In February 1996, a young woman in San Diego, California reported that several apparent skinheads followed her home, threatened her with a knife, and raped her. The victim identified 18-year-old Kevin Baruxes, along with his brother, from photographs. Baruxes was friendly with the victim’s neighbor and had spoken to her a few times, once remarking that she would have to be killed in the race war because she was not pure white. Based solely on the victim’s testimony and identification, and despite several family members who testified that Baruxes was home with them at the time of the crime, a jury convicted Baruxes of rape and felony assault in June 1996. Baruxes received an enhanced sentence of 18-years-to-life in prison because the alleged crimes were found to be racial “hate crimes.”
Five years after Baruxes’s conviction, his attorney received an email from the victim’s former fiancé stating that the victim admitted that the wrong man had been convicted and that the crime may never have occurred. The attorney found numerous other people who said that the victim was manipulative and lied frequently. When the prosecution investigated further, they learned that the victim claimed to have been bitten and sodomized, claims that were inconsistent with the evidence and matched her pattern of escalating the details of the crime each time she was questioned. The victim also said that she was fairly sure that Baruxes was the wrong man. The prosecution did not oppose Baruxes’s habeas corpus petition, which the San Diego County Superior Court then granted. Charges were dropped and Baruxes was released on July 15, 2002. He was awarded $259,700 on compensation by the State of California.
- Stephanie Denzel