Anyone charged with a crime has the right to a defense attorney, whether they are here in Austin or anywhere in the United States. However, although most people know that any individual accused of a crime is innocent until proven guilty, many assume that individuals who are arrested or charged with a crime must have done something wrong. The fact is, however, that innocent people are often arrested, and tragically, they are sometimes wrongly convicted.
KENS-Channel 5 News reported last week of one such individual, 55-year-old Johnny Pinchback, who was convicted of raping two Dallas teenagers in 1984 and sentenced to 99 years in prison. According to Pinchback’s attorney, the problems began when the two victims pointed to Pinchback in a photo lineup. Although the type of lineup used in the case has routinely been shown to lead to the wrong suspect, many police departments across Texas continue to use it.
Fortunately for Pinchback, when advancements were made in DNA testing, his defense attorney had the physical evidence from the crime scene retested. With the help of his attorney, Pinchback was exonerated this past May. He is one of 44 inmates who have been exonerated, 75 percent of whom were wrongfully convicted in part due to erroneous eyewitness identifications.
Johnny Pinchback spent 27 years behind bars for a crime that he did not commit. His story illustrates why having a good defense attorney is essential when someone has been charged with a crime. Had his attorney at the time had the data to show how photo lineups can influence a victim’s wrong choices, the defense attorney may have been able to prove that the eyewitness identification in Pinchback’s case did not warrant a conviction. As it was, it was the work of his defense attorney and the attorneys and staff of Innocence Project of Texas that led to Mr. Pinchback’s exoneration. However, it was a bittersweet victory that came only after he had spent 27 years of his life in prison … 27 years that he can never get back.
If you have been charged with a crime in the Austin area, do not allow faulty evidence or questionable investigation methods to jeopardize your freedom. Make sure that you have a good defense attorney who can amass the evidence needed and build a case to clear your name.