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John Watkins

Other Arizona Cases
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On May 26, 2003, a 48-year-old woman was attacked as she walked on a street, dragged into some bushes and raped in Gilbert, Arizona.

On June 3, 2003, police began questioning John Watkins, who had just turned 20 that day, because he resembled the description given by the woman of her attacker. During an interrogation, Watkins was falsely told that his fingerprints had been recovered from the scene, that he had failed a voice-stress analysis test and that the victim had identified him—although no such identification had occurred.

Ultimately, after four hours of questioning, Watkins confessed. Police made him wear a white t-shirt—the type of shirt described by victim—and took his photograph, which was then placed in a photo lineup with five other photos of suspects who were all wearing black t-shirts. The victim then identified Watkins as her attacker.

On January 9, 2004, Watkins pled guilty to criminal sexual assault and was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Over the next several years, Watkins asked the courts for post-conviction testing twice, but he was denied both times. In 2009, DNA testing was requested by the Arizona Justice Project at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. The tests were ordered and were conducted on the rape kit. The results confirmed that Watkins was not the rapist.

On December 16, 2010, Watkins’s convictions were vacated, the charges were dismissed and he was released.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
State:Arizona
County:Maricopa
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2003
Convicted:2004
Exonerated:2010
Sentence:14 years
Race:Caucasian
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:19
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False Confession, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes