Here’s another appalling but entirely unsurprising story of a man who was railroaded and falsely convicted as a teenager, has now spent nearly half his life in prison, and has to overcome the objections of the prosecutors to even get the chance to prove his innocence. And you aren’t gonna believe the shoddy “science” used to convict him.
Charged with molesting two young cousins, Michael Arena was summoned to a psychologist’s office to measure his sexual attraction to children.
The test given required the 16-year-old to click through images of swimsuit-clad people of various ages while the computer secretly measured how long he viewed each photo. The results, according to the prosecution-hired psychologist who administered the test, showed Arena to be a pedophile who was a “high risk” to strike again.
Bell County prosecutors hammered the finding during Arena’s 1999 trial, urging jurors to choose prison over probation to protect children from a teen “diagnosed as a pedophile by an expert.” The jury responded with a 20-year sentence.
Now 29, Arena still has 7½ years left on his sentence.
In the years since Arena’s trial, however, both of his accusers have recanted, saying they lied about being sexually assaulted at the urging of their mother, who was embroiled in a bitter custody battle.
Troubling details about the psychological test also have emerged, prompting Arena’s lawyers to begin a two-part appeal designed to gain his freedom based on innocence or, at the very least, grant Arena a new sentencing trial that excludes a psychological test that defense lawyers deride as junk science.
The Texas Supreme Court is weighing both requests, which are opposed by prosecutors.
They simply don’t care whether Arena is innocent or not, or that both the testimony and the “scientific” evidence used to convict him was false. All that matters is protecting their sacred conviction rate and never, ever admitting that they may have screwed up. But this is Texas, so there’s a pretty good chance the courts will agree with the prosecutors. The justices did seem skeptical during oral argument, according to the article, so maybe that’s a good sign. We’ll see.