There's another victory for the folks over at The Innocence Project! Last week in a Dallas courtroom, a judge declared The Innocence Project's client Cornelius Dupree innocent after more than three decades in prison for a crime he did not commit.
DNA testing obtained by the Innocence Project proved that Mr. Dupree had been misidentified and wrongfully convicted of a 1979 rape and robbery in Dallas. Mr. Dupree was 19 years old at the time and sentenced to 75 years in prison. Throughout the trial and since, Mr. Dupree has maintained his innocence and, after serving 30 years, he was released on parole last July while DNA tests were pending. Mr. Dupree served more time in prison than any other person in Texas who was later cleared through DNA testing.
Cornelius Dupree’s case serves as another reminder of the urgency of reforming eyewitness identification procedures. In the U.S. a staggering three-quarters of wrongful convictions later overturned by DNA evidence resulted from misidentifications. Of the 40 people exonerated through DNA testing in Texas, 34 were misidentified by at least one witness.
A bill to reform eyewitness identification procedures in Texas was introduced last year and would require all law enforcement officials to adopt written policies for identification procedures, including lineups and photo arrays such as the one used in this case. Authored by State Senator and IP Board Chair Rodney Ellis and State Representative Pete Gallego, it is our hope that this important bill will be adopted in the next legislative session. Please visit their website to learn more about Cornelius Dupree's case and the proposed reforms in Texas.
The Innocence Project staff in New York City spoke with Cornelius Dupree by phone shortly after the court hearing. He expressed his deep appreciation for the organization's hard work. “Without you,” he said, “I wouldn’t be free.”
The Foundation would like to extend its congratulations to The Innocence Project. Each post-conviction DNA exoneration creates a learning moment able to bring about meaningful and lasting reform. Moreover, significant media coverage of the exonerations like this galvanizes public support for policy reform. Overbrook is proud to have supported The Innocence Project for a decade. Its been an honor to watch the organization to protect the public against wrongful prosecution and convictions.