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Paul Forrest

Other Bexar County CIU Exonerations
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In 2018, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals exonerated Paul Forrest, a former substitute teacher in San Antonio, Texas, of a charge of having an improper relationship with a student. The exoneration came after he had served seven months in prison.

In late summer of 2011, officials at the MacArthur High School received an anonymous email reporting that 29-year-old Paul Forrest, a substitute teacher, had a sexual relationship with a 17-year-old student.

Forrest had been a substitute teacher and employee of the North East Independent School District for three years. In a statement, Forrest said the student was in a health class one day when he was a substitute and they did not interact. He said he did not speak to her until the summer after the school year was over. After connecting via social media, he said, they had sex one time.

Forrest was fired and indicted on a charge of improper relationship with a student. On September 5, 2012, he pled guilty in Bexar County Criminal District Court. He was sentenced to two years in prison.

He was released in June 2013. In 2017, attorney Dayne Jones filed a state law petition for a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of Forrest. The writ said that Forrest’s employment as a substitute teacher for the North East Independent School District did not fall within the statutory definition of “educator.”

Therefore, the petition said, no crime had been committed. The petition argued that because his defense attorney failed to determine that critical fact, Forrest’s plea of guilty was involuntary and should be vacated.

The Bexar County District Attorney’s conviction integrity unit agreed that Forrest was not covered by the law and supported the petition.

On January 24, 2018, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ and vacated Forrest’s guilty plea. The court noted that Forrest contended that “his trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance because he did not review the law or facts applicable to the charges before (Forrest) entered into a guilty plea.”

“The trial court has determined that trial counsel’s performance was deficient and that such deficient performance prejudiced (Forrest),” the appeals court said. “The State agrees that (Forrest’s guilty) plea was involuntary and that he is entitled to relief…. We agree that (Forrest’s) plea was involuntary due to counsel’s errors.”

On February 22, 2018, the prosecution dismissed the case. The statute was subsequently amended to include substitute teachers, but the amendment was not retroactive.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 8/8/2018
State:Texas
County:Bexar
Most Serious Crime:Other Nonviolent Felony
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2011
Convicted:2012
Exonerated:2018
Sentence:2 years
Race:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of crime:29
Contributing Factors:Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No