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Christopher Baldwin

Other Houston Drug Exonerations
On March 13, 2014, sheriff’s deputies in Harris County, Texas, responded to a call of an altercation at a house in Houston. Christopher Baldwin had been fighting with his father-in-law, and deputies ordered Baldwin out of the house and then patted him down. They found a plastic bag in Baldwin’s pocket containing a white powder.

Deputies arrested Baldwin, who was 30 years old, and charged him with felony possession of cocaine for an amount between 1 and 4 grams. Court records don’t say how the powder was initially identified as cocaine.

Five days later, on March 18, 2014, Baldwin pled guilty to a reduced charge, possession of less than 1 gram of cocaine. He was sentenced to 8 months in jail. Two months later, on May 13, 2014, an analyst at the Houston Forensic Science Center filed a report stating that the substance in the baggie was a combination of codeine and acetaminophen, the generic version of Tylenol.

Five months later, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office notified Baldwin of the findings and said he had been “prosecuted for a criminal drug offense and convicted in error.”

On February 10, 2015, the district attorney’s office and the public defender’s office jointly petitioned the 176th District Court in Harris County, asking it to recommend to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that Baldwin be allowed to vacate the conviction based on actual innocence.

As part of the petition, the parties noted that Baldwin had a legal prescription for codeine and acetaminophen. It had been written by a dentist in late 2013, after Baldwin had oral surgery.

The court of criminal appeals vacated Baldwin’s conviction on February 10, 2016, but it declined to rule that he was innocent. Baldwin’s prescription for the medicine was a legal defense, the court said, but it did not establish innocence.

Baldwin’s attorney petitioned the appellate court for a rehearing, arguing that the prescription for the pain medicine offered the same level of proof of innocence as a receipt for an item offered as proof against a charge of theft. The appellate court declined to rehear the case. Baldwin’s charge was dismissed on March 23, 2016.

– Ken Otterbourg

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Posting Date: 6/17/2020
Last Updated: 6/17/2020
Most Serious Crime:Drug Possession or Sale
Additional Convictions:
Reported Crime Date:2014
Sentence:8 months
Age at the date of reported crime:30
Contributing Factors:
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No