On a summer night in 1987, a Denver woman was out drinking with three men, and after saying goodnight and returning home, was severely beaten and raped in her apartment. Her facial bones were broken and she lost sight in one eye. The victim first told police it was too dark to identify her attacker, then said it was one of the three men. A day and a half later, she said it came to her in a dream that the assailant was her neighbor, Clarence Moses-El.
Based on that, Moses-El, who said he was innocent, was convicted of rape and assault. But last week, a Denver judge overturned the convictions and on Tuesday afternoon, after serving 28 years of his 48-year prison sentence, Moses-El was released on bond. “This is the moment of my life, right here,” Moses-El, now 60, said outside a Denver jail, laughing and hugging his grandchildren for the first time. “I just want to get home to my family, my grandchildren. It’s wonderful, I waited a long time for this.”
The ruling on Monday by Denver district judge Kandace Gerdes unlocked a case that the Denver district attorney would rather have kept closed. Ever since the cuffs were slapped on Moses-El in 1987, an embittered campaign against the Denver police and later the district attorney’s office has been waged on his behalf, one that often accused the justice system of evidence tampering, media manipulation, and blatant ignorance of the facts. A rape kit of DNA evidence was collected at the time, but never tested. A blood sample from the scene was, though, and it did not match Moses-El’s, according to his attorney.
“The victim came to court and identified him in court based on what had come to her in her dream,” Eric Klein, one of Moses-El’s attorneys, said on Tuesday. “There was no other evidence against him, no other witnessing.” The district attorney’s office is standing by the case against Moses-El. “Those who now argue that he was convicted solely on a dream are either unaware of the complete facts or disregard them,” Mitch Morrissey, who has been district attorney since 2004, said in a statement last week. “She testified during the trial and was cross-examined at length. The jury believed her testimony that she was attacked and raped by Clarence Moses-El.”