DENVER (AP) — A man imprisoned for 28 years after a woman said she dreamed that he raped her could be freed after a Denver judge overturned his conviction, saying he would likely be acquitted at a new trial because someone else confessed to the crime.
Clarence Moses-EL was convicted in 1988 and sentenced to 48 years in prison for raping and assaulting a woman when she returned home from a night of drinking. When police initially asked who attacked her, she named the man who later confessed.
More than a day after the assault, while in the hospital, the woman identified Moses-EL as her attacker, saying his face came to her in a dream.
Moses-EL has long claimed he was innocent. But his efforts to appeal his conviction were unsuccessful, in part because Denver police threw away DNA evidence from the attack. Police destroyed body swabs and the victim's clothing despite a judge's order to preserve it for testing that could have confirmed Moses-EL's guilt or innocence.
The case inspired legislation requiring the preservation of DNA evidence in major felony cases for a defendant's lifetime. Lawmakers also took the rare step of sponsoring a bill ordering a new trial for Moses-EL, but it was scrapped after then-Gov. Bill Ritter, a former prosecutor, threatened to veto it.
His break came in December 2013 when another man, L.C. Jackson, sent him a letter in prison saying he couldn't believe Moses-EL was accused of raping the woman because he "had sex" with her at the same time that night.
"I really don't know what to say to you, but let's start by bringing what was done in the dark into the light," Jackson wrote, according to court documents. "I have a lot on my heart."
The letter led to a hearing in July, where Jackson testified that he became angry during sex with the woman and hit her in the face. The woman told police that she was lying down to sleep when a man put his hands around her neck and raped her.
Jackson has not been charged in that case. But DNA evidence led to his conviction in the 1992 rapes of a mother and daughter that happened about a mile and a half away from the first woman's home. There was no way to immediately reach him Wednesday, with records showing he is in prison.
Jurors would likely clear Moses-EL if they heard Jackson's sworn confession and saw evidence showing that Jackson's blood type — rather than Moses-EL's — was found in the victim, Denver District Judge Kandace Gerdes wrote in her Monday order granting a new trial.
"He's elated," attorney Gail Johnson said of Moses-EL, who was being held in the Bent County Correctional Facility in southeastern Colorado. "He's very happy and feels like he's finally getting justice in this case."
A judge set Moses-EL's bond at $50,000, and his attorneys expect he will soon be returned to Denver, where he will likely be released pending a new trial. Prosecutors declined to say whether they would file new charges against him.
Prosecutors were still reviewing the ruling and would meet with the victim, said Lynn Kimbrough, spokeswoman for the Denver district attorney's office.