Jerry Lee Evans matched the description of the man who abducted and raped a woman in Texas in 1986. He even had a similar speech impediment. Today Evans, 47, is expected to walk out of the courtroom a free man because DNA testing shows he is not the man who raped an 18-year-old Southern Methodist University freshman at knifepoint, reports the Dallas Morning News. Dallas prosecutors pointed to questionable witness identification procedures as a leading reason for his wrongful conviction. When the woman looked at a six-picture photo spread, Dallas police officers “were leading and encouraging” her to pick Evans out of the photo lineup, said prosecutor Mike Ware. Officers were also “enthusiastically encouraging” after the woman selected Evans.
The Dallas Police Department changed its policies this year in an attempt to eliminate encouragement of witnesses through words or body language. Now, photo lineups are shown by an officer not involved in the case and are shown sequentially. Evans’ DNA exoneration marks the 20th in Dallas County, which has more than any other jurisdiction in the nation since 2001, when Texas began allowing post-conviction genetic testing. Dallas County preserved much of the valuable DNA evidence that could conclusively prove a convict’s innocence or guilt.