Gary Dotson (Chicago, Illinois)
Factual background.On the evening of July 9, 1977, the complainant was walking home from work when two men forced her into the back seat of a car and raped her. She also testified that one of the men tried to write words on her stomach using a broken beer bottle. She was then pushed from the car onto the street.
In July 1979 Gary Dotson was convicted of aggravated kidnaping and rape. He was sentenced to not less than 25 and not more than 50 years.
Prosecutor’s evidence at trial. The prosecution’s case included the following evidence:
• A composite sketch of the defendant, which the complainant helped with, was
prepared by the police.
• The victim identified Dotson from a police mug book.
• Dotson was identified by the victim from a police lineup.
• The State’s expert serologist testified that the semen on the victim’s
undergarment came from a type B secretor and that the defendant was a type
B secretor. (It was later reported that the State’s serologist failed to disclose
that the victim was also a type B secretor.)
• Testimony was presented that a pubic hair removed from the victim’s
underwear was similar to the defendant’s and dissimilar to the victim’s.
Postconviction challenges. In March 1985 the victim recanted her testimony. She said she had fabricated the rape to hide a legitimate sexual encounter with her boyfriend. Dotson contended that the victim’s recantation of testimony constituted grounds to vacate the original sentence. At the hearing on Dotson’s motion for a new trial, the same judge from the original trial refused to order a new trial. His reasoning was that the complainant was more believable in her original testimony than in her recantation.
The governor accepted authority for the case and held a session of the Illinois Prisoner Review Board. The governor stated that he did not believe the victim’s recantation and refused to pardon Dotson. On May 12, 1985, however, the governor commuted Dotson’s sentence to the 6 years he had already served, pending good behavior. In 1987 the governor revoked Dotson’s parole after Dotson was accused by his wife of assaulting her. The Appellate Court of Illinois affirmed Dotson’s conviction on November 12, 1987 (516 N.E.2d 718). On Christmas Eve 1987 the governor granted Dotson a “last chance parole.” Two days later, Dotson was arrested in a barroom fight, and his parole was revoked. In 1988 Dotson’s new attorney had DNA tests conducted that were not available at the time of the alleged rape.
DNA results. A sample of semen from the victim’s underwear was sent to Dr. Alec Jeffreys in England for RFLP analysis. The sample was badly degraded, however, and results were inconclusive. Samples were then sent to Forensic Science Associates in Richmond, California. The lab performed PCR DQ alpha tests that showed that the semen on the victim’s undergarments could not have come from Dotson but could have come from the victim’s boyfriend.
Conclusion. The chief judge of the Cook County Criminal Court ruled that Dotson was entitled to a new trial. The State attorney’s office, however, decided not to prosecute based on the victim’s lack of credibility and the DNA test results. Dotson’s conviction was overturned on August 14, 1989, after he had served a total of 8 years.
This case profile is excerpted from Convicted by Juries, Exonerated by Science: Case Studies in the Use of DNA Evidence to Establish Innocence After Trial, a 1996 research report by the U.S. Department of Justice.