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John Palmer

Other Bexar County Exonerations
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On January 17, 1985, Lisa Abrahamson reported to police in Blytheville, Arkansas, that her son, 6-year-old Charles Palmer, had told her that he had been sexually abused by his father, John Palmer.

Abrahamson and Palmer divorced in 1983, and Abrahamson remarried. Palmer, then 28 years old, was living in San Antonio, Texas, and his custody agreement allowed him to see his son for one weekend visit each month. Abrahamson said the boy told her the abuse had happened on the most recent visit, on December 7, 1984.

Abrahamson described a series of incidents of physical abuse, complete with witness accounts and medical reports, but these were never verified. Instead, the boy was interviewed by an evaluator at a child protective agency in Arkansas. During the interview, the boy said his father had molested him. In addition, Lisa Abrahamson’s new husband, Robert Abrahamson, said that Charles Palmer’s genitals had been mutilated with a razor blade.

Because the alleged abuse took place in San Antonio, it was investigated by officials in Texas. Palmer cooperated with the police and denied he had harmed his son. He signed a release with the Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s office that allowed investigators to obtain any medical records needed. None of these records corroborated the abuse.

Despite that absence of evidence, Palmer was charged on July 24, 1985 with a single count of aggravated sexual assault of a child under 14. Palmer feared the trauma that his son would face if the case went to trial. He also lacked confidence in his trial attorney. Rather than fight the charge, Palmer decided to settle the case through a plea. On November 27, 1985, he pled no contest in the 144th Judicial District Court in Bexar County to a lesser charge of indecency with a child, hopeful that his military record and good character would result in probation. It didn’t. Judge Roy Barrera sentenced him to 10 years in prison and required him to register as a sex offender.

After Palmer’s conviction, his son’s life descended into turmoil. His mother began using drugs, and Charles was placed in foster care. Many years later, after his father was released from prison, Charles Palmer sought to make amends with him. In 2018, he recanted his statement to John Palmer.

Palmer subsequently filed a petition on November 2, 2018 for a writ of habeas corpus. A memorandum filed with the petition noted that along with the recantation, Palmer had taken a polygraph test that reported he was truthful in his denials of ever abusing his son. In addition, Palmer underwent a forensic evaluation to gauge his propensity of committing a sex offense and received the lowest possible score.

Palmer’s attorney, Chad van Brunt, worked with the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Bexar County Criminal District Attorney’s office to reinvestigate Palmer’s claim of innocence. A doctor examined Charles Palmer’s medical records from the time, and found no evidence to support claims that his genitals and rectum had been cut with a razor blade.

In October, 2019, the parties filed a joint application in support of the petition, stating that Charles Palmer’s recantation was credible and that there was no physical evidence supporting the conviction.

On November 1, 2019, Judge Ray Olivary of the 144th Judicial District Court recommended that Palmer’s petition be granted. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ on January 15, 2020, and the charges were dismissed in district court that day.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 2/18/2020
State:Texas
County:Bexar
Most Serious Crime:Child Sex Abuse
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:1984
Convicted:1985
Exonerated:2020
Sentence:10 years
Race:White
Sex:Male
Age at the date of reported crime:28
Contributing Factors:Perjury or False Accusation
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No