Happy 13 year exoneration anniversary, Luis Diaz!
In 1980, Luis Diaz was convicted as the “Bird Road Rapist” and sentenced to life+ for eight rapes that he did not commit. Diaz’s wrongful conviction was based largely in eyewitness misidentification. He served 25 years in prison.
The Bird Road Rapist attacked more than 25 women in the late 70’s in Coral Gables, Florida. The rapist employed a distinctive trap, in which he would flash his headlights in order for the women in their vehicles to pull over. With a gun, he would force the women to perform oral sex on him while driving and then pull over and rape them. Victims described the rapist as a tall Latin male, 6’0”-6’2,”about 200 pounds and spoke English with a heavy accent.
Diaz became a suspect when the first victim identified him as her attacker, although he didn’t match any of the descriptions besides the fact that he happened to drive a green car. As the rapes continued, Diaz was placed in a lineup by the police and ended up being misidentified by 8 victims, despite the fact that once again he didn’t match the initial descriptions.
No physical evidence was ever found against Diaz, his conviction was based solely on victim identification.
Diaz still had post-conviction support. An investigator on his defense team continued to work on his case. In 1993, two of victims recanted their identifications of Diaz. After lengthy litigation, in 2001 these two witnesses were finally vacated and he became eligible for parole, but his application was denied two years later. In 2003, all Florida prisoners faced a deadline for filing applications based on DNA testing. A cooperative effort between the Florida Innocence Initiative, the Innocence Project, and the Florida office of Holland & Knight produced a post-conviction motion for DNA testing in September 2003.
None of the DNA found in the rape kits matched Diaz. On August 3rd, 2005, all charges were dropped against Luis Diaz and he was exonerated. Diaz, 67 years old at the time of his release, had proclaimed his innocence since he was questioned in 1979. Happy 12 years of freedom, Luis!