A Colorado man who spent nearly half his life in prison for a rape he did not commit has been acquitted after prosecutors decided to put him on trial for a second time.
Clarence Moses-EL, 60, was freed in December when a judge overturned his 1988 rape and assault conviction, as another man in prison had confessed to the crime, the Associated Press reported.
Though the judge found that Moses-EL would likely be acquitted if his case went to trial again, the Denver District Attorney’s office tried him again for the crime.
The prosecutors’ decision was met with considerable pushback, as activists asked officials to cancel the trial.
"He has shown his worthiness, the charges were never true. They were never true," said Tammy Garrett-Williams, an NAACP representative, told KDVR at the time.
The Denver Post also called for the case to be dropped, saying in an editorial, “Let him enjoy the freedom that was taken from him decades ago. The case is weak with little more evidence than a dream.”
Moses-EL was arrested in connection to the 1987 rape and severe beating of a woman, who reportedly told authorities she had dreamed that he was behind the crime.
But the victim had never before fingered Moses-EL, having given police three possible names — “L.C., Earl and Darnell” — as those who could have been responsible.
Moses-EL had maintained his innocence the entire time, having won a legal bid for DNA testing on the evidence to clear his name. But police had reportedly destroyed the evidence from the crime scene in 1995, saying they had received no notice from prosecutors to hold onto it.
It wasn’t until 2006 that the DNA of “L.C.” Jackson, a neighbor of Moses-EL, was matched to a sexual assault that occurred in 1992, not far from the 1987 rape.
Seven years later, police said that Jackson told them that he had consensual sex with the victim of the 1987 rape and then beat her.
Moses-EL was freed in December of last year, as Judge Kandace Gerdes vacated his conviction and granted him a new trial — though she said he would likely be acquitted.
“I didn’t commit this crime and it’s going to be proven,” Moses-EL told ThisIsNotJustice.org after prosecutors announced they would try the case again.
Jurors began deliberations Thursday before issuing their not guilty verdict Monday, leaving Moses-EL beaming and holding back tears, the AP reported.
Prosecutors said Jackson, who is in prison for two other rapes, has not been charged in this case and is not a suspect. Authorities challenged the credibility of Jackson’s confession and stood by the victim, saying she was “very disappointed” with the verdict.
Saying he holds no grudges, Moses-EL said outside court he hopes his case will help improve the criminal justice system.
“You don't know how much freedom really means until you have it taken away from you, and especially if it's taken away from you for something you didn't do,” he said.