Innocent TX Man to Be Cleared After Serving 30 Years

Via the Innocence Project: Cornelius Dupree served 30 years in prison for a rape and robbery new DNA tests show he did not commit. A judge is expected to exonerate him tomorrow. He was paroled in July.

His co-defendant, Anthony Massingill, is also expected to be cleared at a later hearing tomorrow. The primary cause of the wrongful conviction: Faulty eyewitness identification. Misidentifications account for 75% of wrongful convictions. Innocence co-director Barry Scheck says:

Cornelius Dupree spent the prime of his life behind bars because of mistaken identification that probably would have been avoided if the best practices now used in Dallas had been employed.... most counties in Texas do not have these best practices in place.

This must be remedied in the next legislative session by the adoption of an eyewitness identification reform bill that had the votes needed for passage last session but not enough time to get enacted. Let us never forget that, as in the heartbreaking case of Cornelius Dupree, a staggering 75% of wrongful convictions of people later cleared by DNA evidence resulted from misidentifications.”

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    denominator? (none / 0) (#1)
    by diogenes on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 08:58:06 PM EST
    "...staggering 75% of wrongful convictions of people later cleared by DNA evidence resulted from misidentifications."

    1.  How many hundreds of thousands of people have been convicted on the basis of eyewitness identifications?  I suspect that a staggering majority of those actually did the crime.
    2   His wrongfully convicted codefendant, Anthony Massingil, was convicted of a different rape and is in prison, although perhaps he was struck by lightning twice and was wrongfully convicted twice.
    3.  What do you have to have done in 1971 to be in a police photo array?  Did the Dallas police pick up random people off the street or use photos of people with prior offenses (which I can find no information of such a history for Dupree).

    faulty eyewitness testimony (none / 0) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 12:08:04 AM EST
    results from a mistaken belief, not intentional error. The witnesses are not lying, they are mistaken. Police procedures were largely to blame. There has been progress around the country in updating these procedures in recent years.

    You obviously are not familiar with the topic, so I'll just ask you not to spread your misconceptions here. It's a very serious subject and I don't appreciate your typical snide comments on this topic as it's one I spent a lot of years working on.

    If you'd like to learn more, I recommend this. (If you go to page 8, you'll see I was a member of the task force that created it.) For a shorter article I wrote on the topic, go here.


    Subjective standards (none / 0) (#6)
    by Rojas on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 07:29:10 AM EST
    Our poster diogenes likes to pose as that rational man of science in contrast to the bleeding hearts who have followed Talk Left in it's original mission statement.

    When confronted with systemic failure our self styled cynic runs for the sea of subjectivity.
    Stripped of a rational response he appeals with a statment of faith, " I suspect that a staggering majority". He reinforces with a ol wives tale, "perhaps he was struck by lightning twice". He closes with with an aspersion to the victim "What do you have to have done in 1971 to be in a police photo array?"

    The denominator it seems will never be an objective, scientific finding that the system is flawed. In diogenes mind there lies an undocumented force that the police will always be attracted to the bad guys and if proof of actual innocence is later discovered we can all have faith that justice was served.


    was he black? (none / 0) (#2)
    by thereyougo on Mon Jan 03, 2011 at 11:34:23 PM EST
    This is a shame, and no amount of money he may or may not be paid in restitution, will not bring back his youth and his life as a tax paying citizen.

    Society loses when this kind of conviction squeezes through. I'm saddened by it because it goes on too often and most likely  to a person of color

    society always loses (none / 0) (#4)
    by Jeralyn on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 12:09:31 AM EST
    when an innocent person is convicted because it means the guilty person is still out there, and may commit further crimes.

    May I be so bold as to add... (5.00 / 1) (#7)
    by kdog on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 07:47:21 AM EST
    that every wrongful conviction makes a criminal out of society...and a heartless violent criminal at that.

    article. The part about Photo-Biased Identification makes perfect sense. I would think a witness would be much more likely to pick a person from a lineup if they had seen a picture of them prior to. It seems like it would be a fairly easy thing for the police to place their suspects photo in with a group of other photos, then ask the witness to look at the photos. If that same person is in the photo lineup after, then their fate is sealed most likely.

    It's the Process (none / 0) (#8)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 10:26:16 AM EST
    For example, we now know that showing photos one at a time will get more reliable identification than showing say 6 on one page.

    Who knows what really happened 25 years ago, but the cops may have used the the best techniques available at the time.  And like DNA, the techniques have evolved in such a way that more reliable.

    What puzzles me is how did this guy get so much time ?  30 years for rape, that means he must have gotten a lot more time or did provide good behavior.  I read all the time where rapist are out in 5/10 years only to commit another.  Murderers get less time.


    The article from the Innocence Project (none / 0) (#10)
    by republicratitarian on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 10:56:54 AM EST
    says they were both found guilty of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon. Neither was tried for the rape. Actually, if there had been no rape and DNA evidence, there would be no way for either of them to prove their innocence. Which naturally begs the question of how many actual innocent people sit in prison whose "crimes" had no DNA evidence to test.

    Jeralyn (none / 0) (#9)
    by ScottW714 on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 10:34:14 AM EST
    As someone who is fairly unfamiliar with evidence and DNA, I always wonder how long is DNA good for and how long do they keep evidence.

    To me, 30 years seems like an extraordinary amount of time to keep fluid samples or materials with the samples on them, especially with a crime that probably doesn't get a 30 year sentence too often.

    What about the victims, assuming she made the identification, is there some counseling or something for the people that essentially remembered incorrectly and ruin people's lives ?  I can't imagine having that burden on my shoulders, it has to be devastating, never mind that the rapist was never caught.

    If the evidence is (none / 0) (#11)
    by Zorba on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 01:13:14 PM EST
    well dried and kept dry, and stored properly at room temperature, it lasts a very, very long time.  See link.

    Too bad you have to be Catholic (none / 0) (#12)
    by Peter G on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 01:22:42 PM EST
    to be recognized as a saint.  Otherwise, Prof. Scheck would be known as "Saint Barry" by now.  No one in human history, I would venture to say, has done so much -- both on the institutional level and for individuals -- to identify and free the innocent from wrongful imprisonment.  Too bad there isn't a Nobel Prize for Justice as there is for Peace.

    Very true (none / 0) (#13)
    by republicratitarian on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 01:38:21 PM EST
    You also have to give credit to the Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins and his Conviction Integrity Unit. It would be nice to see more of that around the country.

    I don't see why (none / 0) (#14)
    by Zorba on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 01:46:02 PM EST
    Barry couldn't get a Nobel Peace Prize.  If Al Gore could get one for his work on climate change, and Mother Theresa could get one for her work with the poor and the sick, and UNICEF could get one for its work for the welfare of the children of the world, and Eli Wiesel could get one for his continuing testimony about the Holocaust and the dangers of the repression of all peoples and races,  I don't see any impediment to Professor Scheck getting one for his work to free prisoners unjustly convicted of crimes.  A society that jails too many innocent people is in danger of becoming itself a repressive society, which is bad for its own citizens, and a bad message to send to the rest of the world.

    great news ... (none / 0) (#15)
    by nyrias on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 02:16:34 PM EST
    in fact, i think DNA testing should be performed in ALL criminal cases that have such evidence.

    That way, we can be sure about the conviction and have less qualm in punishing the guilty. Of course, fewer innocence will be caught in the web.

    You would think that ths would be (none / 0) (#16)
    by Zorba on Tue Jan 04, 2011 at 03:55:27 PM EST
    a no-brainer.  If you've got the wrong person, that means that the actually guilty person is still out there, perhaps ready to commit more crimes.  I would think (I hope, at any rate) that almost all, if not all, police departments nowadays would be collecting evidence and performing DNA tests, just to ensure that they arrested the right person.  A large problem, however, is the older cases, where DNA testing was either not available or in its very early stages and may not have been done.  If they still have the forensic evidence, they need to go back and test it.  Unfortunately, there are still some cases here and there where the DA's are reluctant to do this and try to fight it (many fewer now than there used to be, when The Innocence Project was new).  This, I don't understand.  As I said, if you've got the wrong person, the actual perpetrator is still out there.    

    I believe your optimism is missplaced (none / 0) (#17)
    by Rojas on Wed Jan 05, 2011 at 07:33:19 AM EST
    Google "rape kit backlog" for example. Never assume that the right thing will be done because it is an obvious no-brainer.

    Faulty eyewitness identification???? (none / 0) (#18)
    by Raffaello Tamagnini on Thu Jan 06, 2011 at 11:10:32 AM EST
    How did discoverd that the eyewitness were wrong?? Did they retract theyr version??? Did they lie maybe??

    later DNA tests not available (none / 0) (#19)
    by Jeralyn on Fri Jan 07, 2011 at 02:28:35 AM EST
    at time of trial proved them innocent. Which means the eyewitness was wrong. Follow the links I provided. It's not that eyewitnesses lie, it's that they are mistaken. The causes of faulty eyewitness identification are pretty well-established.

    thanx for the link (none / 0) (#20)
    by Raffaello Tamagnini on Tue Jan 18, 2011 at 10:15:45 AM EST
    hi thanx for the link mate. I understood the point now, i agree now that the causes of faulty eyewitness identification are pretty well-established.