FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – A Fort Worth man is out on bond after spending more than 10 years in prison for a capital murder conviction.
Willie Thomas was serving time for a 2009 robbery and murder at a night club in Fort Worth.
A Tarrant County judge set bond allowing Thomas to be released after the DNA evidence in his case was reinterpreted using more advanced and accurate methods, Innocence Project of Texas explained in a news release Thursday, Dec. 17.
The new results excluded Mr. Thomas as a contributor to the DNA found on the murder weapon.
“Advances in science contribute to the accuracy of verdicts and help us seek justice for the wrongfully convicted,” said Mike Ware, Executive Director of Innocence Project of Texas. “We will continue to work with Mr. Thomas’ counsel and the Tarrant County DA’s office to get to the truth in this case.”
In January 2009, Willie Walker, the manager of the New Start Club in Fort Worth, was shot and killed at the club during a robbery after closing time.
Witnesses at the club were not able to positively identify Thomas as being present at the crime, Innocence Project of Texas said.
Thomas was implicated in the murder largely based on the statements of two other men who later pled guilty to the robbery for reduced sentences.
Police recovered a gun at the scene and determined that the bullets used to kill Walker were fired from that gun.
A forensic DNA analyst at the time testified that Thomas’ DNA could not be excluded as the DNA found on the trigger. In 2011, a jury convicted Thomas of the robbery and fatal shooting.
He was given a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
The Tarrant County DA’s office supports a new trial for Mr. Thomas.
With the new interpretation of the DNA results, a writ will be filed in district court to have the conviction vacated.
Thomas, who has always maintained his innocence, said “I’m so grateful and happy to be with my loved ones again. This is a blessing. I’m ready to move forward one day, one hour at a time and keep fighting to prove my innocence.”
Innocence Project of Texas says it has helped exonerate or free 26 people since 2006.