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. IceT

    Our legal system is currently an adversarial one, one side against another – guilty or innocent. This needs to change to a cooperative one where both sides work to find the "truth" rather than "win" their side...this isn't a hockey game!

    January 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • LivinginVA

      EXACTLY!! Police and prosecutors are too motivated to "make the public feel safe", so they go for quick arrests and convictions, even if it means ignoring things.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kyle

    I feel sorry for the man. I did jail time and I was guilty of my crime and it sucked. I could not imagine doing 30 years when you are innocent. I hope they compensate him for it. That group pushing for the DNA testing are miracle workers. Imagine how many innocent people are in jail and you can't use DNA in there case.

    January 4, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
  3. RamRod

    He should have to pay the state back for room and board since he supposedly wasn't supposed to be there anyway.

    January 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. wewe

    so, I guess he just robbed them then?

    January 4, 2011 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • RamRod

      Either that or he used a condom, unlike his partner in crime.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. tin

    Don't mess with TEXAS, we will sentence you to prison even when you are innocent

    January 4, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texian

      Yep, them dam yankee's need to quit moving here and screwing up our state.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bobby byrd

    why did u change the picture dork

    January 4, 2011 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • fred claus

      i dont know man but like they shouldn't do that bruh

      January 4, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. txlydia

    Can't believe all the "Texas hate". BTW, it was a jury that found this man guilty. 30 years ago, DNA testing was not available. They have been doing alot of testing on the older cases, but people, come on....Texas is the largest state. Of course, we have more folks in prison than the other states. Maybe the jurors need to pay the 2.4 million instead of the Texas residents. They are the ones that found him guilty with the evidence provided at the time.

    January 4, 2011 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texian

      Don't try to confuse them with logic txlydia. We don't need no more yankee trash moving here and destroying our beautiful state.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • webby

      Lydia, having a little trouble with – Tx is the largest state – of course we have more people in prison. Have you looked at a population density map of Texas? Actually as of the year 2000, 27 states have a higher population density than Texas. The Innocence Project website says that 70 of exonerations are from minority groups. It also gives a geographical view i.e. by state. So if you Texans are feeling alone and put upon you can see how you stand with the rest of the country by visiting this page. This whole story breaks my heart.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Heckler

      Alaska is the largest state by mass and California is the largest state by volume. Thank you for playing public education though.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texian

      Alaska don't count. It's north of the Red River.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bartok

    They're trying to build a prison, they're trying to build a prison, they're trying to build a prison. For you and me to live in. Another prison system, another prison system, another prison system.

    January 4, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I buy my crack, my smack, my B**** right here in hollywooood!

      January 4, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Pete

    Texas sucks.

    January 4, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texian

      Yes we do. Stay away.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patricia

      Yes, Texas sucks so bad...that's why we have a new family moving here every 10 – 15 minutes from EVERY other state.

      @Texian – – Most of the Texas-hate comments are probably coming from the tree-hugging, granola-eating Californians...they're just angry because their state is in the toilet. Nobody in Texas wants them here.

      And yes, I'm a minority and I love living in Texas.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texian

      @ Pat....I know people from out of state are moving here in droves and it just makes me sick. I know our laws aren't perfect but what state has a perfect system. My heart does go out to this gentleman that was wrongly convicted and I do feel he should be compensated.
      But, people need to stop moving here!

      January 4, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Stevelb1

    This is why I am against the death penalty. So many people across the country have been freed.due to DNA evidence. This show that our criminal justice system is very broken in this country.

    January 4, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I'm with ya. This guy gets 30 years and O.J. gets nothing. Broken indeed!

      January 4, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Zulu

    America has 5% of the world's population. 70% of the world's lawyers, but we hold 25% of the world's prisoners. Agree, "It doesn't take a genius or a very high level of statistical analysis to understand there is something very wrong with these numbers."

    January 4, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Life is precious


      where did you get your figures from? I need it for a presentation.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • John D

      Would you prefer to live in a third-world country where there are less prisons? By your formula there would definitely be a lower population/lawyer/prisoner ratio.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Russell

      Don't know about the 70% of the world's lawyers, but the other stats were in this morning's edition of The Washington Post in an op-ed column by Michael Gerson.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      whats more palin stupid than posting figures with no backup. grats 2 u

      January 4, 2011 at 1:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kimo

      And f you were wrongly accused of a crime you would run out and get the best lawyer you could afford and you would use every one of those legal rights that liberals have fought for. Legal rights and appeals processes exist because the police and courts do make mistakes. But then you won't care about that unless it's you will you?

      January 4, 2011 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dig

      Also reported in Wall Street Journal that 87.3% of all statistics are made up.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • chazz

      Dempsy's right on point! Ignorant ass people always believe that minorities commit the most crime. The point is white folk have always committed the most crime, and have done the less time if they serve any time at all.

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

      I call horse malarkey on your statistics.

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

      Oh My Dear God!!!

      January 4, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • emtz

      overwhelming statistics! bull*****

      January 4, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • NickB5

      America does have 70% of the worlds attorneys according to: http://www [dot] associatedcontent {dot} com/article/913093/does_america_have_too_many_lawyers [dot] html?cat=17

      America has slightly less than 5% of the world's population but we hold 25% of the world's prisoners. according to: http://www [dot] nytimes [dot] com/2008/04/23/us/23prison [dot] html

      Or you can just check Wikipedia I guess.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • baboon

      if the juge is alife we pray the God to mercy him but if he diad he gat hail to enjoy with his frainds

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

      I'm not sure any other country pursues and prosecutes criminals like our country. I'm not sure if its a good or bad thing.

      January 4, 2011 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Retired LE

    Why did it take so long to do the DNA testing? That ability has been around for YEARS now. A mistake put him in prison but an injustice was done when it takes this long to find the truth.

    January 4, 2011 at 1:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dempsy

      I think that those incarcerated (even those that are obviously guilty) will say they are innocent. The correction must be made before conviction – not to try and fix it after the fact. 1 year behind bars (in my mind) is too long for a crime you did not commit.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • JackieInDallas

      Like any state, Texas does not automatically use DNA testing, and CERTAINLY did not 30 years ago. Some people forget that even as late as the late 1990s, DNA testing was still basically optional. It can be faked, and it can be foxed - we know that now!

      January 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      um lets see..... 110% of the prison population says they are innocent. so again what was your question? ah neer mind palin stupid award to u.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dempsy

    This is hard to swallow (at least for me). After reading a number of these stories I find it astonishing that the majority of those "mistakenly" convicted are 90% minority. How many more are there?

    January 4, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wes

      being that there has been DNA testing for some twenty-five years, I'd guess Dallas County deeds to caugh up a hefty sack of cash for this mans time.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wes

      being that there has been DNA testing for some twenty-five years, I'd guess Dallas County needs to caugh up a hefty sack of cash for this mans time.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crazy Utah Mormon!

      its mostly common for minorities because they commit most of the crimes. Would you say its odd that mostly women are diagnosed with breast cancer, no because they have the breasts.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      um what percentage of the prison population is minority again? 80%? ah no thats right its like 25%. palin stupid award to u.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Quinton

      Fock you crazy utah mormon!!!

      January 4, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lasha

      I don't get that either it seems that all this was happening in a time were blacks were considered less than. It has been to many black men being incarcerated for a crime they did not commit. I would be upset and i might have some Hatred for the state of Texas. I'm glad to see he is free, but you can't give me my life back there's not enough money in the world to replaces decades of time spent in prison with real hard core criminals

      January 4, 2011 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • WildSpark

      @Mormon Men get breast cancer, and poverty is a better indicator on crime rates than race. It just so happens that the majority of the lower class is non-white. I wonder why that is? Hmmm something must have happened historically to allow such a skewed distribution of wealth in this country. Hmm what was it....

      January 4, 2011 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dempsy

      Actually, minorities DO NOT commit most of the crime, I suggest you look up the national statistics (based on arrest records) on who the majority of crime offenders are; last I checked it was white (42.8%), black (36.5%) – murder and non-negligent homicide, whites (58.3%), black (39.4%) – non-lethal violent crime. I could go on listing property crime, hate crimes, or white collar crimes, where again whites are the higher percentage. It is the conviction rate that is skewed.

      Please come with data before making such egregious statements!

      January 4, 2011 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • ThunderKitty

      @Crazy Utah Mormon!
      Really?!!! You need to seriously get a clue.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • angel

      Dempsy, I have been wondering that question as well. Why so many minorities? It is probably because there is still a bit of racial profiling going on. And to Crazy Utah Mormon–did you know that white people commit crimes? Lots of them. They just don't get as much coverage as minorities because of the fact that they're white. Also, coming from Texas, I hope they get this problem resolved too. You see, I am myself a minority with a damn good education and have followed the law for all of my life, but I don't want to be mistaken for a killer someday.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • emtz

      it's so obvious, bunch of white trash prejudice judges!

      January 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • NativeHonor

      To Wildspark: It's called laziness

      January 4, 2011 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  14. James

    Texas. Enough said.

    January 4, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • JackieInDallas

      Notice you don't mention where YOU are from...I do. Texas is not automatically stupid, criminal, or backwards. We have our fair share of those who meet those criteria, but not really any more than what ever state or province YOU live in!

      January 4, 2011 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      No Texas has more then their fair share of Morons, idiots and brainless. I'm from Texas, a state where education ranks last in terms of priorities.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Texian

      I agree. People thinking about moving here should really rethink it.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • infonomics

      Americans hate Texas. Americans hate Arizona. Americans hate the South. So why do Americans call their country the United States of America?Also, the educational system in Texas may not be the cat's meow but the state does not have the humiliating distinction of descending from first to last as does California.

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

      To John and you're getting the idea...stay out of Texas...we don't want you here.

      January 4, 2011 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  15. txlydia

    Texas only seeks the death penalty only where there is physical evidence. In these cases (past several years), the DNA, Photos, Fingerprints, Eyewitness, etc. WILL prove your guilty. The death penalty doesn't come easy in Texas. The DA will only ask for it when there is really a "no doubt" case backed by hard evidence. And sorry to say, with with the surge from Mexico, Cuba and other states....we get alot of folks who would rather steal & kill than work for a living. Their mind set is what's MINE.

    January 4, 2011 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • John're a moron. Spreading your racist crap. Grow up, look around the whole world, it isn't as white as it used to be. People RUN from Mexico because of the violence, in other parts of the world they are called refugees in the US they are called Illegal Aliens.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boney

      txlydia, ignore that moron, he probably lives in a state that is not over run with illegals like Texas is.

      January 4, 2011 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • CathyJ

      I live in a state over run with illegals. They speak Spanish and a few get upset because YOU (meaning me) don't make an attempt to speak Spanish. I live in a country whose language is English and I have no desire to learn Spanish. THEY need to adapt to the culture NOT the people who live in this country adapt to them!

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

      Mexico has a stable, (relatively speaking) democratically elected government with immigration treaties, labor treaties and commerce treaties with the US. If there is a situation in Mexico beyond the control of their government, they can request international assistance from the UN or even the US to intervene with troops. The Mexican government has declined to do so, as is their option as a sovereign state. As has been pointed out several times by the Mexican government, the problem is localized to the border regions. So, the people in these regions do not need to illegally flee to another country to escape, they can take refuge in another part of their own country. They could also apply for an immigration or worker visa for the US and enter properly. The illegals are harming all of the people worldwide that want to immigrate to America legally but can't get approved- due to the abundance of illegal immigrants already here.

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

      Lydia, so you know, any Cuban who is in the USA is legal.

      January 4, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • angel

      It's really sad that people don't see the big picture. People may be fleeing from violence along the borders, but poverty is what people are really running from. Until you've seen it–the people living in boxes with filth and no food, and absoultely NO RECOURSE to their government or any other type of help–then you can make your comments. All of us here in America have no idea what real poverty is. Poor here is rich over there to some people. You have parents watching their children DIE. They are desperate. They come to America illegally because of that desperation, and also because it's the closest country to immigrate to. What other option do they have? To watch their children starve to death? If you think I'm exaggerating, you're clueless. Go over there and see it for yourself. Oh wait–you won't go over to Mexico, because you're scared of all the poverty and violence.

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

      To Angel: For one thing I would never have a child if I lived in poverty and couldn't feed him/her...that's just plain irresponsible. But most good people here understand why they want to come here. If I had been born in Mexico I would try to come here as well to make a better life. It's not that we object to people coming here, we object to them coming here and expecting to be given hand-outs. If immigrants want to come here and work, pay taxes, and pull their load then (IMHO) they are welcome. But, there are legal ways to do it. I've read stories of people who have been in this country for 20 years and are still not citizens...why? But believe me, deadbeats come in all colors and sizes and we don't want any of them here. The rest of us are tired of working for everything we have while others sit back and want everything handed to them while we pay the bill.

      January 4, 2011 at 10:07 pm | Report abuse |
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