The Case of Larry Fuller and the Victim Who "Never Wavered"
Six o'clock on a foggy April morning in 1981, 45 minutes before sunrise in Dallas, a woman awakens to find a man with a knife atop her. The only light in the room comes from a digital alarm clock. The intruder cuts her and rapes her. Shortly afterwards, hospital personnel collect sperm in a rape kit. Two days later, the victim looks at photographs of possible suspects; Larry Fuller's picture is among them. Because she cannot make an identification, the investigating officer recommends that the investigation be suspended. But other detectives persist, showing the victim a second photospread several days later. Importantly, Fuller's picture is the only one in the second photospread that was also in the first. At this point, the victim positively identifies him and he is arrested. Subsequent to a trial during which the prosecution claimed that the victim "never wavered," Fuller is convicted and sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Larry Fuller was 32 years old at the time, raising two young children. He had served two tours of duty in Vietnam where he was shot down several times. After being honorably discharged, he pursued a degree in the arts while working several jobs. From prison he petitioned the Innocence Project to take his case, but the Dallas District Attorney's Office opposed requests for DNA testing, as it had done many times before. (That district attorney has since been replaced.) After a judge ordered testing—that excluded Fuller as the perpetrator, he became the 186th person exonerated through DNA analysis. Fortunately, the Texas legislature passed a generous compensation law in 2009, and
the new Dallas district attorney has vowed to cooperate with defense attorneys requesting DNA testing in cases involving other inmates.
Critical Thought Question
Why would post-event exposure to Fuller's photograph increase the likelihood that the victim would identify him?