Statute of limitations
District Attorney Pat Lykos said the office has identified all four men suspected in the crime, including the three believed to have sexually assaulted the victim.
Three of the men have been convicted of other crimes and spent time in prison. Two are still behind bars, prosecutors said.
Because the statute of limitations elapsed, none of the men can be prosecuted for the crime, according to Lykos.
The prosecutor assigned to the case, Assistant District Attorney Alicia O'Neal, said the victim was aware of the development but declined to comment.
Records show Green appealed his case several times since 1983, to no avail. DNA testing still was years away from common use in 1983, but Green filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing in 2005. Prosecutors took a swab of his DNA in February 2009.
Last month, O'Neal learned Green had been excluded from the DNA profiles found on the victim's jeans.
Two other men matched DNA that had been recorded in the national DNA database. A third man's DNA also was found.
Through interviews with the two suspects, investigators were led to two more men. Test results returned this week showed that one of those two, not Green, was the third man involved in the sexual assault. One of the suspects admitted he was there and said Green was not.
Green was picked up the night of the assault by officers looking for a stolen black car in the area where the woman was raped. According to court records, when police spotted the car and pulled it over, the four black men inside fled. Police began stopping all black men walking in the area and detained Green, who is black.
Green and another man were left in a police car that night, illuminated by headlights, while the victim was brought to the scene. Court records say the woman saw both men but said neither was among those who had assaulted her.
Eight days later, however, police showed the victim a photo array that included Green, and she picked him out. Later that day, she picked him out of a live lineup.
The victim identified him in court four months later, after having seen him three times. He was the only person convicted of the crime, according the District Attorney's Office.
Wicoff blamed police for the false eyewitness identification.
"DNA freed this guy. Bad police work put him away," Wicoff said. "This was HPD's fault."
The district attorney's office said its investigation showed no misconduct or negligence on the part of the initial investigators or attorneys involved in either side of the 1983 trial.
'We can start sleeping'
Houston Police Department spokesman Victor Senties said police officials wanted to wait for the court's ruling and see documentation about the case before responding to any allegations.
In a news release, Lykos' first assistant, Jim Leitner, appeared to slam prior district attorney administrations for the length of time the case stalled.
"The evidence in this case had been sitting in the District Clerk's Office for 27 years, and no one had taken the initiative to do anything with it in the past," Leitner said. "The difference now is that you've got the Post Conviction Review Section looking into it - and that made all the difference in the case of Mr. Green."
Lykos declined to comment on Leitner's remarks.
Wicoff said certain court procedures need to be followed to have Green's actual innocence declared.
If Green is released, he said, that paperwork can be completed without the sense of urgency that has marked the last week.
"We can start sleeping at night," Wicoff said.
Green's only other conviction was a misdemeanor of evading arrest, for which he served 45 days. He also was arrested for car theft, but that charge was dismissed, according to court records.
$80,000 per year possible
Wicoff said Green has served the longest prison sentence of an exonerated man in Texas.
If he is ruled innocent, he could be eligible for a one-time payment from the state of more than $2 million, $80,000 for every year he was wrongfully confined.
The final ruling on Green's innocence will be made by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which also is scheduled to review the 1990 sexual assault conviction of Allen Wayne Porter.
Porter, 39, was freed last Friday after the district attorney's office, in a similar investigation, uncovered evidence of his innocence. Porter had spent 19 years in prison.
Lykos said the case was a clarion call for a regional crime lab, a project she campaigned on, noting a backlog of rape kits continues to grow at the HPD crime lab. She has argued for more resources to be used for DNA testing in current and past cases.
"If this case isn't the poster case for the regional crime lab, I don't know what is," the district attorney said.