Dallas DA calls for reform as wrongly convicted inmate freed

DALLAS — Dallas County's district attorney said he'll lobby for the establishment of conviction integrity units throughout Texas after a court ordered the release of a 55-year-old man who served 27 years behind bars for a 1980 murder he didn't commit.

District Attorney Craig Watkins said such units are needed to double-check the veracity of the system after James Lee Woodard, 55, was set free. Woodard is the 17th person convicted in Dallas County to be released after being cleared by DNA evidence. He's the longest serving inmate in the United States to be cleared by DNA.

State District Judge Mark Stoltz apologized to Woodard on Tuesday for the past 27 years, but he also praised him for never admitting to the parole board that he was guilty of the crime, an act that might have won his release. "It says a lot about your character that you were more interested in the truth than your freedom," Stoltz said.

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