisher: American College of Forensic Examiners Audience: Professional Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Law; Science and technology Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2008 American College of Forensic Examiners ISSN: 1084-5569
Issue: Date: Winter, 2008 Source Volume: 17 Source Issue: 4
Topic: Event Code: 980 Legal issues & crime Advertising Code: 94 Legal/Government Regulation Computer Subject: Company legal issue
Product: Product Code: 7350000 News Syndicates & Wire Svcs NAICS Code: 51411 News Syndicates SIC Code: 7383 News syndicates
Organization: Company Name: The Associated Press
Geographic: Geographic Scope: United States
Accession Number: 189957244

It is now believed that on May 28, 1993, Roosevelt Carroll--a man with a history of violent sex crimes--raped a Houston woman in her home. Carroll is currently in a Texas prison, serving a 15-year sentence for failing to register as a sex offender. He hasn't been tried for the rape and won't be tried, because he didn't become a suspect until after the statute of limitations had passed. The police stopped looking for him after they falsely accused an innocent man for the crime Carroll is suspected of committing (Associated Press, 2008a).

This man--Ronald Gene Taylor--was tried for the rape, found guilty, and served 12 of the 60-year sentence before DNA evidence found that he was innocent. Taylor was exonerated in January of this year, and his pardon was signed on June 13. He has become yet another victim of a criminal justice system, that, when it errs, both punishes the innocent and rewards the guilty.

The location of Taylor's residence, less than a mile from the crime scene, put him under suspicion for the rape, and he was brought in to participate in a police line-up. The line-up was videotaped and shown to the victim at her home. There were no attorneys or representatives for Taylor present at her viewing ("Ronald Gene," 2008).

The victim identified Taylor as the rapist, although she reported that it had been dark in her room during the rape, so she couldn't see her attacker. She said that she did feel the shape of his facial features, neck, and body during the attack. Ten days later, she altered her statement, adding details including the fact that the perpetrator was about 6 feet tall and that his ears "stuck out a little," and while watching the line-up, she suddenly remembered that her attacker was missing a front tooth--as was Taylor ("Ronald Gene").

Although the victim remembered the rapist ejaculating, the serologist reported that there was no semen on the victim's clothing or bed sheets--believing there was no biological material to test. DNA testing was not conducted, despite the requests of Taylor's lawyers ("Ronald Gene"). Taylor was convicted and sentenced to 60 years--no one listened when he insisted on his innocence.

The Innocence Project began investigating the case in 1998 after a request from Taylor's stepfather. During this same time, the Houston Police Department-came into the limelight as a forensics scandal led to questions about thousands of convictions. Taylor's case was among them, and, in 2006, DNA testing was ordered on the evidence from his case (Tolson & Khanna, 2007). The new tests found biological material to sample, proved Taylor's innocence, and pointed to the guilt of Roosevelt Carroll, who would never be tried (Tolson & Khanna).

After his release, Taylor relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, where his mother, Dorothy Henderson, waited for him. "He always said that he was innocent, and I kept the faith that one day it would come through that it was not him," she said "... We have suffered so much, but soon, now, when I can hug him and know that he is flee, we will have peace" (Tolson & Khanna, 2007).

Taylor later married and started his own lawn care business. In a phone interview with an Associated Press reporter, Taylor shared, "It's been hard to get restarted. ... Little things, like filling out a job application or renting an apartment are hard when you have to say you are a convicted felon. Now, I am officially a free man. I am so relieved" (Associated Press, 2008a).

After 12 years in prison for the wrongful conviction, Taylor may collect up to $50,000 for each year he spent in prison--more than $600,000, should he decide not to sue the Houston Police Department (Associated Press, 2008b).

A founder of the Innocence Project, Barry Scheck, is aware of the bigger implications of Taylor's case: "The Ronald Taylor case ought to be a galvanizing example of what has to be done to correct the historical injustices that have occurred because of the Houston crime lab. ... There has got to be an expeditious way to go through these cases and determine whether more testing is possible and appropriate. That sort of vetting requires expertise, competence and an infrastructure to do that" (Tolson & Khanna, 2007).


Associated Press. (2008a, June 20). Ex-Texas inmate cleared in rape case officially pardoned. USA Today. Retrieved September 16, 2008, from http://www.usatoday. com/news/nation/2008-06-20-texas-inmate_N.htm

Associated Press. (2008b, June 20). Governor pardons Houston man convicted of rape. ABC 7 News. Retrieved September 16, 2008, from http://www.kvia. com/Global/story .asp?S=8532369&nav=

Ronald Gene Taylor. (2008, September 16). Innocence Project. Retrieved September 16, 2008 from http://www. innocenceproject.org/Content/1124.php

Tolson, M., & Khanna, R. (2007, October 4). Man exonerated 14 years after rape conviction: Mix-up on DNA deals HPD lab another blow. Houston Chronicle. Retrieved September 16, 2008, from http://truthinjustice.org/ronald-taylor.htm
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