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DNA Testing in Texas Proves Innocence After 27 Years Behind Bars

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James Woodard was imprisoned, accused of committing the horrendous crimes against his boyfriend, but always protested his innocence. After nearly three decades of perseverance and repeatedly contacting court officials – begging them to re-examine the facts and evidence of the case – it was DNA testing which proved James Woodard’s innocence in the end.

In addition to the evidence collected from DNA testing in this case, which proved James Woodard did not sexually assault his boyfriend, one of the key eye witnesses also retracted her official statement.

Perhaps it will only be of cold comfort to Mr Woodard, who no doubt would prefer he had not spent the best part of thirty years behind bars, but he does stand to be well compensated for his ‘inconvenience’! Earlier in 2009, the state of Texas made amendments to its compensation laws for wrongly convicted criminals. The new laws will see those who have been wrongly accused eligible for a lifetime annual payment in addition to a very generous $80,000 for each year they spent wrongly behind bars. For Mr James Woodard this means he stands to be compensated to the tune of $4.3 million.

In light of the DNA testing in this case, Mr James Woodard rightly received a full state pardon from Texas Governor Mr. Rick Perry. Mr Perry spoke of ending the miscarriage of justice that had been carried out and honourably noted that this was a small step considering the time Mr Woodard had served, whilst wrongly convicted, behind bars.

Currently, DNA testing in 39 murder cases in Dallas has led to men seeing their convictions overturned. Although not all details have been released, it is noted that one of these cases is set to go to a re-trial.

The Innocence Project, a legal centre in New York specialising in overturning convictions, has an abundance of information regarding DNA testing in post conviction cases. On its website, the Innocence Project tells of how some courts will still not consider DNA proof once a trial has finished. Given the accuracy of DNA testing, this fact is simply shocking. Furthermore, the Innocence Project states that sometimes defendants’ DNA has never been tested, even though it was available for testing and would have contributed to the ruling of the case.

Thankfully for Mr James Woodard, the evidence collected from the DNA tests for his case, came to light and were finally recognised by the courts. Jeff Blackburn, Chief Counsel and attorney in the Woodard case came out in full praise of his client. He praised Woodard for fighting his cause, even though for over two decades his pleas fell upon deaf ears and said Woodard was very deserving of the pardon and compensation.

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