A Texas man has been exonerated by a Dallas County Judge when DNA evidence proved he was wrongly convicted in connection with a 1979 Dallas rape, robbery and abduction case.
On Tuesday, Judge Don Adams told Cornelius Dupree, Jr., 51, You're free to go after DNA testing supported Dupree's claim of innocence.
Dupree and another man, Anthony Massingill, 49, were convicted in connection with the December 1979 case in which a man and woman were abducted at gunpoint at a liquor store on Dolphin Road near Interstate 30. The woman was sexually assaulted by the two men who had hijacked their car.
Shortly thereafter, Dupree and Massingill, who were on their way to a party, were picked up by the police two miles from the abduction site because police thought they matched the description of a different rape and robbery that had occurred the previous day. At the time of arrest, Massingill was found in possession of a gun.
According to Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, a New York legal center that specializes in wrongful conviction cases and represented Dupree, both Dupree and Massingill were misidentified in a photo lineup by the victim. Her male companion, who also was robbed, did not pick out either man when showed the same photo lineup.
Scheck said both men were in the same lineup, which is now against best practices used by law enforcement.
Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who created the conviction integrity unit after he took office in January 2007, Scheck and Dupree have all expressed the need to change how police departments conduct eyewitness interviews and lineups.
All but one of the county's exonerations involved faulty eyewitness identification. That's higher than the national average of 75 percent.
Like Dupree, Massingill has also been cleared in the case by DNA testing, but he remains behind bars because he is serving a life sentence concerning the similar rape case.
Dupree was also accused in the second rape case but a Dallas County grand jury refused to indict him.
While Massingill had no prior criminal record before he was accused in the 1979 rape and abduction cases, Dupree's only previous criminal record was a burglary charge that resulted in probation, which he successfully completed.
Dupree expressed joy to be free but said words won't make up for what I lost. He holds the record for serving the most time among 41 convicts found innocent through DNA testing in Texas since 2001, according to the Associated Press. Of those 41 wrongfully convicted individuals, 21 were in Dallas County.
During the three decades he was in prison, Dupree always maintained his innocence and told the police they got the wrong person. However, his appeals fell on deaf ears and the Court of Criminal Appeals turned him down three times.
Under Texas compensation laws for the wrongly imprisoned, Dupree is eligible to receive $2.4 million in a lump sum that is not subject to federal income tax. He is entitled to $80,000 for each year he was behind bars, plus a lifetime annuity.