Arthur Merle Mumphrey was set free by a Texas judge on January 27, 2006, after postconviction DNA testing showed that he did not rape a 13-year-old girl in 1986. Mumphrey was convicted of the crime based on the testimony of a co-defendant. He had served nearly 18 years in prison.
Mumphrey’s brother Charles had confessed to committing the rape during the police investigation of the 1986 rape, but recanted his confession at Arthur’s trial, saying he had been lying in order to take the rap for Arthur.
On February 28, 1986, a 13-year-old girl was walking down the railroad tracks toward town in the Dugan neighborhood of Conroe, TX, a small city about 50 miles northwest of Houston. Two African-American men began walking behind the victim and talking to her. One of them grabbed her, lifted her off the ground, and carried her into a wooded area. There, both men raped the girl, holding a knife to her throat. Other people were walking along the tracks, and the men told the victim that they would kill her if she screamed. The men were drinking wine during the attack. Eventually the men released the girl and she fled the area.
The Investigation and Trial
The victim was examined at the hospital on the same night. Doctors noted signs of sexual assault and collected a rape kit.
A police investigation led to the questioning of Steve Thomas, who admitted that he committed the rape and told police that Arthur Mumphrey was the second rapist. Thomas agreed to testify against Mumphrey in exchange for a 15-year sentence.
During the investigation, Mumphrey’s 15-year-old brother Charles confessed to police that it was he, not Arthur, who had committed the rape. The police told Charles that they knew he was lying because he did not know enough about the details of the rape. Police threatened Charles with a perjury charge. Charles eventually changed his story and told police he falsely confessed in order to take the rap for Arthur because Charles, as a juvenile, would get a lighter sentence.
At trial, Thomas said he committed the crime with Arthur Mumphrey and a witness testified that Thomas told him about the crime later that February night while Mumphrey was standing four feet away. The witness testified that Mumphrey was quiet while Thomas described the rape. The witness also said that both men were drunk. Charles Mumphrey testified about his original statement at trial, and said he had lied in order to attempt to take the rap for his brother.
The victim testified at trial about the attack. She said she did not look into the faces of either man and was unable to identify Arthur Mumphrey as one of the perpetrators.
Arthur Mumphrey was released on parole in 2000 after serving 14 years in prison, but was readmitted in 2002 for a violation of the conditions of his parole.
In 2002, Mumphrey hired Houston defense attorney Eric Davis to pursue his innocence claims. Davis began to seek DNA testing on the rape kit evidence collected from the victim in Mumphrey’s case. After twice being told by officials at the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) that the evidence was not stored in the department’s custody, Davis reached a supervisor and requested a third search. The evidence was found in a refrigerator at a DPS storage facility.
A motion for DNA testing was granted in the fall of 2005 and results showed that semen on the rape kit and on the victim’s underwear was left by both Steve Thomas and the defendant's brother Charles Mumphrey.
On January 27, 2006, Arthur Mumphrey was released on his own recognizance after having served nearly 18 years in prison for a rape he did not commit. He was then pardoned by the Texas Gov. on March 17, 2006, making his exoneration official.