Exonerations reached a record level in the United States for the second year in a row in 2015, with Texas again leading the way for miscarriages of justice.
The Houston Chronicle reported more than one in four exonerations were from drug convictions in Harris County.
The University of Michigan Law School’s National Registry of Exonerations noted there were 149 last year, including 58 for homicide offenses.
Texas has had some of the highest profile miscarriages of justice in the country. Here are five of the worst.
Miscarriages of Justice – Five of the Worst
Exoneration came for James Waller in 2007 at the age of 50. He was convicted of a crime almost 25 years earlier in 2005 when rape was committed against a 12-year-old boy who was living in his apartment.
The victim had been the main witnesses against him. Waller was exonerated by a judge after a new type of DNA testing on semen and hair had shown he did not commit the crime.
Waller had been out of jail on parole since 1993. He described the fight for justice as a “long, horrible road.”
Associated Press reported how Dallas County at the time of Waller’s exoneration had recorded more of these miscarriages of justice than the whole of California.
Kerry Max Cook
Cook spent 20 years on Texas’ death row before he was released. He was convicted of the rape and murder of Linda Jo Edwards in Tyler in 1977, but his conviction was overturned. He had a second trial that ended in a hung jury before a third resulted in the conviction being again overturned after a court found it discredited by prosecutorial misconduct.
Notwithstanding three previous trials, Smith County moved to try Cook for the fourth time. He agreed to a plea deal in 1999. He pleaded no contest and was set free from jail. Later DNA testing revealed traces of another man on the clothes of the victim. Cook later wrote a book about his wrongful conviction.
Technically, Cook remains a convicted murderer because he was not exonerated. He said it’s impossible to live a normal life.
Michael Morton became the poster child for miscarriages of justice in Texas and even had new legislation named after him following his high-profile exoneration.
After spending 25 years in prison for the murder of his wife, despite any evidence linking him to the crime, he was released on October 4, 2011, and exonerated two months later. DNA evidence later linked the killing of Morton’s wife to another murder two years later.
The Michael Morton Act that came into effect at the start of 2014 ushered in a new era of discovery rules for prosecutors.
James Curtis Williams and Raymond Jackson
James Curtis Williams and Raymond Jackson, two black men, received life sentences in the 1980s. They were convicted of raping and pistol whipping a white woman in Dallas in 1984.
Jackson was paroled in 2010, followed by Williams in 2011. Subsequent DNA testing found that neither man committed the rape. It also found a DNA hit to two other men incarcerated on unrelated charges. Williams and Jackson were exonerated in 2012 and received compensation.
Anthony Massingill was convicted of aggravated robbery and aggravated rape in 1980. He served more than three decades in jail before being finally exonerated on October 17, 2014. His conviction was based on the flimsy evidence of an eyewitness who misidentified him. Incorrect identifications and the testimonies of children are common factors in miscarriages of justice in Texas.
Our legal team at Peek & Toland , provides criminal defense for crimes of murder committed in the state of Texas, as well as rape and other serious offenses.
We are well aware of some of the grave miscarriages of justice that have occurred in Texas in the past. Not only does Texas execute the most people in the country, but it has the most exonerations. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 if you have been charged with a serious crime.