Roy Criner

Time Served: 10 years

On August 14, 2000, Governor George W. Bush concurred, stating that he agreed "that credible new evidence raises substantial doubt about the guilt of Roy Criner and that he should receive a pardon." In the Houston Press's 1998 investigation, it became clear that evidence excluding Roy had been withheld by police and prosecutors.

The body of Deanna Ogg was found in a secluded wooded area near an old logging road on September 27, 1986, in Montgomery County, Texas. The cause of death was determined by autopsy to be blunt trauma injuries to the head and multiple stab wounds to the neck. The victim was also sexually assaulted. Roy Criner became a suspect after allegedly bragging to friends that he had picked up and had sex with a young woman and “had to get rough with her.”

In 1990, Criner was convicted of raping and murdering Ogg based on his alleged statements and improper forensic testimony. A forensic analyst testified that serology testing on semen from vaginal and rectal specimens showed blood groups matching both Criner and the victim. He said Criner and 40% of men matched the sample and could have been the perpetrator. This testimony was incorrect, however, because when testing does not detect blood group substance or enzymes foreign to the victim, no potential semen donor can be excluded because the victim’s blood group markers could be “masking” the perpetrator’s. In Criner’s case, the failure to inform the jury that 100% of the male population could be included and that none can be excluded was highly misleading.

Other evidence included a Marlboro cigarette found near the victim’s body, a large clump of blonde hair found clutched in Ogg’s right hand, and her clothing.

At trial, conflicting and inconsistent witness testimonies were presented. The timeline established by the prosecution conflicted with the defense’s, which had Criner working during the window of time offered by the prosecution.

Post-conviction testing on the biological evidence demonstrated that Criner was not the source of the spermatozoa, but the Texas appellate court judged this insufficient evidence to prove his innocence because he could have been wearing a condom or failed to ejaculate, though these scenarios had never been presented. Judge Sharon Keller said that the semen could have resulted from consensual sex prior to the killing, though this theory, as well, had never been presented. Even though the prosecution claimed that the exclusion of Criner did not exonerate him, they performed replicate testing on the evidence. Criner then sought post-conviction DNA testing on the Marlboro cigarette found next to Ogg’s body.

The DNA recovered from the cells on the Marlboro cigarette filter contained a mixture of DNA from at least three individuals, and at least one was a male and at least one was a female. Criner was eliminated as a contributor of cellular material on the filter. Later, Forensic Science Associates acquired a STR genetic profile of Ogg, from the rectal swab, and from the cigarette butt wrapper. Ogg was found to be genetically compatible with DNA from the cigarette and the male cellular material on the cigarette was compatible with the spermatozoa found on the rectal swab. This was further proof that the spermatozoa was deposited by the person who smoked the cigarette with Ogg very near the time of the murder – her assailant. Criner was eliminated as the source of all of these samples.

After this probative new evidence was presented, in July 2000, state District Court Judge Michael Mayes stated that he could only conclude that Criner was innocent and that he would sign a request for a pardon. The recommendation was also signed by D.A. McDougal and Sheriff Guy Williams. In August 2000, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously (18-0) to set Criner free after he had served ten years of a ninety-nine year sentence. On August 14, 2000, Governor George W. Bush concurred, stating that he agreed “that credible new evidence raises substantial doubt about the guilt of Roy Criner and that he should receive a pardon.” In the Houston Press’s 1998 investigation, it became clear that evidence excluding Roy had been withheld by police and prosecutors.

For an in depth look at the Criner case, please visit: FRONTLINE – THE CASE FOR INNOCENCE.

State: Texas

Charge: Aggravated Sexual Assault and murder

Conviction: Aggravated Sexual Assault and murder

Sentence: 99 years

Incident Date: 09/27/86

Conviction Date: 04/26/90

Exoneration Date: 08/15/00

Served: 10 years

Race of Defendant: Caucasian

Race of Victim: Caucasian

Status: Exonerated by DNA

Type of Forensic Science Problem: Flawed Serology

Contributing Causes of Conviction: Government Misconduct, Unvalidated or Improper Forensic Science

Type of Crime: Homicide Related

Death Penalty Case: no

Accused Plead Guilty: No

Real Perpetrator Convicted of Subsequent Crime: No, Yes

Compensation: State Statute

Innocence Project Involved: Yes

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