James D. Waller, President
James D. Waller is the 12th man exonerated in Dallas, Texas. In November 1982, he was arrested and accused of breaking into an Old East Dallas apartment before dawn and sexually abusing a 12-year old boy. Knowing that he didn’t commit this crime, Waller was eager to go to court and tell his story of being falsely accused. During his trial, Waller testified in his own defense and presented alibi witnesses; however, to his dismay, it took only 46 minutes for the jury to return a unanimous guilty verdict against him. Waller, a Louisiana native, had no prior convictions and was sentenced to 30 years in prison and assessed a $10,000 fine.
Knowing that he didn’t commit this heinous crime, Waller began reaching out to any and everyone to help him. He requested DNA testing twice, but at the time, Texas wasn’t administering the test. Waller was released on parole in 1993 and was forced to register as a sex offender. The mission to reclaim his name regained momentum in 1998 when he met his late wife, Doris F. James. Together, they worked tirelessly, consuming all of their funds. In 2001, tragedy dealt Waller another unfair dealt when his eight month pregnant wife and their unborn child (who he had named Grace) were killed in a car accident. Devastated by this loss, Waller felt life wasn’t worth living, because his number one supporter was gone. However, with faith in God and dedicated family and friends, he jumped back in the ring and the fight was on again.
After working with his personal lawyer for over 5 years and appealing to over 15 law firms and schools, the Innocence Project of New York agreed to represent Waller in 2005. Nina Morris was assigned to his case. On November 29, 2006, Waller received the words he had been waiting to hear for over 24 years – that DNA had proven that he hadn’t committed the crime. On January 17, 2007, Waller was exonerated, during which time he stood before the court and thanked God for answering his prayer and giving him his name back. On March 9, 2007, James D. Waller was officially pardoned by Governor Rick Perry.
Related articles: http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/James_Waller.php
Billy J. Smith, Vice President
On August 7, 1986, Billy J. Smith was accused of raping a black woman in a field in Dallas, Texas. Although Smith was sound asleep in the apartment he shared with his sister, a policeman came to the apartment and as Smith walked out onto a second–story balcony, a woman he had never seen before pointed him out from a squad car in the parking lot below. He was then arrested immediately and in 1987 he was convicted and given a life sentence.
Very angry about such injustice, Smith had a hard time adjusting to prison life, especially for a crime that he hadn’t committed. For the first two years, he was so defiant he refused to submit to the system resulting in him being on restriction and segregated from the general population.
After two years, Smith began reading the Quran and corresponding with a prison ministry. One night while in his cell, he considered taking his own life. Out of his sorrow and despair, the words from the Serenity Prayer came to his mind. Those words, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, the wisdom to know the difference” truly changed his life. Although he was able to adapt to the environment, he but never accepted it. Smith began to pray that justice would come and he would not have to die in prison.
In 2001, Smith applied for DNA testing, but his request was denied. He received a DNA test in 2005 and was granted a writ of habeaus in 2006. Smith served 19 years and 11 months before being exonerated on July 7, 2006.
Related articles: http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Billy_James_Smith.php
Thomas McGowan, Secretary
Thomas McGowan was arrested in May of 1985 after a black man with a knife raped a white woman in her Richardson apartment and she identified him out of a seven person photo lineup two weeks later. McGowan was convicted and sentenced to two life sentences, to be served consecutively.
McGowan compared his work experience in prison to that of slavery. On his second day in prison, he was put on a bus and taken to a field to pick cotton. At first he refused, but after two guards towered over him on horseback and herded him to a row, he decided to comply and pick the cotton. Enduring the hot sun in Midway, Texas was almost an unbearable situation.
In order to survive, McGowan learned how to adjust and adapt to being incarceration, despite his wrongful conviction. However, his greatest fear was that he would die in prison or even worse, that his mother might die before the truth of his innocence would be revealed. He prayed that God would work on his behalf and let him be freed from being convicted of such a heinous crime. God answered his prayer. McGowan was given a DNA test in 2007 and on June 11, 2008 became the 16th man to be exonerated by DNA evidence in Dallas, Texas.
Related articles: http://www.innocenceproject.org/
Johnnie E. Lindsey, Treasurer
Johnnie E. Lindsey was accused of aggravated rape due to two incidents of rape that happened on the White Rock Lake Trail. In 1981, a young white woman was attacked and raped by a shirtless young black man. Although the crime went unsolved, one year later Lindsey was arrested for the attempted sexual assault of another woman on the same trail. He acknowledged that he was at the White Rock Lake the day of the attempted assault; however, he denied being involved in either of the incidents. In fact, he was at the park trying to heal a broken heart from a disagreement he had with his girlfriend the night before.
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Lindsey was convicted of aggravated rape and given a life sentence in 1983. In utter disbelief and devastation about being convicted of a crime that he didn’t commit, Lindsey sunk into depression and felt that he couldn’t take it any longer. As he cried out in his cell and drifted off to sleep, he heard a voice say, “I will save you.” It was that voice that keeps him through all that he went through, even with a bout with cancer
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After filing several motions for a DNA test, he received one which excluded him as the rapist. Lindsay was exonerated on September 19, 2008.
Related Articles: http://www.innocenceproject.org/Content/Johnnie_Lindsey.php