Friday, December 18, 2009

Set Free After 28 Years

Donald Eugene Gates was freed today in Arizona, after spending nearly three decades in federal prisons for a murder and rape DNA now shows he didn’t commit.

He will travel to his home state of Ohio for the week, but a hearing next week in Washington, D.C. could fully clear him.

Gates was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of a 21-year-old college student based in part on unreliable forensic testimony from an FBI analyst who was later discredited, and the testimony of a paid government informant. He is represented on appeal by attorneys at the Public Defender Service of the District of Columbia. The Innocence Project consulted on DNA testing in the case.

Prosecutors requested further tests before agreeing to clear Gates, and a D.C. judge gave them eight days to complete the tests. The judge ordered Gates freed immediately, however, and ruled that he shouldn’t be forced to register as a sex offender, allowing him to travel home to Ohio.

D.C. Judge Fred Ugast, who presided over Gates' trial in the 1980s, says he's grateful technology made it possible to "right a wrong."

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