Bruce Godschalk - Wrongful Conviction

May 26, 2021
Bruce Godschalk spent 15 years in prison for crimes he did not commit.
Bruce Godschalk spent 15 years in prison for crimes he did not commit.

Bruce Godschalk of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania was wrongfully convicted of forcible rape and burglary. Bruce’s ordeal began in 1986 when two women, residing in the same apartment complex, were attacked and sexually assaulted. Both of the women had been awoken in the night by an intruder and raped. One of the two complainants identified Bruce. The second complainant assisted the police in creating a composite sketch of her alleged assailant.  This sketch was subsequently released on media outlets. On December 30, 1986, the police received a tip advising that Bruce resembled the man in the composite sketch.

On January 13, 1987, the police obtained a taped confession from Bruce, this confession later proved to be a false confession as it was deemed coerced.

The two alleged rapes were tried together in May of 1987. At Bruce’s trial the prosecutors relied primarily on the eyewitness identifications of the victims. As well as the confession that was taken after his interrogation by police. The prosecution also gave evidence of the testimony of a jailhouse informant who claimed that Bruce had made inculpatory statements. As well, DNA testing available at that time was not sophisticated enough to exclude Bruce from being the donor of the semen found at the scene of the crimes. The defence presented an alibi defence. The jury was not convinced of Bruce’s innocence and in May of 1987 he was convicted of two counts of forcible rape and two counts of burglary in. He received a sentence of ten to twenty years for the crimes.

Bruce’s appeals were denied. It wasn’t until he contacted the Innocence Project in 1995, after his own motion for DNA testing was denied that he began to have some success. In 1999 the Innocence Project was finally successful in obtaining Bruce’s taped confession. An expert concluded that it was likely that Bruce had falsely confessed. However even in light of this expert opinion, the District Attorney refused to allow access to the biological evidence for testing.

Finally in the spring of 2001 the prosecution consented to the defence request for access to the biological testing. The evidence from both cases was tested in January 2002. The testing revealed that both  profiles matched, indicating that undoubtably the same perpetrator had committed both crimes. Bruce  was excluded as the donor and therefore his innocence was proven.

Unsatisfied the District Attorney had their own laboratory perform testing. Their testing provided similar results. Even still the District Attorney’s Office refused to release Bruce from prison. As justification for their refusal the District Attorney's office citing the possibility of flawed DNA testing.  And pointed to the evidence that still existed of Bruce's guilt, namely the confession and the identification of Bruce by the complainants, the jailhouse informant and the media tip.

Bruce was finally vindicated when on  February 14, 2002 he was released from prison. He had maintained his innocence as well as that his confession was coerced. By 2002 Bruce had spent fifteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit and seven years fighting  to access DNA testing to prove his innocence. Finally, the defence and the Innocence Project were successful and Bruce was freed from prison and  fully exonerated, with his innocence proven.

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