HOUSTON—Houston Mayor Annise Parker announced Friday that a Houston man who spent 17 years in prison for a kidnapping and rape he did not commit will receive a $3 million settlement.
George Rodriguez was originally convicted of the rape of a 14-year-old girl in 1987 based in part on the identification of his hair on the victim. The chief serologist at that time at the City of Houston Crime Lab said the evidence indicated Rodriguez was the attacker. Rodriguez spent 17 years in prison before DNA evidence confirmed that the testing had been “misinterpreted” and that the “crime lab had incorrectly excluded a key suspect” the mayor said in a written statement.
Rodriguez was released from prison in 2004. In 2009 he filed a lawsuit against the City of Houston and a jury awarded him $5 million. The city appealed the decision and entered into negotiations with Rodriguez who agreed to a settlement of $3 million.
Mayor Parker called a news conference to announce the agreement and to publicly apologize to Rodriguez in person.
“On behalf of the City of Houston and the people of the City of Houston I want to formally apologize to you,” she said standing with Rodriguez and several members of his family at a City Hall news conference. “Everyone here who has a heart, who has any compassion at all, owes Mr. Rodriguez an apology for what he had to endure in those 17 ½ years behind bars for a rape and kidnapping that he did not commit.”
“I accept apology for whatever that happened to me, which it could happen to anybody,” said Rodriguez after also accepting a hug from the mayor. “I just want to get on with my life and go on living you know. Try to do what I can for my family and everything. But it’s kind of hard really because I have been through a whole lot.”
His case and mistakes by the Houston Police Crime lab were the catalysts for the city to create its own independent lab, the Houston Forensic Science Center. The goal the mayor said is to keep mistakes like this from ever happening again.
Rodriguez is also eligible for more than $1 million from the State of Texas for his 17 years of wrongful imprisonment.