Time Served: 10 years
On the evening of July 9, 1977, the victim was walking home from work when two men forced her into the back seat of a car and raped her. She later testified that one of the men tried to write words on her stomach using a broken beer bottle. She was then pushed from the car onto the street.
In July 1979, Gary Dotson was convicted of aggravated kidnapping and rape. He was sentenced to not less than twenty-five and not more than fifty years.
The prosecution’s evidence at trial included a composite sketch of the assailant that was prepared by the police with the victim’s assistance. Further, the victim identified Dotson from a police mug book and in a police lineup. A forensic analyst testified that he examined semen on the victim’s undergarments and found evidence of blood groups A and B. Both Dotson and the victim had type B blood. The analyst incorrectly testitied that Dotson could have been the source of the semen, despite the evidence of type A blood that should have excluded him. He said the type B evidence could have been a mixture of blood and sweat, wood, leather, detergents or other substances. The analyst also testified that pubic hair removed from the victim’s underwear was similar to Dotson’s and dissimilar to the victim’s. This testimony was also improper because there is not adequate empirical data on the frequency of various class characteristics in human hair. Any assertion that hairs are “similar” is inherently predjudicial and lacks probative value.
In March 1985, the victim recanted her testimony. She said she had fabricated the rape to hide a legitimate sexual encounter with her boyfriend. Dotson contended that the victim’s recantation of testimony constituted grounds to vacate the original sentence. At the hearing on Dotson’s motion for a new trial, the trial judge refused to order a new trial. His reasoning was that the complainant was more believable in her original testimony than in her recantation.
The governor assumed authority over the case and held a session of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. The governor stated that he did not believe the victim’s recantation and refused to pardon Dotson. On May 12, 1985, however, the governor commuted Dotson’s sentence to the six years he had already served, pending good behavior. In 1987, the governor revoked Dotson’s parole after Dotson was accused by his wife of assault. The Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed Dotson’s conviction in 1987. On Christmas Eve of 1987, the governor granted Dotson a last chance parole. Two days later, Dotson was arrested in a barroom fight and his parole was revoked. In 1988, Dotson’s new attorney had DNA tests conducted that were not available at the time of trial.
A sample of semen from the victim’s underwear was sent to Dr. Alec Jeffreys in England for RFLP analysis. The sample was badly degraded, however, and results were inconclusive. Samples were then sent to Forensic Science Associates in Richmond, California. PCR DQ Alpha tests revealed that the spermatozoa on the victim’s undergarments could not have come from Dotson but could have come from the victim’s boyfriend.
The chief judge of the Cook County Criminal Court ruled that Dotson was entitled to a new trial. The State attorney’s office, however, decided not to prosecute based on the victim’s lack of credibility and the DNA test results. Dotson’s conviction was overturned on August 14, 1989, after he had served ten years.
Charge: Aggravated Kidnapping, Rape
Conviction: Aggravated Kidnapping, Rape
Sentence: 25-50 Years
Incident Date: 07/09/77
Conviction Date: 05/14/79
Exoneration Date: 08/14/89
Served: 10 years
Race of Defendant: Caucasian
Race of Victim: Caucasian
Compensation: Civil Suit, Private Bill
Status: Exonerated by DNA
Type of Forensic Science Problem: Flawed Serology, Hair Analysis
Innocence Project Involved: No
Death Penalty Case: no
Accused Plead Guilty: No
The Alternative Perpetrator Identified: No
Real Perpetrator Convicted of Subsequent Crime: No, Yes
Type of Crime: Sex Crimes
Contributing Causes of Conviction: Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science