In 1988, Stephen Thompson, who was divorced, was charged with sexually assaulting his five-year-old daughter when she came to see him on a regularly scheduled visit.
On August 12, 1991, Thompson went on trial before a jury in Dallas County Criminal District Court.
The victim, who was eight years old at the time of trial, testified that her father had put his finger in her genitals.
Thompson’s ex-wife testified that she first began questioning her daughter when she came home from school with a torn dress. Her daughter said the dress was torn on the school bus, but her mother did not believe her. She testified that her suspicions were heightened when the girl complained of irritation of her genitals and began masturbating and fondling herself. She said she notified authorities after the girl admitted what her father had done.
A physician who examined the girl testified that the girl appeared completely normal, but also said that the lack of physical evidence was “consistent with digital penetration.”
On August 14, Thompson was convicted by a jury of aggravated sexual assault.
During the punishment phase of the trial, a police officer from Mesquite testified that he had arrested Thompson for indecent exposure, for which Thompson had been granted deferred adjudication and 90 days probation.
Thompson, who did not testify during the guilt phase of the trial, testified during the sentencing hearing. Under questioning by his attorney, Thompson said, “I’m truly sorry about this happening and as long as I live, I will never let it happen again.”
Thompson was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
On appeal, Thompson argued that his defense attorney, who by that time was suspended from practicing law, had provided an inadequate legal defense. The claim was rejected and his conviction was upheld by the Texas Court of Appeals.
Thompson was paroled in February 2002. The following year, his daughter, by then 20 years old, came forward to recant her trial testimony. She said her father had never abused her and that her mother had pressured her to make the allegation. She said that her mother repeatedly asked her whether her father had done specific things to her and when she said he had not, her mother became angry and would not allow her to play or go anywhere. Thompson’s daughter said that eventually, she succumbed to the pressure and agreed to accuse her father. She also said that her mother had physically abused her in the years following the trial.
A state petition for a writ of habeas corpus was filed and the Thompson’s daughter repeated her recantation before the trial judge.
Thompson’s ex-wife also testified at the hearing and admitted to physically abusing her daughter. She admitted that she had always had doubts about whether the sexual assault had occurred but she denied pressuring her daughter into making the allegation.
The bus driver confirmed the girl’s initial report about tearing her dress on the bus, testifying that she saw her fall down, ripping the dress.
Thompson testified and denied ever sexually assaulting his daughter. He said that he had apologized at his sentencing hearing on the advice of his lawyer—not because he was guilty, but because his lawyer said he would receive a more lenient sentence.
A former prosecutor of child abuse cases who had become a social worker testified that the recantation was valid based on her analysis of the trial transcript and a three-hour interview with Thompson’s daughter.
The trial judge found the evidence undermined the guilty verdict, reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial.
On January 12, 2005, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the trial court ruling. The Dallas District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charge in 2006.
Thompson filed a compensation claim under the state’s wrongful imprisonment statute. As of 2012, he had received $466,797.
– Maurice Possley