McGowan is McGone

Thomas McGowan finally freed after 23 years in jail

The Crime

A 19 year old Texas woman came home May 7, 1985 to a suspicious scene. Her door looked to be tampered with and her TV and radio were laid on the floor. While looking around she was hit from behind. In the 30 minutes that followed every woman's worst nightmare unfolded. Her hands were tied and clothing was placed over her face as she was severely beaten and raped. After calling 911 she received medical attention and started her long road to recovery.

“I was 19 years old, young and getting ready to go to college,” -victim

“I knew it was him,” -victim

The Conviction

1 day after the assault she was shown a live lineup and was not able to make an identification. 10 days after the crime she us shown an unusual photo lineup. 7 photos were included 4 color photographs and 3 black and white mugshots, 1 from the Garland Police Department and 3 from Richardson Police Department, the same town the crime was committed in. The woman claimed she "thought" Thomas McGowan, one of the men in the Richardson mugshots, was her attacker. The officer showing the lineup told her she had "to be sure, yes or no". The victim's identification was the key evidence that sent Thomas McGowan, an innocent man, to jail.
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Freedom At Last

In 2008 The Innocence Project took Thomas McGowan's case. His DNA was tested against a semen sample taken at the hospital on the day of the attack. He was exonerated and released from prison on April 15, 2008 after serving 23 years in prison for a crime he did not commit. He will receive 1.8 million dollars compensation.

“I’m determined to take a very negative thing in my career and make it a positive thing for my profession,” -Thomas McGowan


Some factors that could have impacted the eyewitness misidentification

-fear/shock - her life was being threatened and she was being sexually assaulted

-impaired vision - he wrapped her head in a robe

-pressure- influenced by the police officer telling her she had to make a decision

-time - she was shown a lineup 10 days after the crime

-familiarity - three of the lineup photos had a location of Richardson Texas (the same town that the crime was committed in) also she might have been drawn to only look at the color photos and no the black and white

“To talk to him and to see him was very humbling for me,” she said. “I can’t give him back what he lost.” -victim


I thought that this case could have been handled much better. The lineup that the victim saw was irregular and may have contributed to the wrongful conviction. She was shown black and white and color photos some with locations and some without. If the photographs were uniform maybe she could have made a correct conviction. Also the police officer showing her the lineup may have pressured her to make a conviction because he told her she had to be absolutely sure after she told him she thought it might be Thomas.

The police officer should have not told her that she had to make a decision. He should have also presented her with a completely uniform and unbiased lineup. All the pictures should have been without locations and in color.