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Juan Carlos Gonzales-Barboza

Other Child Sex Abuse Exonerations with Mistaken Witness Identification
On June 14, 1994, a 14-year-old girl went to a hospital in Henderson, Kentucky reporting that she had been raped at a party. A rape kit was prepared and Henderson police were summoned.

The girl, S.W., said she had been at a party with two girlfriends that was attended by about 10 Hispanic males. She said that she had consumed four or five beers during a drinking game. When she was on her way to the bathroom, a man yanked her into a bedroom, stripped off her clothes, and raped her. She said the man had a tattoo of a building on one of his biceps and that he ejaculated. She said that she had not had sex with anyone in the prior 72 hours.

One of S.W.’s girlfriends, J.L., identified one of the men at the party as 23-year-old Juan Carlos Gonzales-Barboza. J.L. said that at one point during the party, she saw S.W. kissing one of the Hispanic males and that S.W. subsequently asked her not to let her have sex with the person she had been kissing. J.L. said she then left the apartment and less than 10 minutes later, S.W. came outside crying and said she had been raped.

S.W.’s other girlfriend, H.B., also identified Gonzales-Barboza as being present at the party. H.B. said she left the party early because she felt ill, but she later saw S.W. in a hysterical state saying she had been raped.

Geraldo Toriba Rodriguez, who lived in the apartment where the party was held, told police that he saw a man go into a bedroom with a girl. About 5 or 10 minutes later, she emerged crying. Rodriguez said the man told him that the girl didn’t “want to,” which he assumed meant want to have sex. Rodriguez could not identify the man.

On June 15, 1994, police arrested Gonzales-Barboza and took Polaroid photographs of him. The police showed the photographs to S.W., who said he was her attacker. The police then brought Gonzales-Barboza to the police station where S.W. identified him as the rapist during a one-on-one viewing, a highly suggestive procedure known as a show-up.

Gonzales-Barboza, who did not have any tattoos, admitted he had kissed S.W., but denied having sex with her. He said that no one had sex with S.W. as far as he knew and he could not understand why she would claim to have been raped.

On August 2, 1994, Gonzales-Barboza was indicted on a charge of first-degree rape. Less than two months later, the Henderson County District Attorney’s Office offered to reduce the charge if Gonzalez-Barboza would plead guilty. At that time, the rape kit had been sent to the crime lab for DNA testing, but the tests had not yet been completed. Gonzales-Barboza’s attorney convinced him to accept the offer and on September 23, 1994, Gonzales-Barboza pled guilty to a reduced charge of third-degree rape. He was sentenced to five years in prison.

On August 29, 1997, Gonzales-Barboza, who had been illegally in the U.S. at the time of his arrest, was designated for release on parole. Instead of being released, however, he was deported to his native Mexico.

In June 2012, Gonzales-Barboza was arrested in Springdale, Arkansas for driving without a license. A background check showed that he had been deported. He was charged with illegal entry by an aggravated felon—a charge based on his 1994 rape conviction. After Gonzales-Barboza pled guilty and was sentenced to 41 months in federal prison, he contacted the Kentucky Innocence Project to obtain the DNA testing that was never completed in the rape case.

In February 2013, the evidence was located and tested. The tests excluded Gonzales-Barboza as the source of the sperm found in the rape kit.

In July 2013, the Kentucky Innocence Project filed a motion for a new trial based on the test results. The prosecution opposed the motion on procedural grounds. It contended that the motion was filed after the one-year proscription for filing a motion for new trial based on newly discovered evidence, and that the DNA testing could have been done within one year after Gonzales-Barboza pled guilty.

In August 2013, Henderson County Circuit Court Judge Karen Wilson agreed with the prosecution and denied the motion. The judge said that the case “does not present a good cause or extraordinary circumstances which would justify an extension of the time limitations.”

More than two years later, in December 2015, the Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed that decision. The court vacated Gonzales-Barboza’s conviction and ordered a new trial.

“It is clear that this DNA test result is new evidence and only obtained in February 2013 by the Kentucky Innocence Project,” the appeals court said. “(Gonzales-) Barboza clearly did not possess the wherewithal to either obtain the DNA evidence or cause such evidence to be properly tested. Considering these unique facts, we conclude that the DNA test results constitute newly discovered evidence.”

In March 2017, the Kentucky Innocence Project filed a motion to dismiss the charge. On March 21, 2017, the motion was granted and the charge was dismissed.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 12/6/2017
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1994
Sentence:5 years
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes