On Sept. 16, 1998, a 33-year-old woman reported being kidnapped from a Sonic Drive-In in Springfield, Missouri, forced to drive to a wooded area and raped.
Police put together a photographic lineup that contained photographs of five white men and 44-year-old Armand Villasana, who was Latino. The complainant identified Villasana and he was charged.
In 1998, Villasana was convicted based on the testimony of the complainant. The case remained pending for nearly two years with Villasana in custody because the original attorney on his case was never provided with the bench notes from the state crime laboratory examination.
Villasana's subsequent attorney, M. Shawn Askinosie, filed a court order to obtain the bench notes, which revealed a positive acid phosphatase result, indicating that semen was present on an item of evidence. The defense then sent the evidence to an independent laboratory and paid for testing.
Three items of evidence were subjected to STR-based DNA testing. The DNA profile obtained from this evidence excluded Villasana.
This evidence was brought to his sentencing hearing, where he faced up to 40 years for the rape conviction.
At that time, the prosecution dismissed the case and issued a statement that "the three pieces of DNA evidence, when taken together, make it impossible for the state to prove its case against Armand Villasana beyond a reasonable doubt." Villasana was freed in June 2000.
Five years later, the DNA profile from the evidence was matched to an inmate in prison. The complainant then admitted that she had concocted the rape story to cover up an extramarital affair with that man.
By Maurice Possley