What a wonderful way to start the New Year. Today in Dallas, Texas, Rickey Dale Wyatt was cleared after spending 31 years in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit. A Dallas County judge released Wyatt and recommended that his 1981 rape conviction be overturned based on DNA and other evidence.
Tragically, attorneys who prosecuted Wyatt 31 years ago contributed to this miscarriage of justice by concealing evidence of his innocence. The case was built on faulty eyewitness testimony, yet the victim originally described a perpetrator much taller and heavier than Wyatt. The prosecution dismissed these inconsistencies, arguing that the defendant’s appearance could have changed in the interval between the crime and his arrest. But there were documents in the prosecutor’s file proving that his appearance had not changed. Had this been shared with the defense as required by law, Wyatt may never have been found guilty.
The efforts of the Dallas District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit to seek the truth in this case are exemplary. The Unit helped secure DNA testing of biological evidence, which supported Wyatt’s innocence although it was somewhat degraded. This evidence, as well as the discovery of prosecutorial misconduct at trial, compelled authorities to further investigate the case and ultimately to call for Wyatt’s release.
Ten Dallas exonerees also attended today’s hearing to show support for Wyatt and to celebrate his freedom. Mr. Wyatt plans to live with his nephew Robert Smith, who testified at his trial and who now ministers to people returning from prison. Wyatt and his family will greet supporters and speak to the media at a press conference outside the Dallas County Courthouse. The Innocence Project is assisting with Wyatt’s adjustment to the outside world after three decades of wrongful imprisonment. We anticipate his full exoneration later this year.
Mr. Wyatt’s defense team includes the Innocence Project, Gary Udashen, of Sorrels, Udashen & Anton and the Innocence Project of Texas.
Thank you for your commitment to justice,
The Innocence Project
Source: The Innocence Project