- Sexual Assault
- 99 Years
From November 1980 to January 1981, three sexual assaults were reported in the same Dallas neighborhood. All three assault survivors described their attacker as a black man weighing 170 to 200 pounds, between 5 feet, 9 inches and six feet tall, with no facial hair and gold teeth.
Arrest & Trial
On January 20, 1981, the victim of the third attack identified 25-year-old Rickey Dale Wyatt as her assailant from a photo lineup. Three days later, the victim of the first attack also identified Wyatt as her attacker from a photo lineup.
Ricky was arrested on January 24, 1981 and charged with all three sexual assaults. At the time, he weighed about 140 pounds, was 5 feet 4 inches tall, had a mustache and no gold teeth.
In July 1981, after rejecting an opportunity to plead guilty in return for a five year prison sentence, Ricky went on trial in Dallas County Criminal District Court for the first assault that occurred in November 1980.
The prosecution presented the testimony of a Dallas police officer, who said that after Wyatt was arrested, he said that he had lost about 30 pounds in the previous 10 days. A forensic analyst testified that based on serological testing of semen recovered from the victim, Wyatt was included in the 20 percent of the population who could have been responsible for the assault.
On July 31, 1981, a jury convicted Wyatt of aggravated sexual assault. At his sentencing hearing, the victim of the third assault testified against him and identified him as her attacker. Wyatt was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
When DNA testing was initially sought, officials at Southwest Institute of Forensic Science said the evidence from the case was no longer available. In November 2005, the lab said that a later search had produced the evidence, though it was partially degraded. DNA Testing was ordered on June 6, 2006. The testing produced a partial DNA profile that excluded Ricky as the source of the DNA.
In the meantime, a joint investigation with the Dallas County District Attorney’s office turned up exculpatory evidence that was never turned over to Ricky’s attorney. The evidence included that Ricky was placed in a live line-up and the victim of the third attack was unable to identify him—until after she heard a police officer say that he had lost weight in recent weeks. The investigation showed the state had suppressed a fingerprint card from a May 20, 1980 arrest of Ricky showing his weight as 135 pounds as well as a photograph from that arrest showing he had a mustache and other facial hair. The state also had suppressed a police report of the third rape in which the victim said her attacker weighed 200 pounds.
The investigation also disclosed that Ricky’s trial attorney had failed to obtain records from January 13, 1981—just weeks after the first assault and days after the third—showing that Ricky had been hospitalized and his weight was listed as 144 pounds. The records could have been used to discredit the police officer’s false testimony at trial that Ricky said he had lost 30 pounds.
Ricky’s trial attorney did not attempt to challenge the state’s scientific evidence until the first day of trial and did not consult and expert. A review of the scientific testimony at the trial by an independent expert showed that the testimony was false, scientifically inaccurate and misleading. A correct interpretation, according to the expert, would have been that the results of the serology testing provided no information that could have been used to link Ricky to the attack.
On January 4, 2012, based on a joint motion filed by Ricky’s lawyers and the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit, a district judge ordered Ricky be released from prison and recommended that his conviction be vacated.
In May 2012, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals vacated the conviction and the charges were dismissed. In December 2014, at the request of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, a Dallas County judge entered a court order finding Wyatt officially innocent.
Systemic Failures Have Wrongly
Imprisoned Thousands of
The Generosity of Their Fellow Citizens Can Provide Them
The Freedom They Deserve.