Darwin Crabtree

Exoneration Date: January 17, 2018

Years Served: 9

Cost of Wrongful Incarceration:
$540,000

Wrongful Convictions:
Child molestation

County of Conviction:
Butte County

Cause of Wrongful Conviction:
False Testimony

State Compensation:
Not applicable

In 1991, Darwin Crabtree was convicted of sexually molesting his two sons who were 12 and 8 at the time of his trial. The boys, who were in the care of an unlicensed therapist in training during their parents’ tumultuous divorce, “remembered” and made statements about several incidents under what was suggestive and improper questioning. The boys’ false statements were the only direct evidence against Crabtree.

In 2008, the sons, now adults, recanted their testimony and apologized to their father for what they had done when they were too young to understand the consequences. By that time, Crabtree had been tried, convicted, served his sentence, and completed his parole. Crabtree served over 9 years in prison, was released in 2001, and finished parole in 2004. He remained a lifetime sex offender registrant subject to the stigma associated with that status.

After their reunion with their father and in an effort to correct the injustice, the sons contacted NCIP and submitted written statements explaining Crabtree’s innocence. However, at that time, California law did not provide any mechanism for someone in Crabtree’s position (no longer incarcerated or on parole) to challenge their conviction, and NCIP had already litigated and lost a challenge to this up to the California Supreme Court on behalf of another similarly situated client.

It wasn’t until 2017 that an NCIP-supported law enabled Crabtree to bring his case forward – Penal Code section 1473.7 – which allowed for convicted individuals no longer incarcerated or on parole to challenge their wrongful conviction.

For more than 9 years, Crabtree’s sons maintained that their father was innocent and he never molested them.

In September of 2017, with evidence of the sons’ recantations, NCIP filed a motion to vacate Crabtree’s conviction in the Butte County Superior court. The District Attorney’s Office conducted their own investigation of the case and agreed that the conviction should be reversed and conceded the motion.

On January 17, 2018 Crabtree’s 1991 conviction was vacated by the Butte County Superior Court and the District Attorney dismissed all charges. The District Attorney also issued a public apology to Crabtree for his office’s role in the conviction.