DNA evidence frees David Lee Wiggins from Texas prison 23 years after wrongful conviction
Testimony from 14-year-old victim identified him as attacker. Wiggins stands to collect $80K for every year behind bars.
BY BRIAN BROWDIE / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
SUNDAY, AUGUST 26, 2012, 12:57 PM
A Texas man who spent half his life behind bars for a crime he did not commit is finally free.
David Lee Wiggins, 48, was released from prison Friday after a state district court judge in Fort Worth overturned his 1989 conviction for raping a teenage girl based on DNA evidence that demonstrated his innocence.
Though Wiggins maintained his innocence, the 14-year-old victim identified him as her assailant. Her testimony helped to convict Wiggins despite a lack of physical evidence that tied him to the crime, according to the Associated Press.
Wiggins had sought DNA testing before trial, but the court denied his request.
“He filed a handwritten motion from the jail cell while he was awaiting trial for this new thing called DNA testing he’d heard about,” Nina Morrison, an attorney with the New York City-based Innocence Project who filed a motion for post-conviction testing of Wiggins’ DNA in 2007, told WFAA-TV.
Morrison credited prosecutors for preserving evidence that permitted tests to exclude Wiggins as a genetic match.
“If current state-of-the-art DNA testing had been available in 1989, there is not doubt Mr. Wiggins would have been acquitted,” Tarrant County District Attorney Joe Shannon said in a statement Monday.
Wiggins, who stands to collect $80,000 per year that Texas pays to wrongfully convicted former inmates, is the second person in the county since 2001 to have a conviction overturned by DNA. More than 30 people in adjacent Dallas County have had their convictions overturned since then.
For his part, Wiggins says he looks forward to moving on with his life.
“Mr. Wiggins wanted me to make sure everyone knows that he doesn’t bear that woman any ill will whatsoever,” Morrison added. “He understands she was a child at the time.”