After 14 years in prison for attempted rape, Reginald Matthews says DNA from the 1990 case clears him of any wrongdoing.
Where that evidence is, or f it exists at all, is the question that Matthews and his supporters posed to Harris County District Attorney Devo
n Anderson in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday.
“That’s the million-dollar question: Where is the forensic evidence?” community activist Deric Muhammad said at a news conference outside Houston’s criminal courthouse. “(Matthews) is saying it’s out there and he’s challenging them to find it.”
Matthews, Muhammad and others publicized the case last week in an at
tempt to urge the District Attorney’s Office to exonerate the 44-year-old, who was released from prison in 2005.
When his plight was first made public on Jan. 9, Matthews said a DNAtest of clothes left behind at the scene was not conclusive, but a second DNA test completed after he was convicted in 1991 cleared him.
That story changed after Matthews and supporters met with Anderson and staffers for two hours Wednesday.
“There’s speculation now, whether those clothes were ever tested,” Muhammad said. Without any DNA admitted at the trial, Muhammad said, the evidence that put Matthews in prison was flimsy, including an unusual identification.
Identified by scent
It was in the early morning hours of Sept. 27, 1990, when a southeast Houston woman was startled from sleep by a naked man cupping his hand over her mouth. His hands had a distinctive bitter scent that she had never smelled before, according to court records.
The woman fought off her attacker and, as she tried to grab a stick from beside the bed, the naked man ran out of the house and was seen by the woman’s teenage sister.
Police officers later told jurors they found Matthews minutes later a few blocks away, “slipping on clothes.”
The police took him back to the scene of the crime, where the woman asked to smell him and identified him by the scent on his hands. Her sister also told jurors at trial that she identified Matthews, although she saw his face for a only moment.
Matthews was convicted of burglary of a habitation to commit a sexual assault, and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Wednesday, he maintained that he was innocent.
“I did not commit this crime and the District Attorney’s Office is
working with us,” Matthews said. “I stand on the truth and that’s what we’re searching for.”
Case still under review
He said he presen
ted his side of the story Wednesday and continues to wait while Anderson’s office investigates.
The district attorney has not made any comment about the case, except to s
ay that it remains under review.
During his news conference last week, Matthews incorrectly identified the prosecutor who handled the case in 1990.
Court records show Mark Rubal prosecuted Matthews. Rubal did not remember the case or the trial and has not been contacted to review the file.