DNA frees Texas man imprisoned for 27 years

DALLAS Wed Apr 30, 2008 1:26pm EDT

James Woodard in an undated photo. Woodard walked out of a Dallas court on Tuesday after DNA testing overturned his conviction over 27 years ago for the murder and rape of his girlfriend, local media reported. REUTERS/Dallas County District Attorney's Office/Handout

James Woodard in an undated photo. Woodard walked out of a Dallas court on Tuesday after DNA testing overturned his conviction over 27 years ago for the murder and rape of his girlfriend, local media reported.

Credit: Reuters/Dallas County District Attorney's Office/Handout

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DALLAS (Reuters) - A man walked out of a Dallas court on Tuesday after DNA testing overturned his conviction over 27 years ago for the murder and rape of his girlfriend, local media reported.

James Woodard, 55, spent more time in prison than any other wrongfully convicted inmate in U.S. history who was subsequently freed by DNA testing, local media reported.

He was also the eighteenth person freed in Dallas County based on a post-conviction DNA analysis, according to the Innocence Project, a New York-based legal center that specializes in righting grave miscarriages of justice.

That is more than any other U.S. county, highlighting problems in the local justice system that include what critics have said is a history of racism and racial profiling.

Woodward is a black male -- the typical profile of those wrongfully sent to prison in Dallas and elsewhere in the United States.

"We've reached a tipping point on wrongful convictions in Texas. Nobody can seriously doubt that there's a problem," the Innocence project quoted Texas State Sen. Rodney Ellis as saying on Tuesday.

Ellis said on Tuesday a summit would be held in the state capitol of Austin on May 8 to determine the causes of wrongful convictions in Texas and identify reforms that can prevent them.

(Reporting by Ed Stoddard, editing by Todd Eastham)

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