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Man Freed on DNA Evidence After 30 Years in Prison (941 hits)

Cornelius Dupree (pictured) was sent to prison in 1979 on charges of rape and robbery. After doing more than 30 years in prison, he has finally been set free by the Innocence Project.

Dupree served more time in a Texas prison than any other innocent person in the history of the state. There are only two others in this country who have served more time and been exonerated, according to the Innocence Project:

"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," said Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project. "Let us never forget that, as in the heartbreaking case of Cornelius Dupree, a staggering 75 percent of wrongful convictions of people later cleared by DNA evidence resulted from misidentifications."
Dupree is now 51 years old. He was accused of being in a group of two men who forced a woman and her male friend in to a car and then raping the woman. Dupree was identified by the woman in a police lineup, but the male did not identify him. At trial, though, both victims claimed that Dupree and Anthony Massingill were the men who committed the crime, and Dupree was given 75 years in prison.

For three decades, Dupree fought for his innocence and was turned down for appeal on all three occasions. The Texas prison system is known for being the harshest and most racist justice system in the United States.

According to Robert Perkinson, a historian at The University of Hawaii, the Texas prison system gave 30 years to Lee Otis Johnson, a black power advocate who simply passed a joint to an undercover officer. To this day, there are seven times more black prison inmates in Texas than whites, according to Professor Perkinson's book "Texas Tough: The Rise and Fall of the Prison Emprire."

Whether in the state of Texas or in a place like Georgia, where the inmates went on strike last month, prison reform is needed. If you believe that Cornelius Dupree is the only innocent man behind bars, you're sadly mistaken.

The truth is that the Innocence Project, as brilliant as it may be, only has the resources to investigate a limited number of cases. Additionally, most of the men and women freed by the Innocence Project happen to be African American. This argues for the necessity of black organizations, politicians and regular citizens to supplement the great work of the Innocence Project by demanding substantial reform in the Prison Industrial Complex.

Prison reform is not about saving guilty people. It's about saving our families who've been historically persecuted by a system that has its roots in slavery. For African Americans, there is no justice in our so-called justice system.

By Boyce Watkins, PhD on Jan 4th 2011 12:37PM

Posted By: anita moore
Wednesday, January 5th 2011 at 3:43PM
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