The Texas state court system made history earlier this month when it overturned its 118th conviction. Here, the conviction in question involved a horrific murder, a 99-year prison sentence and advanced DNA testing.
Back in 1984, Randolph Arledge was convicted of the fatal stabbing of a woman on a dirt road in rural Texas. Authorities processing the crime scene at the time removed several pieces of evidence from the victim's car, which was found several miles away, including a hairnet complete with hair samples. This evidence was then preserved for three decades.
In the meantime, Arledge was sent to prison based on the testimony of two men who were co-conspirators in a separate armed robbery in another state. Here, the two men testified that Arledge had admitted to stabbing someone in Texas, and that there was blood on both his clothes and knife.
One of these men would eventually reveal that he had given false testimony during the trial because of a dispute he had previously had with Arledge.
Flash forward several decades to 2011, where advanced DNA testing performed on the hair sample taken from the car definitively proved that it did not belong to Arledge, but rather to another person who law enforcement officials are currently attempting to locate.
Just a few weeks ago, Arledge was brought for a hearing before a state district judge, who agreed with both criminal defense attorneys and the prosecution that Arledge could no longer be viewed as having committed the murder due to the DNA evidence.
Accordingly, Arledge was released on bond while the official overturning of his conviction is processed. The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals must accept the state district judge's recommendation before the conviction can be officially overturned, a mere formality according to legal experts.
As for Arledge, he was understandably overjoyed by his freedom and spoke of the hardship that his wrongful conviction had on his two children.
"They suffered more than anybody," he said. "[My daughter's] always talking about, she wanted me to come pick her up from school. Now she's picking me up."
Fortunately, Texas law does provide those men and women who can prove that they were wrongfully convicted with some remuneration, including a lump sum of $80,000 for each year in prison, an annuity and other benefits.
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This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.
The New York Daily News, "Texas man convicted in 1981 stabbing death freed by DNA evidence," Feb. 12, 2013