January 7, 2011
It's been a long road for Cornelius Dupree, 51. He served 30 years in prison after being convicted of a Dallas rape and robbery in 1980. DNA tests on evidence recently proved his innocence.
Dupree served more time than anyone in the state recently exonerated.
But for an innocent man who sat in prison for 30 years, Dupree shows a positive image. If you ask him about bitterness over what happened, he says there are mixed emotions. He lost a lot of time he can never get back.
"It's a joy to be free," Dupree Jr. told us at a press conference. "I don't dwell on it, I just go through my life, not worrying about what happened, but trying to make it better."
Exonerated this week, but actually out of prison since last summer, Dupree immediately married his wife Selma and moved to north Houston to be with her. They met while he was in prison 20 years ago.
"I was confident that he was innocent and here we are today and I always say it is just a God thing," Selma Dupree said.
Dupree's new found freedom is thanks the DNA evidence and legal group the Innocence Project. Under state law, Dupree is due compensation for his years behind bars. He is eligible for $80,000 for every year. That could come to a lump sum of $2.4 million.
"Our Conviction Integrity Unit thoroughly re-investigated this case, tested the biological evidence and based on the results, concluded Cornelius Dupree did not commit this crime," said Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins in statement.
Dupree had a chance to leave prison on parole six years ago. To do that, he was required to attend sex offender classes. He chose to stay behind bars, knowing he was innocent.
The couple says the system is broken. Now they have help to get it fixed.
"I think we need to put into place every procedure possible so that an innocent person does not have to spend one day behind a prison wall," said State Representative Sylvester Turner.
There have been 265 nationwide exonerated through DNA tests, 44 in Texas and six in Harris County. State Senator Rodney Ellis says mistaken eyewitness identification is mostly to blame. He's been trying to pass reform laws since 2005.
"Enough is enough, we ought to be embarrassed, it is an international embarrassment, they've wrongfully convicted so many people in Texas," said State Senator Ellis.