A Better Man Than I AM 23 Years and DNA Frees HIM
Again I all I can say is He is a better man than I am, and bully for him!
I thought you might want to take a look at this one.
DNA evidence frees man imprisoned 27 years in Dallas County
10:30 PM CDT on Tuesday, April 29, 2008
By JENNIFER EMILY / The Dallas Morning News
James Lee Woodard finally got what he had long sought Tuesday when a judge released him from prison after spending 27 years and four months behind bars for a crime he did not commit.
“Unfortunately, you’re not getting justice today,” State District Judge Mark Stoltz told Mr. Woodard, 55. “You’re getting the end of injustice.”
17th Man Freed by DNA Evidence (DMN-Video/Editing: Ron Baselice)
April 29, 2008
The release of Mr. Woodard came after DNA tests and changes in witness testimony proved that he did not rape and murder his 21-year-old girlfriend in 1980. Mr. Woodard, who spent more time behind bars than any other inmate in the country freed by DNA evidence, said Tuesday he was just glad that someone finally listened to his pleas of innocence. He was denied parole because he would not admit killing Beverly Ann Jones.
“I thank God for letting me live through the experience,” said Mr. Woodard. “I never learned to give up, especially when I’m right.”
Mr. Woodard is the 17th inmate since 2001 to be exonerated by DNA in Dallas County, which has more exonerations than any county in the nation. Judge Stoltz urged Mr. Woodard to speak out about injustices in the criminal justice system. Mr. Woodard said he intends to help the Innocence Project of Texas, which worked to release him from prison, however he can.
“The system did something for me,” he said after the hearing. “It’s only fair that I give something back.”
Mr. Woodard, dressed in a suit with a snazzy purple tie, seemed at ease talking with reporters after the hearing despite his long prison sentence. But he confessed that though he seemed calm on the outside, his heart was pounding. His calm demeanor, he said, also made police believe in his guilt.
Tuesday’s proceedings took longer than previous similar hearings. The newsmagazine 60 Minutes filmed the hearing for an upcoming segment and participants wore microphones.
Photos: See others who have been exonerated.
Man cleared by DNA tests freed after serving 23 years for 1985 Richardson rape, burglary
Unlike with other exonerations, officials went beyond simply using DNA results to prove Mr. Woodard’s innocence because his conviction was for murder, instead of rape as it is in most of the other exoneration cases.
Police focused on Mr. Woodard at the time because Ms. Jones’ stepfather said Mr. Woodard came to their apartment the night she died and asked for her. The stepfather has since said he believes Mr. Woodard was not the man and that Mr. Woodard is innocent. A neighbor also testified she saw – from far away and at night – Mr. Woodard and Ms. Jones together.
Prosecutors and the Innocence Project of Texas reinvestigated his case and consulted a forensic pathologist who determined that Beverly Ann Jones was sexually assaulted when she was killed.
James Lee Woodard (center) raises his arms in victory as he steps outside the 265th District Court with Jeff Blackburn (left), Innocence Project Texas director and Assistant Public Defender Michelle Moore.
View larger More photos Photo store Additionally, prosecutors illegally withheld evidence in the case. After Mr. Woodard’s 1981 trial, the defense learned that three other men were with Ms. Jones the night she was killed. Two of the men were later convicted of sexual assault.
Of the two, one absconded while on probation. The other, Timothy Blaylock, was shot and killed in 1982 by a woman as he raped her inside her car.
Jeff Blackburn, chief counsel for the Innocence Project of Texas, called the misconduct in Mr. Woodard’s case a “classic and terrible example of police and prosecutors playing games with the truth.”
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins ate a hearty breakfast with Mr. Woodard on Tuesday, and later apologized to him during the hearing for his wrongful conviction.
Mr. Woodard said after the hearing that he was not angry at his attorney or the prosecutors or police who worked to send him to prison. But he said he has a “low opinion” of their “work ethic.”
“Integrity of police officers and public servants can never be ignored or overstated,” he said. Then he said, “I didn’t know there was such a thing as a good attorney, bad attorney.”