Bush to Pardon Inmate After New DNA Tests


HOUSTON, Aug. 14 -- Gov. George W. Bush announced today that he would pardon a Texas inmate convicted a decade ago of rape, after new DNA evidence convinced even prosecutors and law enforcement officials that the man should be freed. 

Mr. Bush will sign the pardon of the inmate, Roy Criner, on Tuesday, clearing the way for his release after serving 10 years of a 99-year sentence for the rape of a 16-year-old in Montgomery County, north of Houston. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which rarely approves pardons, today voted 18-0 in favor of pardoning Mr. Criner, who is 35. 

"I agree with the Board of Pardons and Paroles that credible new evidence raises substantial doubt about the guilt of Roy Criner, and that he should receive a pardon," Mr. Bush said in a statement today. 

The governor also announced that he would pardon a second inmate, Ronnie Mark Gariepy, 41, who is on parole after being convicted of sexually assaulting his stepdaughter. Local officials endorsed the pardon after Mr. Gariepy's stepdaughter, who was 13 at the time she said she was attacked, recanted her story. The two pardons come a week after Mr. Bush approved the execution of Oliver Cruz, a convicted rapist and murderer deemed mentally retarded by defense psychologists. 

The Criner case focused national criticism on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court. In 1998, the court disregarded DNA evidence that proved that semen found in the victim did not belong to Mr. Criner. Writing for the majority, Justice Sharon Keller wrote that the DNA evidence did not cast enough doubt on the case to merit a new trial. 

Justice Keller wrote that the victim might have had sex with another person "at a time relatively near her death" and that Mr. Criner either may have failed to ejaculate or have worn a condom. 

This year, DNA tests were conducted on a cigarette butt from the crime scene. The tests found that DNA on the cigarette matched the DNA of the semen found in the victim. This convinced prosecutors that someone besides Mr. Criner was responsible for the attack. 

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