HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A court hearing could lead to freedom for a man who has spent 39 years in prison for a crime he says he didn't do. The case against Darius Elam has caught the attention of advocates who want him released from prison.
Elam has maintained his innocence, saying he had absolutely nothing to do with a killing back in 1983.
Elam was accused of the murder and aggravated robbery of Rick Bowen. While law enforcement never charged him with murder, he did nearly four decades for robbery.
The accusation turned Elam's life upside down.
"He was a track star. He pledged. He loved TSU. He pledged and everything," Samara Elam, Elam's sister, said. "Then for them to destroy this man's life, it's horrific."
He was all smiles walking into court Wednesday, knowing he had the chance to tell his truth.
"It's definitely been hard for him to be incarcerated for this many decades and you knowing that you're innocent," his sister said.
An informant, Patrick Patterson, told the Houston Police Department back in 1983 that Elam did it.
But last year, Tammie Campbell, an advocate with the Honey Brown Hope Foundation, said she got a call from Patterson, who told her he lied 39 years ago and felt bad about it.
Campbell said that a phone call is what started the process of an appeal. For years, Elam had been filing motions for an appeal with no luck.
"I am appalled that he would get up there on the stand and lie that he didn't remember talking to me," Campbell said. "This is what happens to us - our people: Black people, Brown people - on a regular basis, in terms of being wrongly convicted."
In addition to Patterson's statement in 1983, detectives said they had a single fingerprint belonging to Elam at the murder scene.
"They claim they have a sheet of paper with his fingerprint on it in the car, of the man that got killed," Gary Udashen, Elam's attorney, said. "It's almost sort of an unbelievable story, but he would not have been convicted without that."
On the stand, Elam pointed out there was no way he could hold a sheet of paper with just one finger.
Now, he and his family, along with supporters, are waiting for the results of the appeal.
"We are just hoping justice is prevailed because he is innocent," Samara Elam said.
The judge is going to write a recommendation based on what he heard and send that to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin.
Elam's lawyer said they could come back with a decision anytime between five months and two years.
"I think we should prove that he has provided false testimony, and this is something that contributed to my brother's conviction," Samara Elam said.
Family members hope this hearing leads to the eventual release of Elam, who has maintained his innocence over the last four decades.
Submit a tip or story idea to ABC13