Tomorrow, Dallas DA Craig Watkins to Ask Judge to Free Innocent Man in Prison Since '97

On April 30, 1992, Dale Lincoln Duke was indicted by a Dallas County grand jury on the charge of aggravated sexual assault of a child. Four months later, according to the Dallas County District Attorney's Office and its Conviction Integrity Unit, Duke waived his right to a jury trial and entered a plea of no contest. But throughout, he refused to confess to the crime -- in court, then again during sex offender treatment, a stipulation of his deferred adjudication. And so, in 1997, Duke was sent to prison for 20 years.

But, according to the DA's office today, one year after Duke went to prison, the county learned that the complaining witness had recanted. From the release sent by Craig Watkins's office moments ago:

The complaining witness was forensically interviewed by a former director and co-founder of the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center. The interviewer found the recantation credible. The District Court held a hearing and refused to believe the complaining witness' recantation and the opinion of the former director of the Dallas Children's Advocacy Center. Mr. Duke appealed the refusal to release him to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the United States Supreme Court. Both courts refused to vacate his conviction.

In 2010, says Watkins's office, Duke came back to the district attorney with further evidence showing that "the person initially reporting the incident did not believe the complaining witness was truthful." From the release:

Prosecutors reviewing the prosecution file found evidence that the complaining witness' grandmother raised questions regarding the credibility of the complaining witness and the outcry witness prior to the entry of Mr. Duke's plea. Thus, prior to the plea or the recantation, prosecutors had information that there were serious questions regarding the complaining witness' credibility.

The law requires that prosecutors provide this information to defense counsel. The information was not provided to defense counsel prior to the entry of Mr. Duke's plea. The information was not provided to defense counsel prior to the 1998 recantation hearing. The information contained the in prosecutor's file was provided on March 17, 2011.

All of which leads to this: Tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. in Judge Susan Hawk's courtroom at the George Allen, Watkins's office will ask the judge to find Duke innocent and release him from prison. Says Watkins, "The original prosecutor's failure to provide critical information to the defendant coupled with overwhelming evidence that the initial allegations were false, convinced me that Mr. Duke was wrongfully convicted. After a thorough review of the case, I approved a recommendation to ask the court to exonerate Mr. Duke."

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