The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 3      January 24, 2011

Texas inmate’s conviction
overturned after 30 years
HOUSTON—After serving 30 years in Texas prisons for a crime he did not commit, Cornelius Dupree, Jr. was exonerated in court January 4. Dupree had been sentenced to a 75-year prison term in 1980 on charges of rape and robbery.

According to the Innocence Project, a New York legal center that specializes in wrongful conviction cases and that represented Dupree, he had already served more time for a crime he didn't commit than any other Texas inmate cleared by DNA evidence.

"Whatever your truth is, you have to stick with it," Dupree, 51, told reporters minutes after a Dallas judge overturned his conviction. Nationally, only two others discharged because of DNA evidence had spent more time in prison: James Bain, who was wrongly imprisoned for 35 years in Florida; and Lawrence McKinney, who spent more than 31 years in a Tennessee prison.

Texas leads the country in wrongly convicted prisoners being released through DNA testing. Since 2000 the state has been forced to release 42 inmates. Two others, including Dupree, have been released pending formal exoneration by the state. Nine of these were Houston-area prisoners.

Dupree was scheduled for release in 2004 and thought he was going home, until he learned he first would have to attend a “sex offender treatment program.”

Those in the program had to go through what is known as the "four R’s"—recognition, remorse, restitution, and resolution. Upon learning that he would have to acknowledge guilt as part of the “recognition” phase, he refused to participate and remained in prison indefinitely.

In Dupree’s case, accepting release would have meant confessing to a crime he never committed and ruining his chances to clear his name.

At the hearing where Dupree was finally released, at least a dozen other exonerated former inmates from the Dallas area, who collectively served more than 100 years in prison, upheld a local tradition by attending the court proceeding and welcoming the newest member of this fraternity of fighters.

Dupree's accused accomplice, Anthony Massingill, who was convicted in the same case and sentenced to life in prison on another sexual assault, remains in jail. The same DNA testing that cleared Dupree also cleared Massingill. He says he is innocent, but remains behind bars while authorities test DNA in the second case.

Three days after Dupree was freed, a panel met in Austin to investigate the execution of another man for the deaths of his three small children in a 1991 house fire. The Texas Forensic Science Commission called additional witnesses in the case of Cameron Willingham, who was executed by the state seven years ago.

The panel was scheduled to convene in 2009, but commission chairman John Bradley canceled that meeting in an attempt to close the case with a determination that investigators didn’t commit professional misconduct in the case. Other members of the commission objected to Bradley’s efforts, leading to the January 7 hearing.

The state forensic commission’s involvement was delayed for more than a year by Texas governor Rick Perry’s removal of three members in 2009, days before they were to review reports casting doubt on Willingham’s guilt.
Related articles:
Parole official opposes freeing Puerto Rican activist
Prisoners in Georgia protest dismal conditions  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home