Saturday, August 25, 2012

Latest DNA exoneration based on flawed eyewitness ID from 1989

Via AP, here are details ofthe latest Texas DNA exoneration out of Fort Worth of a fellow convicted based on faulty eyewitness identification:
A man who spent more than two decades behind bars was freed Friday after DNA evidence cleared him in the rape of a 14-year-old Fort Worth girl.

David Lee Wiggins was convicted and sentenced to life in prison in 1989, although neither of the two fingerprints found at the scene matched his. The girl, whose face was covered during most of the attack, picked Wiggins out of a photo lineup and then a live lineup, saying he looked familiar.

But DNA testing earlier this month excluded Wiggins as the person who committed the crime. Tarrant County prosecutors said DNA evidence demonstrated his innocence.

State District Judge Louis Sturns in Fort Worth freed Wiggins on a personal bond after approving a motion to overturn his conviction. Before the crime is officially cleared from his record, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals must accept the judge's recommendation or the governor must grant a pardon. Either step is considered a formality after the judge's ruling.

"I hold no bitterness," Wiggins said in court after the judge's ruling. "I'm thankful to Jesus Christ. He said he could move mountains, and surely this was a mountain. ... And to the victim: I'm not mad at you. I don't hold you responsible."
The packed courtroom then erupted into applause and people rose to their feet. Wiggins later hugged his relatives and some other men who have been freed from prison after DNA evidence exonerated them in recent years. About a dozen of them attended the court hearing to support Wiggins.

"We draw strength from each other," said Charles Chatman, who was freed in 2008 after serving nearly 27 years for a rape he did not commit. "We're the only people who know what we are going through."
Grits offers hearty and heart-felt congratulations to Wiggins and his attorneys. See a related editorial from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and coverage from the Texas Monthly Daily Post blog.


Lee said...

Were it me, I would still hold the victim, prosecutor and judge responsible. It was a case that I was supposed to have nothing to do with but yet got hit in the crossfire. I was not their enemy until they made me the enemy. All of a sudden after ten years of inhumane incarceration they want to play nice....
It is in the best interests of the state not to place me in that predicament as i would be very angry. My interest would be in vengance.

Anonymous said...

Did Grits miss this?

Anonymous said...

When the cops and prosecutor can't do their job, they pick an innocent victim.

Lee said..."Were it me, I would still hold the victim, prosecutor and judge responsible." I'm a big fan of an eye for an eye! Watch your backs!

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Karen said...

DNA evidence is a relatively new instrument of exoneration. The first convicted defendant from a United States prison to be released on account of DNA testing was David Vasquez, in 1989. Recently, DNA evidence has been used to exonerate a number of persons either on death row or serving lengthy prison sentences. As of October 2003, the number of states authorizing convicts to request DNA testing on their behalf, since 1999, has increased from two to thirty. Access to DNA testing varies greatly by degree; post-conviction tests can be difficult to acquire. Organizations like the Innocence Project are particularly concerned with the exoneration of those who have been convicted based on weak evidence. As of October 2003, prosecutors of criminal cases must approve the defendant's request for DNA testing in certain cases. In other contexts, to exonerate can mean simply to free somebody from blame or guilt: to declare officially that somebody is not to blame or is not guilty of wrongdoing.

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