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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dale Lincoln Duke

Way to go, Dallas!

In 1992, Dale Lincoln Duke was convicted of Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child. He pled ‘no contest’, which means that he waived his right to a jury trial, allowing the judge to decide his fate. ‘No contest’ is not an admission of guilt, but it seems like people know that pleading ‘Not Guilty’ is just going to piss off the prosecutors and judge and make them try to stick you with as much prison time as they can.

Because he didn’t plead ‘Not Guilty’, the court decided to go easy on him and give him 10 years deferred adjudication, which means he remains free as long as he goes through ‘sex offender treatment’. But because he refused to say “I did it”, eventually he failed the ‘treatment’ and got sent to prison in 1997...

And there he stayed for 14 years. Even though, a year after he was incarcerated, the child recanted her testimony, admitting she had lied. Her recantation was ‘found credible’ by a co-founding member of Dallas CAC, but was rejected by the District Court, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals AND the Supreme Court. Three opportunities to right this situation were ignored.

Mr. Duke would still be a guest of TDCJ if, in 2010, his defense had not uncovered evidence that the girl’s own grandmother had told prosecutors, before he ever entered a plea, that she believed the girl had been encouraged to lie by her Aunt. The prosecutors had this information at the beginning of the case but decided that they would not reveal it to the defense. Now remember, they came to the DA’s office in 2010, telling them they knew the information existed, but the official file was not given to them until March of 2011, which makes it seem like, once again, the prosecutors fought against having it made public.

Finally, November 4th of this year, Mr. Duke was exonerated and released. There was no DNA evidence used to clear him, which is unusual; how many men like him have been convicted with nothing more than words, but have no hope of ever seeing their cases reversed because the prosecutors simply didn’t make a record of any evidence that didn’t support their case?

There’s no way for us to know if the child in Coy vs. Texas ever recanted her testimony; no way for us to know if there is evidence suggesting her testimony was not truthful. Remember, everything the prosecutors used to build their case, all the evidence they collected, even if it would clear Coy, is hidden behind the Family Code. We’re not allowed access to witness statements, notes that were made, any of it. We are just supposed to trust a system that has proven, time and time again, that it has no problem with incarcerating an innocent man as long as the prosecutor in the case gets another win.

Interesting things are happening all over; now is not the time to lose hope or give up.

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