Thursday, October 01, 2009

James Woodard pardoned!

Congrats to James Woodard, Texas' longest-serving DNA exoneree (28 years) who finally received his formal pardon yesterday from Governor Perry. AP notes that "The official declaration of James Woodard's innocence clears the way for the Dallas man to collect millions of dollars from the state." (See 60 Minutes coverage for background on his case.)

I got to know James a bit during the legislative session, particularly during the exoneree lobby day organized by the Innocence Project of Texas when he and I walked around together all afternoon talking to members and their staffs. At the time, he'd been out just a few months.

Like many exonerees, James has faced health problems and a rough transition back to the free world. In addition to the reentry problems you'd expect, there was also an aspect of culture shock that's been difficult to overcome. I recall James mentioning to state Rep. Debbie Riddle that when he was arrested and put in jail it was the end of the Carter Administration. What were you doing at the end of the Carter Administration? (I mean, besides listening to 45 rpm records and 8-track tapes.) It's hard to fathom an existence where everything that's happened in your life from then to now vanishes, substituting a wrongful prison term for another man's crime. It's a tragedy of almost Shakespearean proportions, except that the Bard wasn't so cruel - he usually killed his protagonists rather than have them endure what James Woodard went through..

Good luck, James. I hope the pardon helps you turn the page and start a new, happier chapter of your life.


Whitsfoe said...

"What were you doing at the end of the Carter Administration?"


Anonymous said...

Saying one day Im going to be a real boy

Hook Em Horns said...

Wow! "What were you doing at the end of the Carter Administration?" That says it all. The technology alone would be overwhelming not to mention a society that has advanced in how it does things if not in how it thinks.

While it is impossible for Texas to give this man back the life that they stole, the millions of dollars should help.

Anonymous said...

Now that Texas has started paying these guys large sums of money (rightly so I believe) when will the taxpayers start holding DA's and judges accountable for the problems that lead to these wrongful convictions.

I was thinking about the ongoing circus in Smith County known as the Mineola Swinger's Club case. I won't go into the details here. You can read the Texas Monthly articles for the details. THe Smith County DA's office lied and withheld evidence that has lead to the wrongful conviction of 3 people so far and they are attempting to prosecute 2 more. It is now an established fact that a Texas Ranger committed perjury in the case. If they weren't so blinded by their own arrogance and ambition they would be able to see, what any reasonable person can see is that this case is bogus and these people are innocent. I figure even if this were to be resolved within the next year or 2 and these people were to be released the taxpayers would still be out at least $1 million. A million dollars in taxpayer money wasted because of Matt Binghams arrogance and stupidity. Jack Skeen, as the judge in all of these cases (not by accident), also bears some responsibility. I wonder how much wasted taxpayer money it will take for people to start waking up and demanding that these people be held accountable for their actions.

How about this. When a prosecutor acts improperly, and this conduct is directly linked to a wrongful conviction, the taxpayers should be able to sue that proseuctor perosonally to recover as much of the taxpayer's money as possible.

Jennie said...

It was way after 8 tracks just for your information.

However gasoline was $.60 a gallon and a postage stamp was $.13 and a gallon of milk was under $2. Medium household income was $13,000 a year.

Big changes. I sure hope he has good help like financial and tax along with a great therapist for adjustment!

But good luck to him - he deserves nothing but the best!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"way after 8 tracks "

FWIW, according to Wikipedia they were still around: "Eight-track players became less common in homes and automobiles in the late 1970s. By the time the Compact Disc arrived in 1982–83, the eight-track had greatly diminished in popularity."

Anonymous said...

James Woodard

"But the DNA test results did not immediately free him (Woodard). It absolved him of the rape. But he had been convicted of murder. "The problem is they tried it as straight murder and not rape and murder," Ms Roetzel said. "We had to be able to tie the rape to the murder to get a post-conviction release." Prosecutors at the time believed the rapist was also the murderer."

Anonymous said...

Suing the DA and anyone on his staff for wrongful conviction won't work...they make crap salary. I say lock them up, make them do pro bono for inmates, not represent them at trial, but write legal brief and appeals. The research alone would drive them crazy...put their "knowledgable" behinds to work.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations, James. Welcome back to the free world.

As for suing the DA's, etc. No, I think they need to do time in prison for these egregious rights violations. The State and County should pay financial settlements for the wrongs done on their behalf by people operating on their own agendas under Color of Office or Color of Law, depending on whom it is. Ultimately, the government is responsible- and while they've given caps for some liabilities, they couldn't cap something like this.