Thursday, October 2, 2008

Appeals court overturns conviction of DNA exonoree

Thursday October 2, 2008

Houston Chronicle-Houston, TX

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday overturned the sex crime convictions of a Dallas man proven innocent by DNA testing after 25 years in prison.

The court's decision to grant relief to Steven Phillips makes him the 35th Texan officially exonerated by DNA evidence and the 221st nationally, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center specializing in wrongful convictions. Texas has the most such exonerations of any state.

The appeals court upheld the ruling of a state district court in Dallas, which recommended in August that Phillips' convictions be overturned.

Phillips was convicted in separate trials of sexual assault and burglary and sentenced to 30-year sentences stemming from a 1982 attack on a Dallas woman. He then pleaded guilty to nine similar sex crimes, fearing he would receive life sentences if convicted by a jury.

Last year, DNA testing excluded Phillips as the perpetrator in the crimes for which he was convicted. Additional DNA testing earlier this year linked the sexual assault and burglary to Sidney Alvin Goodyear, who died in prison in 1998.

After a lengthy investigation over the last year, Dallas County prosecutors now believe Goodyear committed all 11 crimes that sent Phillips to prison.

Phillips is one of 20 men in Dallas County since 2001 whose convictions have been tossed aside by state district judges based on DNA testing of evidence, although one of those men will be retried by prosecutors.

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