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Patsy Bolander

Other Female Exonerees With Misconduct in their Cases
On June 4, 1992, 53-year-old Patsy Bolander, a manager of a bank in Houston, Texas, found a scratch-off lottery ticket on the street that appeared to be a $10,000 winner.

After two fellow bank employees who were trained to detect forgeries told her the ticket did not appear to have been tampered with, she took it to a Texas state lottery office. However, lottery officials called police and she was arrested on a charge of theft for presenting a forged ticket. That same day, three other forged tickets—all for $10,000—were detected by lottery officials.

Bolander went to trial in Harris County Criminal District Court in September 1992. The sole witness for the prosecution was an investigator for the state lottery who testified that Bolander filled out the claim form in his presence. He said Bolander then presented the ticket to another office to claim the $10,000. At the time she was arrested, lottery officials said one of the matching $10,000 symbols had been cut from another ticket and clumsily pasted over another symbol.

Bolander testified that she did not fill out the form, but merely presented the ticket to a lottery employee, who inspected it, filled out the form verifying it was a winner and then gave her the form to take to another office to obtain the $10,000. Although it was not admissible, Bolander took a polygraph examination prior to the trial and the examiner said she showed no deception when she denied filling out the form.

On September 30, 1992, a jury convicted Bolander of theft. She was sentenced to probation for 10 years. Bolander, a mother of three who had been married for 18 years, lost her job and she and husband divorced.

In 1995, after her conviction was upheld on appeal, Bolander approached Houston attorney Stanley Schneider and asked him to investigate unidentified initials on the form that the lottery investigator testified that Bolander filled out.

Schneider discovered that the initials belonged to a different lottery employee—not the lottery investigator who testified at Bolander’s trial. In an interview, that employee confirmed Bolander’s version of the events and contradicted the lottery investigator. The employee said that he—not the lottery investigator witness—initially dealt with Bolander when she came to the lottery office, and that he rather than Bolander herself filled out the form and approved the ticket for payment.

Schneider suspected that sometime after Bolander initially presented the ticket, some other lottery employee surreptitiously swapped the legitimate ticket that Bolander presented with a crude forgery and gave her the forged ticket to redeem.

Schneider filed a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking to vacate Bolander’s conviction. The trial judge recommended the writ be granted and in 1995, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ and vacated Bolander’s conviction.

On January 6, 1996, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charge.

Bolander later sued the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and Texas lottery officials, but the lawsuit was dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 9/15/2015
Most Serious Crime:Theft
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1992
Age at the date of reported crime:53
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No