| Crime |

Charles Chatman, Out to Help

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In story after story this morning, Charles Chatman has said the same thing: People will know my story. Surely, you know it by now: The 47-year-old Chatman, sentenced to prison in 1981 years ago for aggravated rape, yesterday became the 15th wrongfully convicted prisoner in Dallas County to be exonerated by DNA testing since 2001. And it now appears no one has ever served that much time -- 27 years -- for a crime they did not commit, only to be later exonerated and freed.

As Chatman told the Associated Press, "I know of two or three personally that very well could be sitting in this seat if they had the support and they had the backing that I have. My No. 1 interest is trying to help people who have been in the situation I am in." And there are many of them: The Innocence Project's Web site contains the complete list of 29 other Texans who've been exonerated by DNA testing.

"It is time we stop kidding ourselves in believing that what happened in Dallas is somehow unique," Jeff Blackburn, the founder of the Innocence Project of Texas, told the AP. Another sobering stat from the Innocence Project, courtesy this morning's New York Times:

The Innocence Project said Mr. Chatman appeared to be the longest-serving prisoner exonerated. In March 2005, a Cuban refugee, Luis Díaz-Martínez, was released as innocent after 26 years in prison for a rash of rapes in the Miami area.

--Robert Wilonsky

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