DNA results have cleared Darryl Adams of the rape for which he was convicted of 24 years ago, but it is unclear whether he will be exonerated or will be eligible to receive compensation for his wrongful conviction. Adams case was riddled with problems, which his lawyers say could and should have prevented his conviction from the start.
In 1992, after a witness reported seeing a rape, police were called to the scene near a Salvation Army and found Adams, another man, and a woman along with her two young children sleeping on the sidewalk. When officers woke them to ask what happened, the woman initially claimed that nothing occurred. After the officers moved her away from Adams and the other man, Ronald Eubanks, the victim told them that Adams had sexually assaulted her and Eubanks had tried to, but was unable. She told police that the men threatened to hurt her children, which is why she denied the rape at first. Adams and Eubanks were both arrested.
Despite DNA results later clearing both men of the rape, officials are still unsure whether the witness’ identification of Adams and Eubanks was a case of mistaken identification, which can be attributed to a large number of wrongful convictions, or if she lied. The Innocence Project of Texas now represents Adams. The project’s president, Gary Udashen, said although he is unsure, he believes the victim lied and that she made up a story because she was scared that police would take her children away from her. In addition, the caller who reported the rape gave a fake name, so the district attorney’s office was unable to locate him/her.
Both Adams and Eubanks accepted plea bargains offered by the DA’s office while they were in jail, entailing “deferred adjudication” probation in which they would not be convicted so long as they carried out all the requirements of the deal. According to Udashen, Adams accepted the plea bargain to get out of jail quickly. He went on to say that the DA’s office would have dismissed the case because Adams’ situation is an example in which people take probation for a case that a jury would not have convicted them of in the first place.
Shortly after accepting the plea deals, however, Adams burglarized a building and did not pay required fees, and Eubanks did not provide a urine sample drug test, was found to have marijuana in his system, did not pay fees or fines, and missed meetings with his probation officer. They were sent to prison for violating their probation, and Eubanks received 10 years for sexual assault and Adams was sentenced to 25 years for sexual assault in addition to 20 years for the burglary charge.
In March, the highest criminal court in Texas—the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals—granted Adams a new trial. It is now up to the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office to determine whether they will retry Adams or dismiss the case. The case can be dismissed in two ways—one would exonerate him and grant him compensation, and the other would free him without declaring him innocent. Udashen called the case weird and weak, to which Patricia Cummings, the Dallas County prosecutor that supervises the conviction integrity unit, agreed. The DA’s office has not ruled out retrying the case, and agrees that Adams should be granted a new trial. Adams’ attorneys plan to ask the office to declare him innocent. Udashen stated that because of the DNA results and the fact that the victim in the case died about 15 years ago, it is unlikely that the case will be retried.
In August 2014, Adams was released on bond, but was charged with misdemeanor DWI while he was out. He now lives with family, however, and also has a job.
Eubanks is also seeking to be exonerated for the rape charge, but there has yet to be a ruling handed down by the Court of Criminal Appeals. Although the case has been decided, it is unclear why it is taking so long for the appellate court to write the ruling. The delay could be due to the fact that there is no DNA available for testing since Eubanks was never accused of leaving any, so DNA test results may not help his case. Another possible reason is because Eubanks presented a different legal argument than Adams. While Adams asked for and was granted a new trial based on new scientific DNA evidence that was unavailable at the time of the original handling of his case, Eubanks asked to be declared “actually innocent” in his case by the appellate court.
The DA’s office is waiting to take action in Adams’ case until Eubanks’ case has been ruled on, so they will keep the cases tied together for the time being since they have been intertwined from the get-go, even though nothing requires them to do so. Cummings stated that the office could change its plan should Eubanks’ case continue to remain at the appellate court, which has no deadline to reach a ruling. She went on to say that if the cases are dismissed based on actual innocence, then Adams and Eubanks could both be exonerated.