Texas Man Cleared After Three Decades
"It’s a joy to be free again,"says Innocence Project client Cornelius Dupree.
It took 30 years and several rounds of appeals, but Cornelius Dupree is finally a free man. Dupree and another man were convicted in 1980 of a rape and robbery they always said they didn’t commit, and DNA testing obtained by the Innocence Project has proven that they were wrongfully convicted. This month, a Texas judge tossed the conviction against Dupree. His co-defendant, Anthony Massingill, is expected to be cleared soon.
Dupree and Massingill were convicted based largely on the eyewitness identifications of the two victims, though there were several inconsistencies in the identification process. After serving 30 years of his 75-year sentence, Dupree was released on parole in July. He learned less than two weeks after his release that DNA testing had proven his innocence. This summer Dupree also married his longtime partner Selma Perkins Dupree, who is pictured with him above.
Read more about Dupree’s and Massingill’s cases here.
Of the 40 people exonerated through DNA testing in Texas, 34 were misidentified by at least one witness. A bill to reform eyewitness identification procedures in Texas failed to pass in the legislature’s last session, but a similar bill has already been filed in the 2011 session by State Sen. Rodney Ellis, who is also the Innocence Project Board Chairman. Dupree attended the swearing-in of the new legislature on January 8, and joined with the brother of another exoneree in writing an op-ed calling for reform this month.
Arson Experts Say Man Was Executed Based on Faulty Evidence
Forensic Investigation in Cameron Todd Willingham Case Continues
Two leading arson experts told a panel of Texas officials this month that Cameron Todd Willingham was convicted -- and executed -- based on faulty forensic evidence. At the request of the Innocence Project, the Texas Forensic Science Commission has been investigating possible forensic misconduct or negligence in the case since 2008. We hope the panel will eventually issue a report that could benefit other people wrongfully convicted on similarly flawed evidence. Commissioners heard testimony from several experts at the group’s January 7 meeting.
Willingham was convicted in 1992 and executed in 2004 for setting a fire that killed his three young daughters. He always claimed innocence, and even before his execution serious questions about the arson evidence were presented to state officials. Since 2004, many additional arson experts have concluded that there was no evidence to prove that Willingham committed arson.
At the January 7 hearing, International Association of Fire Safety Science President Craig Beyler told the commission that the arson finding in Willingham’s case was "inappropriate" because investigators failed to investigate natural or other causes. "At that point, it's just your personal feelings, and that's not what our profession is about," Beyler said. Watch video of the complete meeting here.
The Texas Forensic Science Commission met Friday, but again delayed the issue of a report on the Willingham case. Learn more about Willingham’s case and the Texas Forensic Science Commission here.
"Conviction" on DVD Tuesday
Rent or Buy the True Story of a Fight for Justice
"Conviction," the true story of Betty Anne Waters’ fight to overturn her brother’s wrongful murder conviction, comes out Tuesday, February 1st, on DVD. If you missed the film when it was in theaters, buy or rent it next week. The movie is also currently playing in cinemas in the United Kingdom and around the world.
In the film, Hilary Swank plays Betty Anne Waters, who fought for two decades to free her brother, Kenny Waters, from prison. She joined with the Innocence Project to obtain the DNA testing that eventually proved his innocence and set him free in 2001.
Visit our sitefor videos, photos, documents and more on the story behind the film. And pre-order a copy of the DVD at Amazon.com (a portion of proceeds will benefit the Innocence Project).
Why I Give: A Donor Profile
Senior Research Analyst, Russell Investments
San Diego, California
When I learned about the work of the Innocence Project five or six years ago, the gaps and flaws of our criminal justice system came into focus for me. I became increasingly aware of the danger of misleading eyewitness identification procedures, of questionable forensic evidence and of nefarious individuals willing to flout justice for personal gain. DNA exonerations expose the reality of a broken system.
I became a monthly supporter of the Innocence Project’s work because I know the organization is engaged in a long-term effort to overturn past injustices and prevent future ones. The Innocence Project needs a group of committed, regular supporters that they can rely on to be there month after month, and I’m proud to count myself among that group. Even better, my employer — Russell Investments — is generous enough to match my donations, doubling the impact of my monthly giving.
There are other ways to help the Innocence Project achieve their mission, too. I try to raise awareness of this issue by telling friends and family about the work of the Innocence Project, and I’ve been impressed at how this issue resonates across the political spectrum — everyone agrees that our justice system should be effective and efficient. Spreading the word among the public is a step toward real change because the system is supposed to represent the people. Most prosecutors and judges are elected (or appointed by elected officials), and voters should reward prosecutors who seek justice rather than convictions and hold them accountable when they refuse to reopen a case based on evidence of innocence.
Let’s join together to end injustice. Please join me today by setting up a monthly donation to the support the Innocence Project’s work.