In 1989, Gary Dotson became the United States' first innocent prisoner to be exonerated through DNA evidence. Dotson had already served 10 years of a 25-50 year sentence for aggravated kidnapping and rape.
Although his accuser recanted her story in 1985 and said she made it up to cover a sexual encounter with her boyfriend, a judge refused to order a new trial, saying that the complainant's original testimony was more convincing than her recantation.
In 1988, Dotson's defense attorney conducted previously unavailable DNA tests, which ultimately proved his innocence. An innocent man served 10 years for a crime he didn't commit, and which even his accuser admitted never even happened.
False Accusations of Rape are Common
One study shows that between 1989 and 2003, 328 men and women convicted of rape were exonerated; over half of those had already served 10 or more years of their sentence, despite their innocence. False accusations are serious, potentially destroying the lives of the accused. While some organizations show that only 2% of rape claims are unfounded, other research shows false rape claims to be as high as 43%.
The FBI's 1996 Uniform Crime Report states that 8% of forcible rape claims are unfounded, compared with the 2% average for all other crimes. The FBI statistic only accounts for forcible rape charges determined to be false through investigation.
It does not take into consideration the number of other false sexual assault claims or the number of accusations recanted or dismissed at trial. Locally, the OSBI reported 1,453 rape offenses in Oklahoma in 2008. If the FBI statistic that 8% of rape claims are unfounded holds true, that means there are potentially 116 Oklahomans wrongfully accused and convicted of rape each year.
Some victims' advocates claim that women don't lie about rape; however, recent high-profile cases have proven that to be untrue. Kobe Bryant, Ben Roethlisberger, and the Duke Lacrosse team represent only a few of the incidents of false allegations of rape that have received national media attention. Some reasons accusers lie about being rape include:
- spite or revenge
- an alibi for their own sexual encounters
- a ploy for sympathy or attention
- regret over sexual indiscretions
Recently, a woman pulled over for a traffic violation claimed she was sexually assaulted by the officer who wrote her a ticket. Her annoyance at a minor traffic ticket could have cost an officer his profession, his family, and even his freedom, had it not been for the officer's dashboard camera.
See the news story below: httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KgxwPU0W-Wg
What to Do if Your Are Charged
If you have been accused of rape, seek defense counsel immediately. Do not answer any questions about the alleged incident or talk to police until you have a lawyer present.
If you are innocent, your first instinct may be to try to clear things up with the police, but even if you have not yet been arrested, your words can be twisted and used against you. An attorney with a proven record of successful rape defense is your best ally if you have been falsely accused.