Charles Chatman – Freed After 27 Years
Posted by shadmia on January 4, 2008
The year was 1981 and Charles Chatman, 20, had just been convicted of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to 99 years in prison. He would spend the next 27 years behinds bars for a crime he did not commit. He went before the parole board 3 times while incarcerated and was given the opportunity describe the crime or at least give his version of the events. Each time Chatman would respond by saying:
“I don’t have a version of the crime. I never committed the crime. I never will admit to doing this crime that I know I didn’t do.”
His pleas of innocence was finally heard after new DNA evidence proved that he did not commit the crime. District Judge John Creuzot, whom defense lawyers credited with shepherding Chatman’s case for exoneration through the legal system, recommended that Texas’ Court of Criminal Appeals find Chatman not guilty. With several relatives dabbing at their eyes with tissues and cheering, Chatman was released.
Chatman was the 15th prisoner released by Dallas county since 2001. He holds the record. He spent more time innocently in prison than any other freed inmate. Four former prisoners were at court to support him. Dallas county also holds the record for the most prisoners released after DNA testing proved them innocent. The state of Texas has released at least 30 wrongfully convicted persons since 2001, the most of any state in the country.
Chatman believes that race had a lot to do with his arrest and conviction. The jury had only one black member.
“I was convicted because a black man committed a crime against a white woman,” Chatman said. “And I was available.”
Judge John Creuzot of State District Court, who had championed a review of his case, ordered him released in a jubilant Dallas courtroom. “He’s my fourth one,” said Judge Creuzot, who had invited Mr. Chatman to his courtroom to hear the news that a DNA sample recently taken from him did not match the profile from the rape victim’s vaginal swab of 1981.
Chatman said he wants to work with the Innocence Project of Texas to support other people exonerated or wrongly convicted.
“I believe that there are hundreds, and I know of two or three personally that very well could be sitting in this seat if they had the support and they had the backing that I have,” Chatman said. “My No. 1 interest is trying to help people who have been in the situation I am in.”