DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It had been almost 30 years since James Williams and Raymond Jackson appeared before a judge in a Dallas County courtroom.
In 1984, they watched an all-white jury find them guilty of aggravated sexual assault and sentence them to 99 years in prison.
The men swore they were innocent.
Friends, family and coworkers offered alibis for the men’s whereabouts when a young woman was abducted, raped and left for dead in 1983. The woman was taken from Dallas’s popular McKinney Ave.
The woman identified Williams and Jackson as her attackers. She testified against them.
It was untrue.
Although forensic science and DNA was not used in the prosecution of the men, the evidence was maintained for decades. Over the years, the men appealed for DNA testing and were dnied. By 2010, James Williams and Raymond Jackson were paroled.
But thye didn’t stop.
Eventually the Dallas County District Attorney’s Conviction Integrity Unit agreed to examine the men’s innocence claims. On Monday, the truth was revealed in court.
The DNA evidence taken from the sexual assault in 1983 did not match either man. In fact, prosecutors have already received indictments on the men with the matching DNA. James Williams and Raymond Jackson received their official exoneration from Judge Susan Hawk.
“It is my pleasure to say you’re innocent of the charges you were convicted of,” the judge said to the pair.
After serving almost three decades behind bars, the men embraced their attorneys, family members and each other. Jackson said the leadership of the DA’s office of the 1980s failed to seek justice and instead turned him into a victim.
“The real thing was just getting a conviction,” Jackson said. “And they didn’t care if you were innocent or not.”
Williams said he plans to work with other young men to help steer them clear of crime. But he also said he’s worried others will face the same wrongful conviction he endured.
“There is still a fear in my heart even when I walk out this door,” he said. “I don’t know who comes up next and says that man did something to me, and I know I haven’t. It was just that easy.”