Wrongfully Convicted Man Freed After 27 Years, Cleared by DNA


The Only Thing Bigger Than My Head
Feb 15, 2005
Elkton, MD
Texas man freed after 26 years in prison By JEFF CARLTON, Associated Press Writer
1 hour, 22 minutes ago

DALLAS - Three times during his nearly 27 years in prison, Charles Chatman went before a parole board and refused to admit he was a rapist. His steadfastness was vindicated Thursday, when a judge released him because of new DNA evidence showing he indeed wasn't. The release of Chatman, 47, added to Dallas County's nationally unmatched number of wrongfully convicted inmates.

"Every time I'd go to parole, they'd want a description of the crime or my version of the crime," Chatman said. "I don't have a version of the crime. I never committed the crime. I never will admit to doing this crime that I know I didn't do."

District Judge John Creuzot, whom defense lawyers credited with shepherding Chatman's case for exoneration through the legal system, recommended that Texas' Court of Criminal Appeals find Chatman not guilty. With several relatives dabbing at their eyes with tissues and cheering, Chatman was released.

"I really can't tell you how I feel," said his aunt, Ethel Barley. "But I can tell you it is a different feeling than I have had in a long time, just to be holding his own hand."

Before the crime is officially cleared from Chatman's record, the appeals court must accept the recommendation or the governor must grant a pardon. Either step is considered a formality after Creuzot's ruling.

Chatman became the 15th inmate from Dallas County since 2001 to be freed by DNA testing. He served more time than any of the other inmates, four of whom were in court Thursday to show their support.

Dallas has freed more inmates after DNA testing than any other county nationwide, said Natalie Roetzel of the Innocence Project of Texas. Texas leads the country in prisoners freed by DNA testing, releasing at least 30 wrongfully convicted inmates since 2001, according to the Innocence Project.

One of the biggest reasons for the large number of exonerations is the crime lab used by Dallas County, which accounts for about half the state's DNA cases. Unlike many jurisdictions, the lab used by police and prosecutors retains biological evidence, meaning DNA testing is a viable option for decades-old crimes.

District Attorney Craig Watkins also attributes the exonerations to a past culture of overly aggressive prosecutors seeking convictions at any cost. Watkins has started a program in which law students, supervised by the Innocence Project of Texas, are reviewing about 450 cases in which convicts have requested DNA testing to prove their innocence.

"It is time we stop kidding ourselves in believing that what happened in Dallas is somehow unique," said Jeff Blackburn, the founder of the Innocence Project of Texas. "What happened in Dallas is common. This is Texas."

The hearing attracted a standing-room-only crowd that included Watkins, who was greeted warmly by two wrongly convicted Dallas men who have since won their freedom. Also there was state Rep. Terri Hodge, a member of the criminal jurisprudence committee, who promised unspecified reforms when the Legislature convenes in 2009.

Chatman was 20 when the victim, a young woman in her 20s, picked him from a lineup. Chatman said he lived five houses down from the victim for 13 years but never knew her.

She identified him in court as the attacker, and serology tests showed that the type of blood found at the crime scene matched that of Chatman — along with 40 percent of other black males.

Chatman said he was working at the time of the assault, an alibi supported by his sister, who was also his employer. Nevertheless, Chatman was convicted of aggravated sexual assault in 1981 and sentenced to 99 years in prison.

Chatman said he believes his race led to his arrest and conviction. The jury, he said, had one black member.

"I was convicted because a black man committed a crime against a white woman," Chatman said. "And I was available."

Chatman said he wants to work with the Innocence Project of Texas to support other people exonerated or wrongly convicted.

"I believe that there are hundreds, and I know of two or three personally that very well could be sitting in this seat if they had the support and they had the backing that I have," Chatman said. "My No. 1 interest is trying to help people who have been in the situation I am in."


Associated Press writer Paul J. Weber contributed to this report.
This is really good to see. I like it when justice finally prevails.

You totally have to wonder what's going through the mind of his accuser now. Her little red wagon just lost its wheels after almost 30 years. He's gotta just be beyond pissed at her, and he has every right to be.


another case

My best friend was in college in Oklahoma when he was arrested coming back from a frat party. He was identified by the woman who was ***** so no dna test was ever done. 13 years he spent in prison where he was ridiculed, *****, beaten and sodomized just because of his crime. It was when one person who listened to his story decided to help him by providing him with enough money to get an attorney. They went back through the records and found that there was a **** kit taken at the hospital and then was put into the hands of the DA handling the case. He had witnesses that were going to testify that he couldn't have been the one who did it because he just didn't have enough time to do what they say he did, I was one of them. They told me that I was to close to him and that my testemony could be looked at like I was just trying to cover for him. The woman was ***** at around 1:15am and he was at the party with me until at least 3. He left the party and was walking home when two police officers stoped him and took him to jail.
13 years later, the dna test was done on the sample. When asked why this evidence was never turned over to the defense he simply satated that the state is not required to turn over any evidence that it does not intend to use in court. How stupid. This could have prevented him going to prison. When the test results came back it was 99.9999% that he was not the perp. As a matter of fact, he is black and the person who did it was white. I am white by the way. Our justice system is full of holes.
Another man was convicted of first degree murder even though there was no body. The only evidence was that they were going through a divorce and he had said six months prior to her dissapearing that he thought about killing her. I could understand if he said it and then the next day she was dead, but six months?


Registered User
Jun 28, 2006
The victim pointed him out? Damn, of course he was convicted. I'd have hunted that bitch down and killed her within minutes of my release.