Exonerated man tries to rebuild life in Houston

January 7, 2011 8:36:14 PM PST
A 50-year-old man who spent 30 of those years in prison for a crime he did not commit, is in Houston, hoping to make a new life for himself. The latest inmate exonerated by DNA testing said he's not bitter, but does have something he wants to a fight for. "It's a joy to be free. It's a joy to finally live a life of the free," said Cornelius Dupree.

He is in Houston trying to rebuild the life stolen from him 30 years ago.

"You're free to go. Thank you very much. Sorry for everything," said the judge.

This week, a judge in Dallas declared Dupree innocent of a 1979 rape and robbery that put him in prison for 30 years. DNA testing freed Dupree this past summer. The 50 year old went to prison at 19, initially thinking his incarceration was a strange dream.

"Over time I had to come to the realization that I was doing a lot of time and so I had to get my faith right with God," said Dupree.

He said his faith kept him going over the past three decades. He spent more than half his life behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

"I have mixed emotions. I mean, because there was a lot lost. There was a lot going on in thirty years and I'm not gonna get it all back in six months," Dupree said.

He got married the day after his release to a woman he met 20 years ago while in prison.

"Of course, I got comments and right up to the very end and still today, but it's OK because we all have our own life and I was confident that he was innocent," said Selma Perkins Dupree.

Cornelius Dupree wants to build a new life with his new wife and her two adult sons, but he will continue to fight for others wrongfully convicted and sent to prison.

"I just want to be part of the system, to make it better for the ones who come after me," said Dupree.

DNA testing has freed 44 Texas inmates -- the most of any state. Dupree spent 30 years in prison which is the most time for any Texas inmate freed by DNA testing.

"We ought to be embarrassed. It is an international embarrassment to have wrongfully convicted so many people in Texas," said State Senator Rodney Ellis.

The Texas Compensation Law for wrongly imprisoned persons makes Cornelius Dupree eligible for a lifetime annuity, plus a tax-free $2.4 million lump sum.