Clarence Moses-EL got what may be the best Christmas gift of his 60-year life on Tuesday when he set foot outside of prison for the first time in 28 years, putting an end to a bizarre and infuriating ordeal that robbed him of nearly half his life based on someone else’s dream, along with a colossal blunder — if indeed it was a blunder — by Denver, Colorado, police, who trashed DNA evidence that might have exonerated Moses-EL nearly two decades ago.
Back in 1987, a woman told police that after a night of drinking with friends, she returned to her home in Denver only to be brutally attacked there by three men — who raped her not just once but two times. She told police that the names of the three rapists were “LC,” “Earl,” and “Darnell.”
But a little more than a day passed, and the victim came up with another story. She told police that she had a dream in which she saw the face of a man — a man she named as Clarence Moses-EL.
— 9NEWS Denver (@9NEWS) December 23, 2015
Based on the “evidence” of the rape victim’s dream, Moses-EL was arrested, tried and, in 1988, convicted of rape. Though he consistently asserted his innocence, a judge sent Moses-EL to prison — with a sentence of 48 years, which could have kept him behind bars until he was 80-years-old.
As DNA testing technology progressed, however, lawyers for Moses-EL petitioned a judge in 1995 for permission to test the victim’s rape kit and clothing from the night of the sexual assault, which remained in the Denver police evidence locker after eight years.
A judge agreed.
And just one month later, Denver police threw the rape kit evidence in the trash — claiming to be unaware of the judge’s order — ending any hope for Moses-El to be cleared of the crime when someone else’s DNA, presumably, would turn up on the victim’s clothing.
“I literally broke down in the cell,” Moses-EL said in a 2007 interview with The Denver Post.
“I was blown away. Broken. They broke their own rules and threw out the only key to my freedom.”
Moses-EL had to wait another 17 years, until 2012, for a new hope to arise. This time, the new evidence came in the form of a confession from a man named LC Jackson — one of the three attackers originally identified by the victim.
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But with the accusation of Moses-EL that had been conjured up in the victim’s dream, Jackson remained free and just a few years later, raped a 9-year-old girl and her mother at knifepoint — crimes for which he is now serving a life term.
Jackson first confessed in a hand-scrawled letter to Moses-EL — but when Denver District Attorney District Attorney Mitch Morrissey got his hands on Jackson’s confession, he did nothing.
But Moses-EL and his lawyers fought for two years to get a public airing of the actual rapist’s admission of guilt. Last summer, they finally achieved their goal. Jackson, saying that the wrongful conviction of Moses-EL had weighed on his conscience for years, testified under oath that he, not Clarence Moses-EL, raped the woman, who at the time was a friend of Jackson’s girlfriend.
“It’s wonderful. I waited a long time for this,” Moses-EL told a press conference following his release on Tuesday, December 22. “There’s still some days in front of me. I know things are going to turn out in my favor. I never doubted, even though I felt like at times I was under a ton of bricks, couldn’t breathe.”
Even though Clarence Moses-EL is now a free man, his nightmare that began with a woman’s dream may not be over yet. The charges against him have not been dropped, and he is out of prison only because friends and family were able to scrape together the $50,000 bond ordered by a judge.
With Denver D.A. Morrissey now leaving office, Beth McCann and Michael Carrigan — two candidates in the field running to fill the post — have pledged to drop all charges against Clarence Moses-EL, sparing him a new trial, meaning next November’s election may offer him his best hope to live free for the rest of his life.
[Photo By David Zalubowski/Associated Press]