After serving more than 25 years in Texas prisons for a crime he did not commit, Johnnie Lindsey was proven innocent through DNA testing and freed in September 2008. He was 30 years old when he was arrested and 56 when he was freed.
On August 25, 1981, a 27-year-old white woman was riding her bike near White Rock Lake in east Dallas, Texas, when she was accosted by a shirtless African-American man. Her assailant said he had a knife and pulled her off the bicycle, threatened her and raped her.
The victim described the attacker to police as an African-American man in his 20s. A rape kit was collected from her at the hospital, including swabs from her body. In two photo lineups shown to the victim within days of the rape, she did not identify anyone.
The case remained unsolved for a year. The victim had moved to San Antonio, and Dallas detectives mailed a new photo array to her. From this array of six men, the victim identified Lindsey as the rapist who had attacked her the previous summer. He was one of two shirtless men in the photo array. When a lineup is not properly conducted, it can be suggestive and lead to a wrongful conviction. This lineup was improper because no law enforcement officer was present to administer the lineup in a controlled setting, a year had passed since the crime and only two of the six men pictured were shirtless.
Lindsey was charged with aggravated rape and tried in 1983. At trial, the victim again identified him as the rapist. Lindsey presented a strong alibi for the time of the crime. His time card from the commercial laundry where he worked showed that he was on the job that day. In addition, his boss testified that the laundry relied on Lindsey's presence as the only pants-presser that day and would have had to close in his absence. Nevertheless, Lindsey was convicted of aggravated sexual assault, sentenced to life in prison and fined $10,000.
Lindsey was also charged with committing a second, unrelated rape in the same park. Although he says he also did not commit this crime, he pled guilty in exchange for a shorter sentence than he may have faced at trial.
The 1983 conviction was overturned on appeal because Lindsey had been indicted under a statute that was not yet in effect at the time of the rape. In 1985, he was re-indicted for aggravated rape, retried, and again convicted and sentenced to life, with a fine of $5,000.
Post-conviction Appeals and Exoneration
After Texas passed a law specifically granting post-conviction DNA testing in 2001, Lindsey began writing letters to the court, requesting testing of the evidence from the rape kit in his case. There was no response to his first five letters, but the sixth one reached the desk of newly-elected state District Judge Larry Mitchell in 2007. Mitchell referred the case to Michelle Moore, a public defender who works with two Texas innocence organizations. In January 2008, Moore filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing in Lindsey’s case, seeking to test semen collected from the victim’s body after the assault. The tests were completed in September 2008 and excluded Lindsey as the source of the male DNA profile in the rape kit.
On September 19, 2008, Lindsey was released from custody by Judge Mitchell and was reunited with a son whom he had left as a toddler when arrested. Texas Governor Rick Perry made Lindsey's exoneration official when he issued a Full Pardon for Innocence on April 24, 2009. Lindsey had completed his sentence in the other sexual assault conviction. He is appealing this conviction on the grounds of innocence based on evidence other than DNA testing. There is no biological evidence to test in that case.
Lindsey was the 19th man exonerated by DNA testing in Dallas County since 2001.