Steven Phillips

Steven Phillips was sent to prison for more than 25 years for a string of sex crimes in Texas that he didn’t do. In 2007, he was released on parole. After a year, DNA testing proved that he was not guilty, and he was set free. The DNA testing that cleared Phillips also pointed the finger at another man, who is said to have committed at least 16 more sexual assaults and other crimes while Phillips was in jail.

The Crime

In 11 occurrences between April and May of 1982, a guy confronted at least 60 women at gyms, spas, and apartment complexes in the Dallas region and forced them to perform various sex acts, including rape, disrobing, and fondling, at gunpoint. The victims provided identical descriptions of a man with piercing blue eyes wearing a hooded grey sweatshirt and covering the lower half of his face with a cloth. The police determined that the same individual was responsible for all eleven crimes.

Only one of the attacks yielded biological evidence from the culprit. On the afternoon of May 14, 1982, a North Dallas lady and her 2-year-old boy were at home. The man gained access to the residence by removing the window screen from her bedroom. Armed with a firearm, he ordered the mother to place her son in another room before compelling her to disrobe and engage in oral sex with him. He then engaged in a vaginal sex with her before leaving her flat.

The Investigation of Case

The rape victim positively identified Phillips as her assailant after viewing multiple photo sets. Several other victims of similar crimes also recognised Phillips in photo lineups and in-person lineups; however, police had distributed photos of Phillips to the media prior to the identifications of several of these victims.

In the same year, similar crimes occurred in Kansas City. Phillips was included in photo lineups shown to victims of these crimes, and one of them recognized him as the offender. Sidney Goodyear was also identified by victims in the Kansas City and Dallas metropolitan areas. As required by law, the identity of the alternate suspect was never provided to the defense attorneys. In connection with the crime spree in Dallas, an arrest warrant was issued for Goodyear, but it was dropped for unclear reasons. Phillips was never charged with a crime outside the Dallas metropolitan area.

The Trial

Phillips was initially tried in August 1982 for burglarizing the apartment of the rape victim. She recognised Phillips in court as the hooded, blue-eyed intruder who had broken into her flat and raped her. Despite having green eyes and providing an alibi for his whereabouts at the time of the crime, Phillips was convicted of burglary and, in a second trial the following year, of rape. For these two convictions, he received a 30-year prison sentence. Before a third trial could begin, Phillips pleaded guilty to five additional offences in exchange for an additional 10-year term. Phillips claimed he was innocent of these allegations as well, but his first two trials resulted in convictions with lengthy prison terms, and he did not wish to face future trials that could have resulted in decades more in prison.

Post-Conviction Appeals and Exoneration

In 1997, Phillips was arrested for allegedly breaking his parole after being released on parole in 1996. The parole breach did not result in a fresh conviction, but it did result in the offender’s return to jail for acts committed in 1982.

In 2002, Phillips began requesting DNA testing after his conviction, but his requests were denied. In 2006, The Innocence Project took Phillips’ case and, along with co-counsel Robert Udashen, requested DNA testing for Phillips. In 2006, Craig Watkins became district attorney of Dallas, and his staff agreed to allow testing. The results exonerated Phillips of the alleged rape. The investigation conducted by the prosecutor’s office revealed that Phillips was exonerated of all charges for which he had served 25 years in jail. Sidney Goodyear passed away in jail in 1998, having been convicted of identical offences. The DNA from Goodyear’s autopsy was determined to match the DNA from the crime site in Dallas.

Phillips was granted parole in 2007 before the DNA test findings were available. In August 2008, the trial court cleared him of all charges based on these results. A writ of habeas corpus issued by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals rendered his exoneration official on October 1, 2008. Phillips had been incarcerated for 26 years.

While Phillips was incarcerated for Sidney Alvin Goodyear’s assaults in Dallas, Goodyear had been convicted of at least 16 additional sexual assaults and associated charges in many states.

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