Luis Diaz, 67, denies raping anyone, but in 1980, eight assault victims swore otherwise. That was enough, says the New York Times, to send Diaz, a fry cook and father of three, to prison for life. Today, Miami prosecutors will ask a judge to vacate his convictions and sentences based on DNA evidence that was not available 25 years ago.
Prosecutors are not convinced he is innocent of all the crimes he was imprisoned for, but they believe it is too late to retry him successfully. Lawyers for Diaz say his case is the best evidence yet that witnesses can make devastating mistakes. Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, said that about 120 of 160 exonerations since the advent of forensic DNA testing in 1989 hinged on mistaken witness identification. With so many mistaken witnesses against Diaz, “It’s a landmark case for that reason,” Scheck said. “These were crimes that upset people in the community, there was pressure to solve them, and there were, I think, unfortunate eyewitness techniques used that, in light of what we know now, were the kind that lead to error.”