A Texas judge this morning freed Cornelius Dupree after more than 30 years of wrongful imprisonment.
DNA evidence cleared him of his conviction after the Innocence Project agreed to help disprove his involvement in the robbery and rape of 1979.
“It’s a joy to be free again,” he told reporters.
Dupree served more time in prison than any other person in Texas who was later cleared through DNA testing. Six other Texans who had been exonerated through such testing joined Dupree at the hearing,
“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.”
The Innocence Project lawyers are pushing for adoption by the legislature 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,” said Scheck.
Throughout the trial and since, Dupree has maintained his innocence. His defense at trial was misidentification. Dupree was sentenced to 75 years in prison. Although he appealed his conviction several times, none of these efforts were successful.
He eventually sought the help of the Innocence Project, which requested that the Dallas Country District Attorney’s Office initiate a search for the physical evidence in Dupree’s case. In 2007, the Innocence Project learned that pubic hair combings and cuttings that were taken from the female victim during the female victim’s medical examination immediately following the rape were available. With the state’s consent, a DNA test was conducted with the evidence, which found the presence of sperm from two males that did not match Dupree’s.
The DA’s office agreed with the Innocence Project that the DNA test results establish that Dupree is actually innocent and eligible for release.
(Source: Innocense Project)