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Texas Justices Consider Whether Inmate Deserves Freedom Because of Pedophile ID by Swimsuit Test

Posted Mar 2, 2012 10:14 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The Texas Supreme Court is considering whether a 29-year-old inmate should be freed because jurors were misinformed about the effectiveness of a test that identified him as a pedophile at the age of 16.

Michael Arena contends the test is junk science and improperly influenced his 20-year sentence for sexually assaulting his 7-year-old cousin, a crime he says he never committed, the Austin American-Statesman reports.

Arena was only 16 when he took the computer test. He was asked to click through images of people of various ages dressed in swimsuits, while the computer measured how long he looked at each photo.

The cousin has recanted and now says she lied about molestation at the urging of her mother, who was in the middle of a custody battle at the time. Arena’s lawyers are seeking a declaration of actual innocence, or, in the alternative, a new sentencing hearing because jurors were improperly influenced by the test.

Arena’s lawyers say the expert who testified about the test, which has a 35 percent error rate, inflated its effectiveness.

Justice Nathan Hecht appeared to agree with the defense view of the test during January oral arguments, the story says. Hecht said it was "bordering on hokum" and less likely to produce valid results than lie-detector tests, which aren’t admissible in criminal court.

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