In December 1986 and January 1987, at least three women reported being raped at knifepoint in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. All of the victims were young black women who were attacked at self-service laundromats, known as washaterias, in the city’s Midway Place neighborhood. Police distributed a composite sketch of the suspect, who was described by the victims as a black man, 5’5” to 5’7” tall, between the ages of 20 and 25, with a medium build. He wore a hooded sweatshirt or jacket and had a close-cut beard.
On January 31, 1987, one of the victims called the police after she believed she spotted her attacker on the street. Police arrived and arrested 29-year-old Larry Hebert and eventually charged him with two counts of aggravated rape. His trial was set for June 1987.
Assistant District Attorney Brenda Creswell represented the state, and public defender David Price represented Hebert before Judge L.J. Hymel in the 19th Judicial District Court. One of the rapes was said to have taken place on December 23, 1986; the other, January 12, 1987. Each of the two victims testified and identified Hebert as her attacker. Hebert testified that he was home with his girlfriend, Dorothy Williams, at the time of the January attack. He testified that he did not recall with certainty where he was at the time of the December incident. Williams testified that Hebert was home with her at the times both women said they were attacked. On June 11, 1987, after ten hours of deliberation, the jury found Hebert guilty on two counts of forcible rape.
In early September 1987, prior to his sentencing, Hebert filed a motion for a new trial on the basis of newly discovered evidence. While Hebert was incarcerated, several additional rapes or attempted rapes had been reported that were similar to those for which he had been convicted, and 38-year-old Phelix Parker had been arrested and charged in connection with these new attacks. Parker also fit the physical description of the attacker in the earlier rapes and was said to closely resemble Hebert. In addition, Parker had a criminal record that included a past rape conviction.
Judge Hymel scheduled a hearing on Hebert’s motion for September 11, 1987, the day of Hebert’s sentencing. At this hearing, Hymel ruled that Hebert and his attorney could view the district attorney’s reports and files pertaining to Parker. Judge Hymel also allowed side-by-side photos to be taken of Parker and Hebert to show their resemblance, as attested to by Hebert. Another hearing was scheduled for Judge Hymel to hear further testimony.
In November 1987, Parker was indicted on two counts of aggravated rape for reported rapes in May and June 1987. On December 8, 1987, Judge Hymel granted Hebert’s motion for a new trial, finding that the new evidence regarding Parker should be presented to a jury. On December 21, 1987, Assistant District Attorney Brenda Creswell dismissed the charges against Hebert.
The National Registry of Exonerations is a project of the Newkirk Center for Science & Society at University of California Irvine, the University of Michigan Law School and Michigan State University College of Law. It was founded in 2012 in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The Registry provides detailed information about every known exoneration in the United States since 1989—cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges based on new evidence of innocence. The Registry also maintains a more limited database of known exonerations prior to 1989.
We welcome new information from any source about exonerations already on our list and about cases not in the Registry that might be exonerations.