Four lesbians imprisoned in Texas since the late 1990s on sex-assault charges are now free, a reversal in a case that critics say relied on "junk science" and anti-gay bias, reports Reuters. Elizabeth Ramirez, 39, Kristie Mayhugh, 40, and Cassandra Rivera, 38, walked out of Bexar County jail last night after a deal was struck with prosecutors, reports Courthouse News Service. The fourth woman, Anna Vasquez, 38, has been out on parole since last year. The women—known as the "San Antonio Four"—have not been formally exonerated, but they say that will be their next legal fight.
The case began in 1994, when two of Ramirez's nieces, ages 7 and 9, told police that the four women sexually assaulted them during a drug- and booze-fueled party. The state's key witness, a pediatrician, testified that the girls had physical injuries consistent with sexual abuse and suggested it might have occurred during a Satanic ritual. "I think because they came out as openly gay, the investigator and people down the line said, ‘If they’re gay, anything’s possible. They’re not like us,'" a defense attorney tells the Huffington Post. The pediatrician in the case has since said that her own testimony was inaccurate, and one of the nieces has recanted. "At this point in my life, I am past angry," says Vasquez. "I've just learned to deal with it and move forward and not hold all that negativity inside."