Summary Courtesy of The National Registry of Exonerations
by Maurice Possley
On March 22, 1984, two girls, ages 14 and 15, were confronted by a man with a gun as they walked along Illinois Avenue in Dallas, Texas. The man marched them to a nearby vacant lot where he tied them together at the legs and raped them.
The man fled on foot and the victims went to a nearby home and called police.
A few days later, the two were at the 14-year-old’s apartment when they noticed a man in the parking lot who they believed was the man who attacked them. They recorded the license plate number of the man’s car and called police.
Police spoke with the owner, who said he had loaned the car to 28-year-old Johnny Pinchback. When Pinchback learned that police were looking for him, he went to authorities. After briefly questioning him, Pinchback was released.
But on April 4, police presented a photo line-up to the two girls and both identified Pinchback as their attacker.
On October 5, 1984, Pinchback was convicted by a jury based almost solely on the identifications of the victims. Pinchback testified and denied the attack. He was found guilty of two counts of aggravated sexual assault and was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
After his conviction, Pinchback learned the name of a man that his friends claimed had confessed to committing the rapes. A motion for a new trial was filed based on newly discovered evidence, but was rejected.
Pinchback lost his appeals and in October 2007 wrote a letter to the Innocence Project of Texas. In May 2009, the Project launched an investigation of his case.
Charles Chatman, who had been exonerated by DNA in Dallas County in 2008 and had met Pinchback in prison, repeatedly reached out to the Innocence Project to work on Pinchback’s case because he believed in Pinchback’s innocence.
Most of the biological evidence, however, was not preserved. All that remained were pubic hair cuttings from the second victim.
On July 13, 2010, the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office joined with Innocence Project lawyers to request DNA tests on the pubic hair. The testing found a small amount of seminal fluid on the hairs and isolated a male DNA profile from the fluid that was different from Pinchback’s, proving that he was not the rapist.
On May 12, 2011, Pinchback was released from prison and the charges were dismissed. Pinchback was awarded $2,131,000 in state compensation plus an annuity of $12,600.