Tue Apr-29-08 01:18 AM
17th exoneration in Dallas county most in nation.
Man set to be 17th exonerated by DNA in Dallas County
By JENNIFER EMILY / The Dallas Morning News
Illegally withheld evidence probably caused a man who will be exonerated today to spend more time behind bars than anyone in the country cleared by DNA, the Dallas County district attorney's office and the Innocence Project of Texas said Monday.
James Lee Woodard is expected to be released today by state District Judge Mark Stoltz and become the 17th man exonerated by DNA in Dallas County, which has more DNA exonerations than any other county in the nation.
Mr. Woodard, who has a record for nonviolent crimes, is the second man cleared by DNA during a review of 350 defendants' requests for DNA tests that were denied under previous District Attorney Bill Hill.
Like many in Dallas County exonerated by DNA, Mr. Woodard was convicted during the era of District Attorney Henry Wade. Current District Attorney Craig Watkins has repeatedly said he believes that during this time, prosecutors were more focused on convictions than justice.
In several handwritten letters, Mr. Woodard begged Mr. Wade to reinvestigate his case and always maintained his innocence. He said that his letters were always answered by a prosecutor saying nothing could be done because a jury convicted him.
In a March 1985 letter, Mr. Woodard wrote to Mr. Wade: "If you found out for yourself that I was innocent, would you let me go?"