by the GetLegal editorial staff
Jan. 3, 2008
Charles Chatman has spent the last 27 years in prison, having been convicted of rape and sentenced to life in prison in 1981 at the age of 20. Now 47, Chatman is expected to be released, making him the 15th person in Dallas County to be wrongfully convicted and then exonerated by DNA testing since 2001.
According to the Innocence Project, Dallas County has had more DNA exonerations than any other prosecuting office in the country, making Texas the leading state in exonerations with a total of 30.
Chatman will be the longest-serving Texas inmate to be released after DNA testing. He was picked out of a lineup in 1981 by a woman after a burglary and sexual assault. Most of the wrongful convictions that have taken place in Dallas County have been the result of uncorroborated eyewitness identifications. At the time of the conviction, he was on probation for a previous residential burglary charge.
State District Judge John Creuzot had been an advocate of Chatman’s involvement in a new type of DNA testing known as Y-STR. He had become concerned that Chatman was wrongfully convicted after presiding over two of his previous DNA hearings.
Previous tests had proven inconclusive on account of the extremely small amount of DNA evidence involved. The new Y-STR technique is effective in testing extremely small genetic markers.
The Innocence Project of Texas, a nonprofit organization, has been reviewing cases in which inmates have requested DNA testing. This ongoing process will also attempt to uncover information that will explain why these wrongful convictions have taken place.