A Denver man who spent 28 years in prison for rape after he was convicted in part because the victim said his name came to her in a dream was found not guilty at his retrial on Monday. Clarence Moses-EL, 60, whose 1988 conviction and 48-year prison sentence for sexually assaulting and beating a female neighbor was tossed out last year, always claimed he was misidentified as the attacker.
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Jurors spent four hours deliberating his fate before returning not guilty verdicts on first-degree sexual assault, second-degree assault and burglary charges following a week-long trial in Denver District Court, prosecutors and defense lawyers said. Moses-EL had exhausted all appeals of his conviction until 2012 when another inmate wrote him a letter, saying he had consensual sex with the woman and then had beaten her.
Defense lawyers argued that the new evidence combined with shifting stories from the victim, who initially identified three different men as the culprit before testifying that Moses-EL’s name came to her in a dream, merited overturning his conviction. In addition, DNA evidence that might have cleared Moses-EL was mistakenly destroyed by Denver Police, the defense said.
Denver District Court Judge Kandace Gerdes agreed to set aside the conviction last year, ruling that “the newly discovered evidence and the totality of the circumstances is sufficient on salient points to allow a jury to probably return a verdict of acquittal.” The Denver District Attorney’s Office decided to retry Moses-EL, who was free on bond, despite an outcry from some in the community that they were prosecuting a factually innocent man.
Prosecutors said at the time of Gerdes’ reversal that the original jury believed the victim’s testimony enough to convict Moses-EL, and that the dream identification was just some of the evidence amassed against him. They also said the other inmate’s confession was fabricated and was later retracted. That inmate refused to testify at the retrial.
Denver prosecutor Bonnie Benedetti said in a statement that prosecutors believed that they put the right man on trial. “It was the right thing to allow a jury – not public opinion – to make the decision in this case,” she said.
One of Moses-EL’s attorneys, Eric Klein, told Reuters that while his client was adjusting to life on the outside while on bond awaiting trial, he “wasn’t free until today.” “The (victim’s) dream turned into a 29-year nightmare for Mr. Moses-EL,” Klein said.