LA man freed from prison after DNA clears him of rape

24 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Convict in 3 Calif. sex crimes freed by DNA tied to fugitive rapist.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man imprisoned 16 years for rape and sex assault convictions was exonerated Monday and ordered freed after DNA evidence linked the crimes to a serial rapist on the FBI’s most wanted list. LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A Los Angeles judge on Monday overturned the conviction of a man who spent 16 years in prison for sexual assault and other charges, after new DNA evidence cleared him of the crimes and linked them to the notorious “Teardrop Rapist.” A weeping Luis Vargas, 46, was ordered released from state prison following the hearing in Los Angeles Superior Court, but will be transferred to federal custody while U.S. authorities investigate his immigration status. “I’m happy but I’m sad that I can’t take him home. DNA tests last year on evidence from one of the attacks excluded Luis Lorenzo Vargas, 46, as a suspect and pointed instead to an unidentified man who has been dubbed the “teardrop rapist” wanted in dozens of sexual assaults, the attorneys said. Vargas broke down, placing his hand to his forehead and covering his eyes as the judge ordered the case dismissed during the brief hearing packed with family and law school students who had worked to free him.

Vargas, 46, who was taken back into custody because of immigration issues, told his lawyers to tell his family not to worry and that he would be home soon, said attorney Alex Simpson of the California Innocence Project. “I’m sure they’ve been worrying for the past 16 years about what’s going on with this case, whether or not we’ll ever see today,” Simpson said. Ryan to release Vargas, saying the office “no longer has confidence in the convictions.” At a hearing Monday afternoon, Vargas appeared in a downtown courtroom handcuffed and dressed in blue jail scrubs. Superior Court Judge William Ryan threw out Vargas’ conviction based on DNA evidence taken from the shorts and underwear of one of three victims in the string of attacks, which was found to exclude him as the perpetrator. He’s very, very thankful that we’re here today.” His lawyers expect he’ll be released by immigration authorities because he was a legal resident at the time of arrest and the matter is connected to a conviction that has now been reversed. Lawyers and students for the innocence project at California Western School of Law took up the case after Vargas got in touch in 2012 and said he thought he was wrongly convicted of crimes that were the work of the so-called Teardrop Rapist.

Hopefully, this new evidence will help police catch the true perpetrator.” Prosecutors joined attorneys for Vargas in asking that Ryan reverse the guilty verdicts, saying that less sophisticated DNA testing available in 1999 would not have been able to exonerate him. On the day of his sentencing in 1999, Vargas told the court, “I’m concerned (the) individual (who) really did these crimes might really be raping someone out there, might really be killing someone out there.” In assaults going back to 1996 on victims ranging between 14 and 41 years old, the suspect in most of the cases tried to engage in conversation with a woman walking to work or school, then pulled a weapon, forced her into a secluded area and sexually assaulted her, officials have said. His most striking characteristic is the tattoo some victims have reported seeing on his face, though even that was shrouded in uncertainty, with some remembering it on one side of his face and some on the other, and some reporting one teardrop, others two. Vargas’ case again highlights the importance of DNA evidence in the criminal justice system as well as the questionable reliability of eyewitness identification. An attorney for Vargas said it was not clear how long his client, who holds a green card conferring him permanent resident status, would be detained over immigration issues.

Vargas was accused of similar crimes and convicted of kidnapping, forcibly raping and sodomizing one woman and attempting to rape two others between February and June 1998. It is the No. 1 factor in wrongful convictions across the country.” INDIANAPOLIS — Authorities charged two young men with murder Monday in the fatal shooting of a pastor’s pregnant wife during a home invasion after the minister left the couple’s Indianapolis home without locking the front door.

No DNA evidence was collected from the other sexual assaults attributed to Vargas, but prosecutors had argued at his trial that there were so many similarities among the three cases that they had to have been committed by the same person. Her husband, Pastor Davey Blackburn, told police he had left the home’s front door unlocked when he departed about 6 a.m. to go to the gym and work out, then returned home about 8:20 a.m. to find his wounded wife. Prosecutors conceded new evidence pointed “unerringly to innocence.” It was also a case of mistaken identity, Deputy District Attorney Nicole Flood said in a letter to the judge.

And prosecutors also noted a discrepancy in the victims’ descriptions: Two victims said their attacker had two teardrops tattooed beneath his left eye. The affidavit says the two men entered the house through the unlocked front door that morning after they had robbed two other homes, including one in the same neighborhood. The prosecutor said that his office will review whether it might seek the death penalty against Taylor and would meet with Blackburn’s relatives before making a decision in about a month. “We meet internally in our office to determine strengths and weaknesses of the case.

Davey Blackburn released a statement Monday saying: “Though it does not undo the pain we are feeling, I was extremely relieved to get the news of the arrest made last night of Amanda’s killer.” Davey Blackburn said investigators have told him they have a “solidly built case.” Blackburn said he hopes the “court system would have wisdom on how to prosecute this man so that no one else endures the pain Amanda and our family have had to endure because of his actions.”

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