Man Dies in Jail Four Years After Murder Charge was Overturned as a Wrongful Conviction

When you are wrongly convicted of a crime you can waste much of your life in jail. Even when you are finally released your quality of life may not be the way it would have been before the miscarriage of justice occurred.

The sad case of James Lee Woodard is a pertinent example.

Just before he walked out of a courtroom four years ago as his conviction was overturned, Woodard said the first thing he wanted to do after 27 years behind bars was to take a breath as a free man. But in the end he died in a cell, reported.

Woodard was wrongly convicted and imprisoned for rape and murder in 1980. He died earlier this month after suffering a seizure while in the Dallas County Jail.

According to reports Woodard, 60, was arrested in August after police officers in Dallas said they found him in possession of cocaine.

Ironically, Dallas County prosecutors were reported to be seeking to have Woodard placed into a treatment program before agreeing to let him post bail. The move was too late and he died in jail.

“Even though you’ve been cleared of a case, you’re coming out of a tragic situation and we have an interest in making sure that people are given their fair opportunities,” Russell Wilson, the prosecutor in charge of conviction integrity unit, a Dallas-based unit which examines wrongful convictions, told

Woodard served 27 years in prison for the New Year’s Eve 1980 murder of a woman near the Trinity River in Dallas.

DNA testing undermined the conviction but it only conclusively proved he didn’t sexually assault the victim, rather than clearing him of murder.

According to the Dallas Observer the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office, the Innocence Project and forensic pathologist Sparks Veasey determined that the man who committed the rape also committed the murder and Woodard’s conviction was overturned.

We have highlighted a considerable number of defendants who were cleared of heinous crimes, including Ricky Dale Wyatt of Dallas, Texas, who served 31 years for a rape he did not commit.

In many cases DNA evidence has cleared a defendant. Other factors have included prosecutorial misconduct or poor defense attorney representation.

We have had juries return a number of not guilty verdicts in murder cases and have represented many people in cases carrying the death penalty.

The case of James Lee Woodard demonstrates how a life can be ruined when a wrongful conviction is returned.

Mick Mickelsen is a nationally recognized criminal trial attorney with more than 30 years of experience defending people charged with white-collar crimes, drug offenses, sex crimes, murder, and other serious state and federal offenses.