Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Reliability of eyewitness identification in criminal cases takes another hit--Cornelius Dupree Jr., sentenced to 75 years in prison, is innocent

Houston man vindicated
Imprisoned 30 years after victim identified him, Cornelius Dupree Jr. is cleared by DNA
Jan. 4, 2011

The reliability of eyewitness identification in criminal cases took another sock in the eye Tuesday as Cornelius Dupree Jr., a Houston man sentenced to 75 years in prison for a rape-robbery he did not commit, walked out of a Dallas courtroom a free man.

Dupree, 51, served 30 years for the 1979 Dallas crime before being paroled last July. Days later, DNA testing in the case — performed at the behest of the New York-based Innocence Project - showed he was not the rapist.

Minutes after a Dallas judge vacated the conviction Tuesday morning, Dupree called the experience "bittersweet."

"I want to enjoy the moment," he said, "but I have mixed emotion with things in the past. No one heard my cry for justice. I had to wait 30 years."

While incarcerated, Dupree made three unsuccessful appeals to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. He spent more time in prison than any other Texas inmate cleared through new DNA testing.

Under Texas law, Dupree is eligible for $80,000 for each year he was wrongly imprisoned, plus a lifetime annuity.

The Innocence Project's Barry Scheck called Dupree's wrongful conviction "just mind-blowing," identifying it as "a classic case of eyewitness misidentification."

Texas leads the nation in identifying wrongly convicted prisoners through DNA testing. Since 2000, the state has exonerated 42 inmates. Two others, including Dupree, have been released pending formal exoneration by the state. Bogus eyewitness identifications played a role in all but six of the convictions.

Nine Harris County inmates, convicted at least in part through eyewitness identifications, have been cleared through DNA testing.

"What this indicates to me," Scheck said, "is that there are a lot more prisoners that just didn't commit the crime. We just can't find them."..

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