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Judge declares man who served 17 years for rape innocent

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • George Rodriguez was cleared of all wrongdoing
  • Prosecutors say DNA tests rule out his participation in the 1987 rape
  • "Justice has been done," says the district attorney

(CNN) -- A Texas man who served 17 years in prison for a rape he did not commit was formally declared innocent Friday after DNA tests ruled out his guilt, officials said.

State District Judge Belinda Hill granted the Harris County District Attorney General's Office request for orders that fully exonerate George Rodriguez, according to a statement from the district attorney.

Rodriguez was freed in 2004 after an appeals court found that faulty scientific evidence had been used against him in his 1987 trial.

Prosecutors didn't retry him, citing concerns about having the victim -- who had identified Rodriguez as one of her two attackers in a police lineup -- testify again.

State officials had denied his request for a pardon, but Harris County District Attorney Patricia Lykos agreed to review his case after she took office in 2009. New DNA tests on the forensic evidence in the case came back February 22 and conclusively ruled out Rodriguez, now 50, her office has said.

"Our sworn duty is to seek justice," Lykos said in a statement. "In this case, the truth has emerged, and justice has been done."

Lykos, a Republican, campaigned on promises to reform the prosecutor's office in Texas' largest city, and she has drawn praise from defense lawyers for creating a post-conviction review process to examine new evidence. The Innocence Project, which won Rodriguez's release in 2004, gave her an award in 2010 for that program.

Another man, Manuel Beltran, is now serving a 60-year prison term in connection with the rape case. The DNA testing also confirmed that another man, now dead but long considered an alternative suspect, also assaulted the victim, who was 14 at the time.