After spending 24 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, last week David Lee Wiggins walked out of the Tarrant County, Texas, courthouse hand in hand with his brother and sister as a free man.
Wiggins was just 24-years-old when he was sentenced to life in prison for the rape of a 14-year-old girl in 1989. Although there was a lack physical evidence and the finger prints collected at the scene did not match his, the victim’s testimony helped convict Wiggins. The girl, whose face was covered for the majority of the attack, said he looked familiar.
At the time Wiggins agreed to the lineup because he was sure he had nothing to worry about. This caused him half of his life.
DNA testing excluded Wiggins as the assailant and proved Wiggins’ innocence. The Tarrant County has re-opened the case in search of the real perpetrator.
“He lost half of his life to this wrongful conviction. It’s a startling reminder of the toll it takes.” said Nina Morrison, attorney with the Innocence Project (New York).
After his conviction is officially reversed, he will be eligible for $80,000 a year in compensation. Though it will never make up for the time lost, it will help Wiggins rebuild his life and move forward.