Texas Man Declared Innocent After 30-Years Behind Bars
January 4, 2011
(ChattahBox US News)— The words used by the late Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “I have a Dream” speech resonates here, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” DNA evidence has once again exonerated a Texas inmate who spent more than 30-years behind bars serving a 75-year sentence for a rape and armed robbery he didn’t commit. Cornelius Dupree Jr., 51, was officially cleared Tuesday morning in a Texas courtroom, who later exclaimed “It’s a joy to be free again.” Welcome to the 21st century Cornelius!
Dupree’s exoneration, made possible by the Innocence Project, is just one of many instances of wrongful convictions in the State of Texas based on faulty eyewitness identification.
Sitting in the courtroom in support of Dupree, were six other Texans who were also cleared through DNA testing.
Dupree’s nightmare began in 1979 when he was mistakenly identified in a photo array shown to the victim.
“Dupree and Anthony Ray Massingill, who was also cleared through DNA evidence, were accused in a Nov. 23, 1979, attack on a 26-year-old woman and her male friend. The robbers carjacked the victims and later ordered the man from the car. They then raped the woman at gunpoint before shoving her out of the vehicle, as well.”
“The rape victim wrongly identified Dupree and Massingill in a photo lineup. The male victim could not pick out either man. At trial, both victims identified Dupree as one of the men who abducted them.”
Barry Scheck, of the Innocence Project is calling for Texas to reform its shoddy eye witness identification procedures.
“Cornelius Dupree spent the prime of his life behind bars because of mistaken identification that probably would have been avoided if the best practices now used in Dallas had been employed,” said Barry Scheck, Co-Director of the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “Yet most counties in Texas do not have these best practices in place. This must be remedied in the next legislative session by the adoption of an eyewitness identification reform bill that had the votes needed for passage last session but not enough time to get enacted. Let us never forget that, as in the heartbreaking case of Cornelius Dupree, a staggering 75% of wrongful convictions of people later cleared by DNA evidence resulted from misidentifications.”
Dupree, free on parole since July has been behind bars the longest of any other inmate cleared by DNA evidence in Texas.
Photo Source: The Innocence Project