Texan Cornelius Dupree Jr. had his conviction overturned Tuesday, January 4 for a 1979 rape and robbery he didn’t commit. After spending 30 years of a 75-year sentence in prison, DNA evidence cleared Dupree. Having been in prison from December 1979 until his parole in July of 2010, he is one of the three longest-serving inmates to be exonerated by DNA testing.
Dupree and his co-defendant, Anthony Massingill, were arrested because they looked similar to the perpetrators: the victim identified them from a photo array though her male companion, who was also present, didn’t. As we have often noted, 75% of wrongful convictions of people later cleared by DNA evidence resulted from misidentifications.
Dupree appealed his case several times without success. He then sought the help of The Innocence Project attorney Nina Morrison, who worked with the Dallas District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit to perform DNA tests on evidence from the attack. They found that the DNA profiles present were from two unknown men, and not Dupree or his co-defendant.
DNA testing in the Massingill case, represented by the Texas Wesleyan Innocence Project, is ongoing.
Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins himself joined the request for innocence, saying, “Our Conviction Integrity Unit thoroughly reinvestigated this case, tested the biological evidence and based on the results, concluded Cornelius Dupree did not commit this crime.” Texas’ Court of Criminal appeals gave the case its final review and declared Dupree innocent while at least six other Texas exonerees looked on. These men have made it a habit to attend court proceedings every time a new man is declared innocent.
This is another instance that calls attention to the need to be vigilant when considering eyewitness testimony. We need standardized procedures that increase accuracy and reliability when using tools such as lineups and photo arrays, which in Cornelius Dupree’s case had him wrongfully imprisoned for three decades.