Friday, David Lee Wiggins, a 48 year-old man who has served 23 years in prison, walked out of a Texas courtroom based on new DNA evidence proving his innocence. David was convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison, based largely on the mistaken identification of the 14-year-old victim.
The Innocence Project filed a motion for post-conviction DNA testing in David’s case in 2007, but earlier rounds of testing were inconclusive. At our urging, more sophisticated testing was done on the victim’s clothing earlier this month, and the results have definitively excluded David as a donor.
Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon has been cooperative with our efforts to obtain post-conviction DNA testing for David. In a press release issued Monday, Mr. Shannon said, “We will continue to cooperate with legitimate requests for post-conviction testing. The job of this office is not just to convict, but to see that justice is done.”
While David’s case is an example of how cooperative officials can make an exoneration go smoothly, it is also another tragic example of the fallibility of eyewitness identifications, which have contributed to nearly 75% of the wrongful convictions overturned by DNA. It is also why, in Texas and across the nation, we are pushing reforms that will help protect the innocent and accurately identify the true perpetrators of crime.
Friday, David Lee Wiggins finally received the justice that was denied him for 23 years. I hope you will join me in congratulating him and welcoming him home.