After attempting to secure DNA testing for four years, Billy James Smith was finally granted DNA testing in 2005. The tests proved that he had served nearly 20 years for a rape he did not commit.
While in the laundry room of the apartment building managed by her boyfriend, the victim was approached by a man with a knife. He asked her for money, then dragged her into a grassy field near the complex. He then put his hat over her face, forced her to remove her shorts and raped her. Afterwards, the man told her that he lived in the area and ran away toward the apartment complex.
The victim told her boyfriend immediately about the rape, describing the man as someone she thought she saw at the complex earlier that morning. The boyfriend thought it was Billy James Smith, and went down to Smith’s apartment. When Smith stepped onto the balcony, the victim identified him as her attacker and they called the police.
The Biological Evidence
Semen was found in the victim’s rape kit. At trial, the state claimed that there was no evidence that the victim had sex with anyone in the 24 hours previous to the rape, so the semen must belong to the perpetrator.
Smith’s sister testified that she was at home with Smith the entire duration of the rape. She said that she went to her bedroom to sleep, but did not fall asleep and would have heard if he left. Smith also testified on his own behalf, stating that he knew the victim’s boyfriend, but that he had not raped the victim. Smith said he had been sleeping at the time of the crime.
Smith sought DNA testing in 2001. He was denied because the victim had a long-term boyfriend that the state argued may have contributed to the rape kit despite previous statements that the victim did not have sex prior to the crime. After numerous appeals, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals finally granted Smith DNA testing, which proved that the semen did not belong to Smith. He was released in July 2006, and a writ of habeas corpus exonerating Smith was granted by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on December 13, 2006.