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Paul Sheffield

Other 1990 Exonerations
In February 1987, 47-year-old Paul Sheffield was charged with raping his 12-year-old daughter in Cache Valley, Utah.

He went to trial in Cache County District Court in May 1987. Sheffield’s daughter testified that her parents were divorced and she lived with her mother, but spent time at her father’s home. During one of those visits in 1986, she said he raped her. There was no physical or forensic evidence because she made the allegation weeks later. The complainant also testified that Sheffield was illegally growing marijuana in his home.

The complainant’s sister testified that she also had been raped in the past by Sheffield. Tyler Miles, a friend of the complainant, testified that he saw the complainant at a convenience store and that she told him she had been raped. He said he gave the complainant a ride to her mother’s home.

Sheffield denied raping the girl or having any inappropriate contact with her. The prosecution presented evidence that Sheffield had numerous prior convictions for burglary, assault with a deadly weapon, and car theft.

On May 20, 1987, the jury convicted Sheffield of rape of a minor. He was sentenced to five years to life in prison.

In October 1989, the Utah Court of Appeals reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. In a briefly-worded decision, the appeals court said that the prosecution conceded that the trial judge erroneously allowed the complainant’s sister to testify that she too had been raped.

Sheffield was released on bond. While he was awaiting retrial, Tyler Miles recanted his trial testimony about giving the complainant a ride home. Miles said he told the police that he did not give her ride to her mother’s, but the police threatened him with a drug charge unless he falsely corroborated the complainant’s account.

The complainant’s sister also recanted her testimony that she had been raped by Sheffield. She said that police coerced her into making a false rape claim to back up her sister.

On June 19, 1990, the Cache County District Attorney dismissed the charge.

Sheffield later filed a federal civil rights suit against Cache Valley police. The complainant’s sister and Miles testified that they were coerced by police to testify falsely. A federal jury awarded Sheffield $302,000 in damages in March 1995. The trial judge, however, granted a defense motion for a new trial on the grounds that the award was unreasonable and that some of Sheffield’s witnesses were not credible.

Sheffield appealed and argued that newly discovered information showed that the trial judge had a legal relationship to the lawyers for the police officers and should have recused himself from the lawsuit.

In July 1998, the 10th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals vacated the order that set aside the jury’s verdict and remanded the case to the trial court for a different judge to hold a second hearing on the defense motion for a new trial.

In May 1999, Federal District Court Judge Tena Campbell denied the defense motion. The judge ruled that she could not substitute her judgment on the credibility of the witnesses for that of the jury. “Accepting the jury’s determinations of the credibility of the witnesses, the court cannot hold that the verdict was clearly, decidedly or overwhelmingly against the weight of the evidence,” the judge ruled.

In July 1999, Sheffield received a final award of $402,000—the original jury verdict of $302,000 plus interest.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 9/24/2015
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1986
Sentence:5 to life
Age at the date of reported crime:47
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No