Entries in Exonerated (3)


Football Star Exonerated of Rape Conviction, Won't Sue Accuser

Comstock/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A rising California football star who was convicted of raping a high school classmate and spent six years behind bars before being exonerated will not press charges against the woman who falsely accused him, his lawyer reportedly says.

A lawyer for Brian Banks told the Los Angeles Times Saturday that the 26-year-old would not pursue any action against Wanetta Gibson, a high school classmate who accused him of rape.

"We do not plan on taking any legal action against Gibson," Justin Brooks of the California Innocence Project told the Times. "We do plan on filing a state claim for the $100 a day Brian is entitled to under State Law 4900 for every day he was wrongfully incarcerated."

Banks had a full football scholarship to the University of Southern California back in 2002, when Gibson accused him of kidnapping and raping her following what was actually a "consensual sexual encounter," according to new court documents detailing the Gibson's recantation. The two had been "making out pretty heavily" but did not have intercourse, Banks' lawyers wrote.

Gibson did not recant before because she feared losing the $1.5 million she and her family won from a civil suit against Long Beach Unified School District following the incident.

Banks was out of jail and on parole as a registered as a sex offender, when Gibson friend-requested him on Facebook in February 2011. He didn't accept, but asked her to meet with him and a private investigator. They recorded the recantation, and the California Innocence Project, a law program that aims to exonerate wrongfully convicted inmates, took on the case.

"I'm just thankful to be free now and have the opportunity like anybody else to thrive in life," Banks told ABC News Radio on Thursday.

The former star athlete also hopes to don his football cleats once more.

"I've been training since October of last year in hopes of giving football another shot," Banks said. "I'm hoping to possibly receive a try out from a team."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Former Rising Football Star Exonerated in Rape Case

Hemera/Thinkstock(LOS ANGELES) -- A rising football star in southern California whose career was brought to a sudden halt by a kidnap-rape conviction that landed him in prison was exonerated Thursday after his accuser contacted him on Facebook and recanted her story.

"I'm just thankful to be free now and have the opportunity like anybody else to thrive in life," Brian Banks told ABC News Radio Thursday. "I'm completely overwhelmed with so many emotions and feelings all at once."

In a hearing Thursday, Banks shook from sobbing when prosecutors said they did not object to his conviction being reversed. His mother and girlfriend, who were in court, shrieked with happiness.

Banks, now 26, was 17 in 2002 and "by all accounts, a rising football star," according to court documents. Many believed the 6-foot-4, 225-pound athlete was bound for the NFL. The University of Southern California, a Division I school, had offered him a full-ride scholarship and a slew of other schools -- including Michigan State University and University of Kansas -- were pursuing the middle linebacker.

"Tragically, Banks would never realize his dream of going to college and playing college football," his attorneys wrote in court documents. "A high-school acquaintance -- Wanetta Gibson -- shattered that dream one fateful day after she accused Banks of rape and kidnapping following a consensual sexual encounter."

When Gibson accused Banks of rape following an encounter at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, his attorneys encouraged him to plead no contest instead of going to trial before a jury and risking 41 years in prison.

His attorneys said he "chose the lesser of two evils" when he pleaded no contest. Banks was sentenced to six years, which he served and is now on parole and registered as a sex offender.

On Feb. 28, 2011, Banks' story took a dramatic turn. Gibson, his accuser, requested his friendship on Facebook. He did not accept it, but asked her if she would meet with him and a private investigator. She agreed.

"Gibson met with Banks and a private investigator and recanted her preliminary hearing testimony that Banks raped her," his attorneys wrote. She said that the two had been "making out pretty heavy," but that they did not have intercourse or "anything like that."

"Gibson said that they were just playing around, being curious about sexuality, and that the adults got involved and blew it all out of proportion," according to legal documents. "She said the adults 'put stuff in [her] head.'"

The problem was that Gibson did not want to tell prosecutors the truth because she feared she would lose the $1.5 million she and her family won in a civil suit against Long Beach schools after the incident.

The California Innocence Project, a law school clinical program at California Western School of Law dedicated to releasing wrongfully convicted inmates, took on Banks' case and won his exoneration.

The Long Beach School District did not immediately respond to questions from ABC News about whether they would seek the return of the money from the civil suit.

Now, Banks is more than happy to get back to his life with a clean slate, and has not given up his NFL dreams.

"I've been training since October of last year in hopes of giving football another shot," Banks said. "I'm hoping to possibly receive a tryout from a team."

He is also working on a documentary about his life, according to his website. He said his family is "ear to ear with smiles."

"Everybody's just yelling and hugs and kisses," he said. "Everyone's just happy. So we all have on these 'innocent' shirts and 'exonerate' shirts."

When asked if he harbors any bitterness or anger about what happened, he said, "I've been asked that question a couple of times and my answer's always been no. You know I can hold on to that, that bitterness and that anger. It won't get me anywhere."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


After 30 Years Behind Bars, Inmate's Conviction Is Overturned

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Cornelius Dupree, Jr. is free for the first time in 30 years.

Since DNA testing was first instituted in 2001, Texas has led the nation in releasing wrongly convicted prisoners.  Dupree was the 41st to be sprung from a state prison after being exonerated by DNA testing.

In 1979, Dupree and another man were arrested and convicted of robbing a couple they allegedly took hostage.  The woman also told police that both men had raped her.

Dupree and co-defendant Anthony Massingill were each sentenced to 75 years in prison.  Dupree insisted from the onset that he was innocent of the crime, claiming he was the victim of mistaken identity.

Dupree had opportunities before now for early release, providing he admitted to his alleged crime.  He refused.

Earlier this year, DNA evidence proved Dupree’s innocence and on Tuesday, a judge in Dallas officially overturned the conviction, meaning Dupree has no criminal record.

Now 51, Dupree said Tuesday, “I must admit there is a bit of anger, but there is also joy, and the joy overrides the anger.  I'm just so overwhelmed with the joy of being free.”

Defense attorney say that if procedures regularly used today were available when Dupree was arrested three decades ago, his case would have never gone to trial.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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