Innocent man jailed in Texas since 1979 now free
Cornelius Dupree Jr., left, and Innocence Project lawyer Nina Morrison talk to CNN after Dupree became a free man.
January 4th, 2011
01:43 PM ET

Innocent man jailed in Texas since 1979 now free

A Texas man imprisoned 30 years ago on aggravated robbery charges had his conviction overturned on Tuesday after DNA evidence exonerated him.

Dallas County Judge Don Adams overturned Cornelius Dupree Jr.’s conviction Tuesday, clearing his name officially.

"It's a joy to be free," Dupree, 51, said outside court.

Dupree has served more years in a Texas prison for a crime he did not commit than anyone else in the state who was later exonerated by DNA evidence. Only two other people exonerated by DNA have spent more time in prison in the entire country, the Innocence Project said. Texas has freed 41 wrongly convicted prisoners because of DNA testing since 2001, more than any other state.

Dupree told CNN after becoming a free man that he had "mixed emotions" about the hearing considering how long he had been incarcerated.

"I must admit there is a bit of anger, but there is also joy, and the joy overrides the anger," he told CNN. "I'm just so overwhelmed with the joy of being free."

The judge's decision followed comments from Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins, who said the DNA testing shows Dupree "did not commit this crime."

Dupree is trying not to be too angry, despite having 30 years of his life taken away.

"I think that could have happened to anyone," he told CNN. "It's just unfortunate that it happened to me. The system needs to be corrected somehow."

That system he refers to includes Dallas specifically, where a record 21 people have been exonerated on DNA evidence, and Texas as a whole.

"Cornelius Dupree spent the prime of his life behind bars because of mistaken identification that probably would have been avoided if the best practices now used in Dallas had been employed,” Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, said in a press release. "Let us never forget that, as in the heartbreaking case of Cornelius Dupree, a staggering 75% of wrongful convictions of people later cleared by DNA evidence resulted from misidentifications.”

Nina Morrison, senior staff attorney at the Innocence Project, told CNN "an enormous number" of the wrongly accused people convicted in Dallas and around the country were convicted on the basis of mistaken witness identification.

But she said that big improvements in those procedures have been made "so that what happened to Mr. Dupree doesn't happen to anyone else."

Morrison attributed Dupree's exoneration also to the work of the district attorney who has been examining previous convictions closely - and to Dallas County's saving of evidence.

"Dallas has been a leader in saving evidence," she said, noting that even though the policy was evidence had to be saved from cases from 1981 and later, evidence from Dupree's case in 1979 still existed.

"So it was something of a small miracle" that it was preserved, she said.

Watkins, the district attorney, said there were really no standards in place about how to keep evidence, but when he came into office he made it his job to do whatever he could to "not just to seek convictions but to seek justice."

"We created a unit that specifically looked at claims of innocence," he said. "And unfortunately it shows people who made those claims were truly innocent."

Watkins works with Morrison and others at the Innocence Project now, hoping to right wrongs from the past, and bring trust back to a system that has been brought into question.

"It gives us credibility now," he said. "[Residents] actually believe in what we're doing, that we're here not just to seek convictions but to seek justice and seek the truth."

Dupree was paroled six months ago after DNA tests results came back. He was declared innocent on Monday, the Innocence Project said.

Dupree was accused of being one of two men who forced a 26-year-old woman and another male into a car at gunpoint in 1979, forcing them to drive the car and robbing them in the process, according to court documents. The two men also were accused of raping the female, court documents said. But, prosecutors did not pursue rape charges in the case because it would not result in additional jail time, according to the Innocence Project.

The female victim initially identified Dupree from a photo line-up, but the male was unable to do so, according to court documents. At trial, however, both victims said Dupree and his co-defendant Anthony Massingill were the ones who committed the crime. They were convicted, and Dupree was sentenced to 75 years. Massingill, who is also serving time for a separate rape charge, is expected to also have his conviction set aside, the Innocence Project said.

Dupree has been fighting for his innocence since the day he was arrested, and for years following his conviction claiming he was mistakenly identified as the suspect. The Court of Criminal Appeals turned him down three times.

“Mistaken identification has always plagued the criminal justice system, but great strides have been made in the last three decades to understand the problem and come up with fixes like those being considered by the state Legislature that help minimize wrongful convictions,” Morrison said in a press release. “We hope state lawmakers take note of the terrible miscarriage of justice suffered by Cornelius. When the wrong person is convicted of a crime, the real perpetrator goes free, harming everyone.”

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Filed under: Courts • Crime • Justice
soundoff (1,011 Responses)
  1. lost_soul_keeper_of_souls

    We all ways assume its the black man that did it. Open your eyes people . Its more of the white mans fault that these African American are getting a caused. What wold you do right now if we were at war in the land of the free. the only one around to help out is the black man. lot of people say it will not happen here but it will just remember that black man might save your life.

    January 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • NativeHonor

      Are you on crack? Your post makes absolutely no sense.

      January 4, 2011 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. CaliCitizen

    I agree that TEXAS OWES THIS MAN MILLIONS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!!!! How dare they just set him free without any sort of help back into society!? So sad that this country is so lax regarding those who are wrongly convicted? And to those of YOU who make this an issue of religion...go beg your God for forgiveness! This is NOT a religious or racial matter at all. Please do some growing up and educate yourselves on how to discuss issues in a tactful manner. It is just a shame as a fellow American to read some of these very, very silly comments.

    January 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Pay-Now

    This guy better be getting compensated enough to buy his own island. I would just start suing

    January 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  4. RadioCityMan

    but somebody commited the crime. WHo was it. somebody is roaming free on the streets or possibly commiting more horrible crimes these past 30 years.

    January 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ladybug

    If that isn't just what to expect from Texas.....nothing good has come from that State.
    Poor man...wasted so many good years. I hope they pay him well for his lost years, although you can't put a number on that! If not, I hope he sues them for millions!

    January 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      Texas is rediculous.....the people who put him there should be thrown in jail for the rest of their years!

      January 4, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      Let's see ...at 80,000 dollers a year in lost wages, that's $2,400,000.00. He deserves at least that.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      Nothing good has ever come from Texas? Anyone who speaks in absolutes like that is either an idiot or a democrat. Both of which have no place in Texas. Very proud that YOU did not come from Texas.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gail

      Ladybug did you also read Texas has freed 41 wrongly convicted prisoners because of DNA testing since 2001, more than any other state<< more then any other STATE.. We are not perfect, however at least we are freeing those. Texas is not a bad state.. Compared to others who, don't even acknowledge the innocent that they are holding and trying to get them free..

      January 4, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashika Hotchu

      Let me help you with that. I propose that whenever an American citizen is wrongfully imprisoned, whichever governmentimprisoned him/her will pay him/her $1,000 per day of wrongful imprisonment. So whatever city/county/state put Mr. Dupree in prison owes him something along the lines of $10,957,500. This would provide a nice incentive for the city/county/state/federal government to get it right the first time.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • GOTTHUMBS

      $80,000 a year....please be sure to subtract the cost of housing, food and medical during that time. Its a very sad situation He's got through, but where are the two who picked him out of a line up? They are the witnesses that said "He did it" Not the justice system at that time.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Aman

      $2,4M is just lost wages.... what about the agony and pain he went through sitting behind those walls and thinking what did he do wrong to deserve that..... I hope he get a very big settlement which makes his future years just fun and be some compensation for what he lost......his prime years in prison....

      January 4, 2011 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • cbozey

      NASA? No State Income Tax? Great football and baseball team(off and on :P)? Look at articles on most recession proof cities and you will find about 6 from texas....more than any state. Texas is not a bad state, and is definitely not the worst. Enough defending Texas. I can just laugh at your stupidity for pointing the finger at texas as though it is the only state wrongly convicting people. ><

      January 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • GOTTHUMBS

      Ashika Hotchu. I like your systematic approach to this. It removes any influence and emotion from either side. I'm wondering what the % will be for the lawyers though. He'd end up with only $5 out of each $1000. sorry to be so cynical, but I'm not a huge fan of 90% of our lawyers. Lots of BS goes on because of them. IMO

      January 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • gil

      Excuse me, everything is good about Texas. I'm sorry that this happened to this man.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • SKSK

      Well Gail.....thats one way to look at it I suppose. Another would be that Texas has released the most because they have wrongly convicted the most.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Johnson

      I like the gist of Ashika's proposal and will suggest it to my political representatives. However, I think $1,000 is far too low.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • John R

      Ladybug, I'm from Canada and I can think of several great things that have come out of Texas. I say so because as long as we all make generalizations, the world won't improve. It's a form of stereotyping...which we all know is wrong. Right??

      January 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • ohmyscience12

      @jeff oh really only democrats think in absolutes? so when bush repeatedly stated during his presidency in regards to the war on terror, "you're either with us, or against us" you werent paying attention...

      January 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Don't talk bad about Texas. Theirs nut jobs everywhere. Texas isn't a bad place. Just because Bush and a few other "hated" things are from here doesn't mean were all insane.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • JZG

      Tx DID NOT do this to him, the eyewitnesses did it....people stop blaming the government for the citizens mistakes...everything is always blamed on the governemnt and the ones holding office....GIVE IT A REST ALREADY!!!!!!

      January 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Syncretic

      For what it's worth, Texas has made some recognition of their (past?) tendency to lock people up unjustly, and their consequent debt to those people. Since 2009, Texas has the country's most generous compensation law for the unjustly-imprisoned. Dupree will receive $80,000, tax-free, for each year stolen from his life. Provided he agrees not to sue anybody, that is.

      The Innocence Project notes that Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming have NO compensation law in place for people who may have been unjustly imprisoned in those states. So let's at least give Texas a little credit for trying to make some amends at this late date.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • jason

      Hats off to the Innocence Project – What a great organization. If anyone wants a real great book, read "The Innocent Man" by John Grisham.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • AshahsMommy

      So true! Only in Texas. They really need to look go through every case in Houston. That one DA who had a vengeance towards anything of color!

      January 4, 2011 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben

      @ gail:

      "Texas has freed 41 wrongly convicted prisoners because of DNA testing since 2001, more than any other state."

      Gail, put your thinking cap on. The reason Texas has FREED more wrongly convicted citizens than any other state is because they WRONGLY CONVICTED more citizens than any other state.

      And while it may not be accurate to say that NOTHING good ever came out of Texas, it appears to be a powerful magnet for ignorant hicks, macho morons and bigots. I lived there for two years (Amarillo) and couldn't get out fast enough. Texas keeps threatening to "secede from the Union." I say we why wait? Let's give it (and its residents) back to Mexico. Good riddance!

      January 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      Oh please....because every other state besides Texas had the ability to convict using DNA evidence for the past 40 years, but Texas just chose not to accept it's scientific fact? I don't think so.....

      January 4, 2011 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • MidwestGrl

      Jeff: I agree – I cant stand when people speak in absolutes too! But I know plenty of Republicans & Tea Partiers who do the same thing...runs across party lines....

      January 4, 2011 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Conservative in Seattle

      Anyone ever here about the story of Joseph. A lot of good came out of his being wrongfully accused and imprisoned. I have a feeling that God had a plan that allowed this to happen, and very probably Mr. Dupree may know something the press hasn't yet shared. Happy New Year! Walk in the light..

      January 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rodd

      Gail
      The only reason this Innocent Project has occurred in Texas is because of Craig Watkins the District Attorney for Dallas which so happens to be an African American. Prior to this, nothing was ever done and probably wouldn't have been done in the city of Dallas. This is a travesty and just goes to show how corrupt, crooked and racist the city of Dallas was at the time. This Is Ridiculous At Best!!!!!!!

      January 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • NativeHonor

      To Ben: So you spent 2 years in Amarillo but you're an expert on every other place and person in Texas. Well, at least that shows how ignorant you are. Trust me, you couldn't get out fast enough for us either...and don't ever come back.

      January 4, 2011 at 8:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • NativeHonor

      To AshahsMommy: If you truly believe that is only happens in Texas then I feel really sorry for Ashah...better luck next time kid.

      January 4, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Report abuse |
  6. texan girl

    Wow he if finally free but its so sad that he spent all that time in prison for something he never did. just imagine all those innocent prisoners' that are encarcerated no wonder we have a high percentage of prisoners there must be innocent people making the percentage so high

    January 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Johnson

      "Sad" is an understatement - it is an outrage. An "aww...I'm sorry" is far from enough. Texas should be compensating him with many millions of dollars, at the least, though it's hard to put a number on 30 years of your life being taken away

      January 4, 2011 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sleepless in Chicago

      I think GOTTHUMBS should be locked up for 31 years for a crime he didn't commit, since he must've done "something"! Let's show HIM that Karma is a b-h!

      January 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Geaux Saints

      Just imagine how many women lie and never do any time for the crime like that reporter in New York. That is why women are almost never to be believed now days.

      January 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • rocaho

      GUTTHUMBS IS A MORONIC IDIOT. I capitalized that for you just so you could see.

      January 4, 2011 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • John R

      The headline to this story, from CNN's homepage, is "Innocent Man May Go Free". I would hope it's "WILL", not "MAY".

      January 4, 2011 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anthony

      Since it is apparent that this guy didn't do those crimes, where is the guy that did? The cops must have let him slip through their fingers and get away with it. Nice going Dallas PD!

      January 4, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Samuel

      Yea, apart from this whole episode being completely outrageous, whats sad is that though it is on CNNs home page, it is still not in the most popular stories being read... Goes to show how the reduced sensitivity of the general public to these outrageous discrepancies in our judicial system and the number of such false indictments in the recent past.

      January 4, 2011 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kat

    Racism is everywhere.....OPEN YOUR EYES!

    January 4, 2011 at 2:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • MMM

      HOMNOM!

      January 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • sqiddy79

      I new it was only a matter of time before someone pulled the race card.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jeff C

      This is not "pulling the race card." This is fact that most of these false convictions are based on white eyewitnesses fingering black men. This is what happens when white people live in white communities and black people live in black communities – they start to see other races in generalities instead of specifics and it causes bad IDs. So, yes, this has everything to do with race.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • kris

      Idiots are everywhere.....SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!

      January 4, 2011 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lean6

      As soon as someone says "race card" or "OJ", I know i'm dealing with a complete moron or at least a coward who thinks he can make an uncomfortable subject go away by saying some magic word.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr Nice

      He was white when he went to jail. Now look at him! Look at him! How will Texas ever repay him? And don't say make him Mexican

      January 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • JW

      The US has the highest incarceration rate of any country, and Texas has the highest incarceration rate of any state. On top of that, 2/3rds of the state is white, but only 1/3 of the prison population is white. How many blacks and Hispanics in Texas prisons are due to racism? My guess is the majority.

      January 4, 2011 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. eleanor fitzgerald

    i have never been to Texas. I wonder if the stars at night are still big and bright! I cannot help noticing a lot of anger and insults in the comments. We are all human and make mistakes. This one was tragic and terrible for this man. I hope Texans and the rest of us rise up and insist a better job is done by police, prosecutors, judges and others involved in the justice system so that this never happens again in Texas or anywhere else in the U.S.

    January 4, 2011 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe Johnson

      A better job is not enough. This man deserves justice for his wrong or at least monetary compensation. What you're saying is like saying "let's demand that the kidnapper doesn't kidnap anymore"

      January 4, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      There is more self-righteous hate, racism and false Christianity in Texas than in any other state.

      January 4, 2011 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • mypitts2

      This is more than just making a mistake. This guy is the 41th person in just the last few years that Texas has found was innocent and had to release. This is to say nothing of the potential number of innocent people whose cases don't have any DNA evidence. We are talking about a systemic problem here, and the justice system there needs top to bottom reform. Keep in mind that Texas leads the country in executions. What are the chances there are innocent people on death row? I'd say better-than-average.

      January 4, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  9. brodius r

    I'm so glad that the inncent project is hear in america. My heart goes out to mr depree..mr depree if I was in your position I would SUE the hell out the DAs office and the state of TX....please mr depree is your opporunity to make your life much much better. Start over and travel the world.....move out of the USA. GOD BLESS U

    January 4, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  10. emtz

    i wounder who is going to give him his 30 years of life he spent on prison!

    January 4, 2011 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. JJDemos

    And what will he get for 30 years of service to the state?

    January 4, 2011 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • mypitts2

      $80,000 a year. The most generous of any state, but never enough.

      January 4, 2011 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Yvette

      He should get a pension

      January 4, 2011 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  12. randy

    I started school in Texas and let me tell you it was like every day a child came up missing from the complex we lived in. And the ppl that convicted this guy 30 years ago are probaly dead by now but I agree he does deserve a life with plenty of what ever he wants

    January 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • NativeHonor

      "Every day a child missing"? Seriously? Me thinks you tend to pile on the BS. Maybe you should have finished school in Texas so you would know how to spell.

      January 4, 2011 at 10:36 pm | Report abuse |
  13. chazz

    For most of my adult life it was rather comforting to know I wouldn't be pulled over for being a serial killer suspect. DC Sniper changed all that.

    January 4, 2011 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
  14. kimjohill

    racism in texas?....thats so cliche like sand in the desert

    January 4, 2011 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • NativeHonor

      And like stupid posts to a blog...like yours.

      January 4, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Luke Brown

    If the Christians in Texas actually behaved like Christians, it would be a great state. Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen. There are still plenty of Christians in Texas who equate being brown or black with potential rapist, murderer, and drug-dealer.

    Mr. Cornelius, sue the state of Texas for every dime you can get ... and then get your black ass outta that redneck state.

    January 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • John R

      Um, Luke, as a Canadian (and Christian), I just don't even know where to start with your generalizations. I've consulted in Dallas about 8 times....it's one of the most diverse cities in the US. I hear almost as much Punjabi and Cantonese as I do in Vancouver. I guess you feel you pretty much understand the world in the terms you currently think in, though. Good luck.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      John,

      I have been to Dallas hundreds of times. Just because you eat in Chinese and Indian restaurants doesn't mean the city is diverse.

      January 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mr Jingle

      @John R–Texas wasn't that "diverse" in the 70's. You had blacks, white and hispanics. Stop seeing the world through rose-colored glasses. I forgot you are from Canada.

      January 4, 2011 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • NativeHonor

      And like your statement is Christian like...that's like calling the kettle black (pardon the pun).

      January 4, 2011 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
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