Three times since his 1979 rape conviction Cornelius Dupree Jr. has tried to get the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to re-hear his case, and three times he was denied. His most recent appeal came in September 2005 -- a pro se plea for help in which, once again, he maintained his innocence. In June 2006 the court denied his request for habeas corpus relief.
Dupree, who is now 51, was convicted by a Dallas County jury 31 years ago for sexual assault: Prosecutors said he and another man kidnapped a couple, threw the man out of the car, then raped the female passenger. Dupree always maintained his innocence. He was sentenced to serve 75 years, but was released on parole last July for good behavior. Ten days later, says Paul Cates, director of communications for The Innocence Project, tests came back revealing that Dallas County had put the wrong man in prison. Which is how Cornelius Dupree Jr. came to be the state's longest-serving innocent man.
Cates tells Unfair Park this morning that The Innocence Project first began examining Dupree's claims of innocence in 2006.
"It was several years earlier when he sent us the application, but we have a big backlog, so it takes us a while to sort through the material to see whose case can be helped by DNA testing and whose can't," Cates says. "And the DA's office was cooperative. It just took four years to find out if physical evidence existed, then test it, then test everyone else's again and go through all the procedures. It takes an inordinate amount of time."
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Cates says that 10 days after Dupree was released in July, they discovered he was innocent. "But we had to do more testing after that to satisfy the district attorney," Cate says. Those tests came back a few weeks ago -- revealing, yet again, that Dupree was innocent. A hearing is scheduled in a Dallas courtroom tomorrow, at which time Dupree will officially be told: He is innocent.