A. B. Butler

A. B. Butler was sentenced to 99 years for a rape, despite a strong alibi, and exonerated by DNA 17 years later

A. B. Butler was convicted and sentenced to 99 years in prison for the abduction and rape of a 25-year-old woman in Smith County, Texas, in 1983.

The conviction rested entirely on the erroneous identification of Butler, who was African American, by the victim, who was Caucasian. She was abducted from a parking lot in the city of Tyler, forced to drive to a rural area, and raped twice. She identified Butler initially from a mug book and later in a physical lineup. Although Butler presented three alibi witnesses who claimed they were with him at the time of the crime, a jury found him guilty based on the victim's purported certainty.

State habeas corpus denied

After reading about DNA analysis in 1987, Butler filed pro se motions seeking testing of semen and hairs recovered from the victim, but was rebuffed. In 1994, he sought a state writ of habeas corpus, alleging ineffective assistance of counsel, but lost in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Ex Parte Butler, 884 S.W.2d 782 (1994).

The biological evidence was not tested until 1999 after pro se counsel Randy Schaffer of Houston won a court order requiring it. Initially, Cellmark Diagnostics of Germantown, Maryland, performed testing on the semen, but the result was inconclusive. The evidence was then sent to the Medical Examiner's Office in New York, where Y chromosome testing had just been developed to better isolate male DNA. The result excluded Butler as the source of the semen. Further testing by a crime laboratory in Texas showed that Butler was not the source of hairs either.

Pardon based on innocence

Based on the testing, Butler was released on $100,000 bond in January 2000. Although the victim insisted that the DNA testing must have been in error, Smith County District Attorney Jack Skeen joined Schaffer in asking Governor George W. Bush to pardon Butler based on innocence. Bush did so in May 2000.