A Dallas judge today is expected to to recommend Thomas McGowan’s release after agreeing that new genetic evidence proves he could not have committed a 1985 rape and burglary that sent him to prison for life, the Dallas Morning News reports. McGowan, 49, would become the 16th Dallas County inmate to be cleared through DNA testing since 2001, the highest total for any U.S. county.
Like almost all of the other discredited convictions, McGowan’s was based primarily on the victim’s selecting his photograph from a police lineup. When the 19-year-old victim tentatively picked McGowan’s picture, she said a detective told her, “I had to make a positive ID. I had to say yes or no.” Barry Scheck, whose Innocence Project has worked for the last year to free McGowan, said the detective’s remarks were a routine police practice that the U.S. Justice Department has discredited as improperly suggestive. Dallas police are exploring a pilot project in which lineup photos would be viewed one at a time and administered by an officer who does not know whom police suspect as the perpetrator.