Saturday, September 01, 2007

Why did prosecutors try to stop Thomas Doswell’s DNA from being tested?

Prosecutors didn’t want anyone to know that Doswell was innocent. They’d rather destroy an innocent person than admit they made a mistake.

Saturday, July 30, 2005
By Bill Moushey

Almost 20 years after his imprisonment for an early-morning rape in the cafeteria of an East End hospital, a Homewood man will be freed Monday because DNA testing proved he did not commit the crime.

Thomas Doswell, now 44, who has professed his innocence since the victim and another witness identified him just hours after the 1986 attack, will walk free on a motion by the Allegheny County district attorney, who concedes the forensic tests prove police got the wrong man.

The action will cap a flurry of legal activity over the past 10 days that started when DNA tests, which the prosecutor had initially fought against, excluded Doswell as the man who raped a 48-year-old woman at the former Forbes Hospital on Frankstown Road.

Doswell, who was 25 and the father of two young children when he was sentenced to 13 to 26 years in prison, has been denied parole four times over the past eight years because he refused to take responsibility for the crime. Had the DNA testing not exculpated him, he would not have been eligible for release until about 2012. His children are now adults...

The legal work to implement the DNA testing was done by the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York City. Through DNA testing, it has successfully exonerated more than 160 wrongfully convicted people.

"These tests confirmed what Mr. Doswell has been saying from the moment he was charged, that he was innocent and that this was a misidentification brought about by police officers who may have engaged in misconduct," said Colin Starger of the Innocence Project.

During almost 20 years of imprisonment, he cited several other discrepancies in the witness identifications. The victim said her attacker had a beard, but Doswell only had a mustache. A former employee of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, he also said he was wearing a neck brace from a work-related injury at the time, which limited his ability to run.

"The Doswell family has been telling me for 15 years that he was innocent, that he was railroaded. They never let it rest," said Pittsburgh attorney James E. DePasquale, who helped put together a motion for the DNA testing. "Now it's proven," he said.

CBS News noted that there is a Catch-22 for innocent convicts:

"During his nearly two decades in prison… Thomas A. Doswell was denied parole four times because he refused to accept responsibility for the crime. But DNA evidence has finally proved what he's been saying all along: He didn't do it. Prosecutors opposed DNA testing for Doswell, but a judge ordered it."

August 1, 2005

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