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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ronald Taylor says pardon brings new meaning to life

311xinlinegallery Ronald Gene Taylor on Thursday broke free of the bonds of the wrongful rape conviction that has defined his life for 15 years after receiving news of a pardon confirming his innocence."It's been hard to get restarted," Taylor said in a telephone interview from Atlanta. "Little things, like filling out a job application or renting an apartment are hard when you have to say you are a convicted felon. Now, I am officially a free man. I am so relieved."

Thursday, his lawyers learned Gov. Rick Perry had signed a pardon, fully clearing Taylor's name. Perry signed the pardon last Friday, but Taylor and his lawyers only received notice Thursday.

Taylor, 48, has worked to reclaim his life in the eight months since a Harris County judge ordered him released from prison after DNA evidence cleared him of a 1993 Houston rape. He moved to Atlanta in October and reunited with the woman who patiently had waited for him. In December, they married. This spring he started his own lawn care business.

But the shadow of his conviction darkened each of those milestones.

Taylor was accused in the 1993 attack of a woman in her Third Ward home, which sat less than a mile from where Taylor lived. He maintained his innocence, but prosecutors built a case on the victim's identification of Taylor and the now-discredited testimony of a Houston Police Department crime lab analyst.

Jurors at Taylor's 1995 trial found him guilty, and a judge sentenced him to 60 years in prison.

Taylor's family vowed to prove his innocence. At the behest of his stepfather, Herman Henderson, the Innocence Project, a New York-based nonprofit that seeks to clear the wrongly convicted, accepted the case in 1998.

As the lawyers worked, a forensics scandal at the Houston Police Department crime lab grew, casting doubt on thousands of convictions. In 2006, a judge ordered DNA tests on evidence from Taylor's case. [Mark Godsey]

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