Chris Van Horne, NBC 5 Fort Worth Reporter
David Lee Wiggins has been freed more than two decades after he was wrongly convicted of raping a 14-year-old Fort Worth girl.
A Fort Worth man is now free after spending half his life in prison for a crime he didn't commit.
David Lee Wiggins was released from prison on bond, pending his formal exoneration, after DNA evidence proved he didn't commit rape in 1988.
Wiggins was 24 when he was convicted and has spent the last 24 years in prison until Friday afternoon. The Tarrant County District Attorney's office did not oppose Wiggins' release and affirmed in court that he is innocent of the crime.
"We now have DNA evidence which shows Mr. Wiggins is absolutely innocent of the crime for which he was convicted," said Nina Morrison, Wiggins' attorney and an attorney for the New York-based Innocence Project.
Wiggins received a life sentence for raping a 14-year-old girl after she identified him as her attacker. Wiggins, who did have a criminal record, volunteered to be in a police line up in an effort to clear his name.
However, Wiggins did not know that she had been shown his picture days before and said he looked familiar.
"It was never her fault, she didn't know," Wiggins said after being released. "She didn't do nothing, I know that."
That practice of witness identification has been remedied by state law according to Morrison.
"By September 1st every police department (in the state) has to state in writing what they intend to do to make sure people like David Wiggins don't ever go to prison on the basis of mistaken identifications ever again," Morrison said.
By Wiggins' side on Friday, his sister Cindy Berg. Berg was a Fort Worth Police officer at the time of Wiggins' arrest and conviction.
"We've always known he was innocent, I've never doubted that for a moment, but the judicial system you have to let it work," Berg said.
On Friday Judge Louis Sturns' 213th District Court agreed that Wiggins was innocent and granted him his release on bond.
"You're a free man, good luck to you sir," Sturns said.
A decision that left Wiggins nearly speechless.
"I don't know what to say about it, other than I'm grateful," Wiggins said. "They called me again and said 'the results are in' and I'm innocent. it was kind of like when I got the life sentence, I couldn't really believe it."
Wiggins spent his first free meal Friday afternoon at Jake's in downtown Fort Worth. His attorneys say he is the second person to have a conviction overturned by DNA in Tarrant County since 2001.