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Fort Worth Woman Fights for Exoneration on Murder Charge Years After Being Paroled

Fort Worth Woman Fights for Exoneration on Murder Charge Years After Being Paroled

People who are wrongly convicted of crimes often struggle to come to terms with their ordeal, even when the case against them falls apart.

A recent example is that of Sonia Cacy, whose flawed conviction was highlighted last month in Texas Monthly.

Cacy was convicted in 1993 of dousing her uncle Bill Richardson with a flammable substance and setting him on fire. She constantly maintained her innocence.

The Texas Monthly report noted how she was paroled in 1998 after serving six-years of a 99-year-sentence, but the murder conviction remained on her record.

For more than 15-years she was judged by society to be guilty of the crime and remained under the supervision of a parole officer.

Last month, a long series of trials, re-trials and appeals resulted in Texas Criminal Court of Appeals judge Bert Richardson saying Cacy’s case supports “actual innocence.”

Her case will now proceed to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for final benediction.

Serious doubts were cast on Cacy’s conviction as early as 1996. Dr. Gerald Hurst, a chemical expert from Austin, was brought in by her defense team to look at the forensic evidence about the accelerant.

The original tests were carried out by Joe Castorena of the Bexar County Forensics Lab. Hurst claimed he had misread the results. Rather than finding any indicators of an accelerant as Castorena claimed, Hurst said he identified the products of pyrolysis. These are compounds formed through the burning of plastic. They can have similar properties to those of an accelerant.

Hurst was convinced the indicators came from a foam mattress. A foam mattress was found burned at the crime scene. Cacy’s uncle was a chain smoker who was known to drop burning cigarettes. Carelessly discarded cigarettes are a major cause of household fires. Notwithstanding this new evidence, a jury affirmed Cacy’s conviction for the killing of her uncle in 1996 and re-sentenced her to life in prison.

The Board of Pardon and Paroles was moved by Hurst’s reports and promptly released Cacy two-years later. However, clearing her name was an uphill struggle.

A long series of hearings and attempts to overturn the verdict followed. Cacy’s attorneys filed a complaint with the Texas Forensic Science Commission in 2010, but the commission was unmoved.

The Texas Monthly report said Cacy suffered from the stigma. She was penniless and had to live in a rundown motel room on outskirts of Fort Worth. Her murder conviction meant she was not able to secure a good job and her health suffered.

If you have been charged with a serious offense like murder, the evidence against you could be flawed. You should contact an experienced Dallas criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.