chapter  15
19 Pages

The Rocky Road to Reform: State Innocence Studies and the Pennsylvania Story

BySpero T. Lappas, Elizabeth F. Loftus

In 1984, Thomas Doswell was arrested and subsequently acquitted for the rape of Victoria Johnson in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. After his acquittal, Doswell remembers that the frustrated and disappointed police detective Herman Wolf warned that he would nonetheless “get him” in the future (Doswell v. City of Pittsburgh, 2009, p. 3). When Helen Tokar was raped in 1986 at Pittsburgh’s Forbes Health Center, Wolf was assigned to that case too, and he had not forgotten Thomas Doswell. When Ms. Tokar, who is white, described the rapist as a black male of medium height and complexion with short hair, Wolf assembled a photo-array which included Doswell’s photograph. His picture, and only his, was marked with a capital “R” which falsely identifi ed Doswell as a convicted rapist. Wolf testifi ed that he used only one “R”-marked photo to facilitate the witness’s selection

of Doswell’s photo. He knew, of course, that Doswell was in fact not a convicted rapist and that the practice of marking photos to ensure selection was unconstitutional (Doswell v. City of Pittsburgh, 2009, p. 3). Tokar and another witness, Ore Bolte, who had seen the rapist run away, both identifi ed the pre-marked “R” photo as the perpetrator, Doswell was subsequently and inevitably convicted, and he was sentenced to 26 years.