Alejandro Dominguez

Alejandro Dominguez, a Mexican national, was convicted in 1990 of raping a non-Hispanic Caucasian woman the previous year in Waukegan, Illinois. Although Dominguez was only 16 at the time of the crime and had no criminal record, he was tried as an adult. On advice of counsel, he waived a jury in favor of a bench trial before Lake County Circuit Court Judge Harry D. Hartel.
 
The only evidence purporting to link Dominguez to the crime was identification testimony by the victim. She, however, had told police that her attacker had a pierced ear and a tattoo, while Dominguez had neither. On cross examination, the victim revealed that the lead detective in the case told her before she made the identification, “Watch the one sitting on the chair. Tell me if that is the one . . .” Dominguez was the one sitting in the chair. DNA testing could have been done before trial, but neither the defense nor the prosecution requested it.
 
A forensic serologist testified for the prosecution that semen recovered from the victim could have come from Dominguez, but the serologist was not asked and did not volunteer what portion of the male population was included among the possible sources. Had that question been asked, the truthful answer would have been more than two-thirds of all men in the world. Despite the flimsy evidence, Hartel found Dominguez guilty and sentenced him to 9 years. With day-for-day good time and credit for time served in jail before trial, Dominguez was released from prison in December 1994.
 
Six years after his release, by which time he had married and fathered a child, the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service threatened to deport Dominguez for failing to register as a sex offender. At that point, he retained criminal defense lawyers Jed Stone and John P. Curnyn to seek DNA testing of the supposedly inculpatory biological evidence in the case.
 
In 2001, Lake County Circuit Court Judge Raymond McKoski granted a motion for DNA testing — at Dominguez's expense. And in March 2002, the results of the testing by the Serological Research Institute in Richmond, California, excluded Dominguez as the source of biological material recovered from the woman who had positively identified him and sent him to prison 12 years earlier. 
 
Dominguez was officially cleared of all charges on April 26, 2002, when Judge McKoski granted a motion in which prosecutors joined Stone and Curnyn in asking that the conviction be set aside.
 
Dominguez later sued the Waukegan Police Department for violating his civil rights. The lawsuit alleged that police withheld from prosecutors the use of a coercive showup procedure and a report from a naval officer and the navy hospital where the victim was treated in which she gave a description of her attacker which differed significantly from her later description and which did not resemble Dominguez. A federal jury awarded him $9 million on October 17, 2006.
 
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State:Illinois
County:Lake
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Reported Crime Date:1989
Convicted:1990
Exonerated:2002
Sentence:9 years
Race:Hispanic
Sex:Male
Age:16
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes