Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Another Innocent Man on Death Row

Billy Joe Holton could become 2nd Man Exonerated from Duval County in Two Years

The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) last week filed a Motion for a New Trial on behalf of Billy Joe Holton after DNA results revealed another man’s semen on the State’s key piece of evidence. If the motion is successful, Holton will become the nation’s 233rd DNA exoneree.

“These DNA results show that there was another man’s semen on the blanket used to cover the victim while she was raped,” said Seth Miller, Executive Director of IPF. “Since the victim said she had not had sex in six months and that she washed her blanket once a week, this means that the semen on the blanket could only come from the perpetrator.”

Holton and his former co-defendant Tim Smith were charged with raping a Jacksonville woman in the presence of her seven year-old son. The men became suspects after a jailhouse snitch implicated them in the crime. Holton was indicted with this crime despite the fact that the victim’s son repeatedly told police that Holton was not one of the perpetrators and that the victim told others she could not identify her attackers.

“The victim’s eventual photo ID of Holton was dubious considering that she was covered in the blanket throughout the attack, she had told her neighbor she did not get a good look at the men, and her own son told police that Holton was not the man who hurt his mom,” said IPF Staff Attorney Bobbi Madonna. “The DNA results from the blanket now prove what we suspected all along—Holton is actually innocent of this crime.”

On the eve of trial, the jailhouse snitch disappeared. The State, faced with having to drop the charges, offered Smith a sweetheart deal—testify against Holton and receive a reduced sentence. Smith, facing multiple life sentences if convicted, decided to take the deal.

“Smith had originally planned on putting on an alibi defense before agreeing to testify against Holton,” explained Miller. “Holton received three consecutive life sentences while Smith received time served. This is just another reason to trust science over testimony in a case where the witness has everything to gain.”

IPF called on the State Attorney’s office to work with them to see that justice is done. “We have exonerative DNA evidence, and it is our hope that the State will partner with us to bring an end to Mr. Holton’s wrongful incarceration,” said Miller.

The Innocence Project of Florida (IPF) is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to finding and freeing innocent people in Florida prisons. IPF and Jacksonville criminal defense attorney William Sheppard represented Billy Joe Holton to obtain his DNA testing and continue to represent him to achieve his release from prison.

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