DNA tests exonerate Fla. inmate after 26 years

August 04, 2005|By SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - After being locked up for 26 years as a wrongfully convicted serial rapist, Luis Diaz strolled through the front doors of Miami-Dade County's justice center yesterday with his arms raised in victory.

Diaz, 67, walked free because of a series of DNA tests by the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization that works to exonerate inmates, and police. After the tests showed that he could not have committed the crimes, prosecutors moved to vacate the convictions against the man who served a quarter of a century in prison as the "Bird Road Rapist."

In 1979, prosecutors formally charged Diaz in eight separate but similar cases in which the victims were kidnapped, robbed and raped. For almost two years during the late 1970s, the crimes caused fear in the Miami-area while authorities searched in vain for the rapist.

Prosecutors simultaneously tried Diaz on the eight cases in 1980 and largely relied on witness testimony. During the trial, women repeatedly identified Diaz as their attacker.

A six-person jury convicted Diaz of four rapes, three attempted rapes, five kidnappings, and a series of robbery and firearm charges. A judge sentenced him to 13 life terms for the rapes.

Since then, two of the victims came forward and recanted their identification of Diaz.

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