The Justice Project - Profile of Injustice

Johnnie Earl Lindsey

Johnnie Earl Lindsey spent nearly 26 years in a Texas prison for a crime he did not commit due to erroneous eyewitness identification. Lindsey, who maintained his innocence throughout his incarceration, was freed from prison on September 19, 2008, after post-conviction DNA testing proved his innocence. Lindsey became the 19th man to be exonerated by DNA evidence since 2001 in Dallas County, which leads the nation in DNA exonerations.

Lindsey was convicted of a 1981 rape at White Rock Lake in Dallas County, Texas, after the victim, who had moved to San Antonio, picked him out of a photo line up that police mailed to her a year after the attack. The victim described her attacker as a black male in his 20s who was shirtless. Of the pictures in the photo array, two men were shirtless, including Lindsey. The victim identified Lindsey as her attacker and he was arrested and tried for the rape.

Lindsey insisted that he had been at his job at a commercial laundry at the time of the attack. His boss, Mike Pollard, testified at his trial and produced a timecard to corroborate this alibi. Still, the jury believed the eyewitness testimony and dismissed Lindsey’s alibi evidence, convicting him of the rape in 1983. That conviction was overturned because Lindsey had been tried under the wrong statute, but he was reconvicted by a second jury and sent back to prison. Through both trials and several appearances before the parole board, Lindsey steadfastly maintained his innocence.

Lindsey wrote six separate letters to Dallas County courts during his time in prison asking for his case to be reexamined. Finally, a letter reached District Judge Larry Mitchell, who agreed and asked assistant public defender Michelle Moore, a board member of The Innocence Project of Texas, to help Lindsey. Moore arranged with Dallas County officials to pursue post-conviction DNA testing on the rape kit from the case. The biological evidence excluded Lindsey as the rapist and exonerated him almost 26 years after he had been convicted.

The day of his release, Lindsey was reunited with his 27-year-old son, who was only two when Lindsey was arrested. Lindsey also vowed “to try my best to help those who are left behind to see that they see justice, too.”

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins promised that testing would continue on evidence in the case. However, Watkins acknowledged that it would be difficult to prosecute the real perpetrator as the statute of limitations on the charges had expired.