Tuesday, 29 Apr, 2008 Offbeat

Man Found Not Guilty After 27 Years Spent in Prison


A man who was sentenced to life 27 years ago was cleared of the crime and will be released on Tuesday.

James Lee Woodard, 55 year old man, of Dallas is the longest-serving man who was convicted by mistake that was proved by DNA testing.

Mr Woodard was sentenced in July 1981 for the murder of a woman, who was raped and strangled near the Trinity River in Dallas. The man was convicted following the testimony from two witnesses. One of them later repudiated a charge, while the testimony from the other witness is thought to be inaccurate.

The results of DNA test showed that James Woodard was not guilty of the crimes, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said after a careful review of the case has been done.

Mr Woodard was previously convicted of such crimes as burglary, marijuana possession, driving under the influence of the drugs, theft and unauthorized use of the vehicle, according to the criminal records.

Through his time spend in prison, he repeatedly wrote letters to an appeals court, asking for DNA testing. However, his request was denied because prosecutors explained that there was not evidence for such testing. Mr. Woodard insisted that he was not guilty of the murder of the woman, who was his girlfriend.

At last, during a program supervised by the Innocence Project of Texas, his request was reviewed in 2007 by Mr Watkins, the new District Attorney. The DNA tests of the semen excluded him as a rapist, but he still was convicted of the murder of his girlfriend.

In order to prove he is not guilty, the rape and the murder should have been tied, which was confirmed by a forensic pathologist who examined the results of DNA tests, autopsy photos and other evidence this year.

Dallas County prosecutors said that the mistake would not have happened had this evidence been available in 1981.

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