Posted: November 22, 2012 7:30 AM
David Wiggins experienced freedom for the first time in over two decades when he was freed this past August in Dallas, Texas. Though he is looking forward to spending time with family this year for Thanksgiving, he concedes “Every day is a holiday for me. It just feels good to be free.”
Wiggins spent 23 years in prison for the sexual assault of a 14-year-old girl, though he always maintained his innocence. He was officially exonerated in October based on conclusive DNA evidence showing that he could not have been the perpetrator. Wiggins is one of several Innocence Project clients who will be spending their first holiday season at home with their families after years of wrongful imprisonment.
The average DNA exoneree served over 13 years. In that time, opportunities to start families, go to school, or establish careers come and go. Children grow up, grandchildren are born and relatives and friends pass away. Many exonerees, like Robert Dewey, could not attend the funerals of loved ones because they were in prison for crimes they didn’t commit. Others, like Michael Morton, went to prison when their children were toddlers and were denied the opportunity to raise them.
Wiggins remembers Thanksgivings at home as a child, when his Grandmother would bake pies and prepare the turkey and dressing. She has since passed away, but Wiggins will be spending the day with his younger brother and other relatives. He says, “I'm grateful to God this Thanksgiving. It was His grace that gave me my freedom. I'm also thankful for my friends and family and that this is finally off my shoulders.”
Happy Thanksgiving from the Innocence Project. We are thankful for your support this holiday season.
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