A 47-year-old who has been behind bars for more than two decades is set to become the latest wrongfully convicted inmate cleared through DNA testing in Dallas County, the nation's leading county in DNA exonerations, Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins said Tuesday.
A hearing is set Wednesday for post-conviction DNA test results for Jerry Lee Evans to be entered in court. Watkins said that earlier this month DNA results proved Evans' innocence of the 1986 aggravated sexual assault.
Evans has spent nearly 23 years in prison. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1987 after being convicted of aggravated sexual assault with a deadly weapon. The victim, who picked him out of a photo lineup, was attacked the year before.
She had been walking with a friend in the entertainment district near downtown Dallas when a man forced his way into their car. The friend was forced at knifepoint to drive to a secluded area where the attacker sexually assaulted the victim. The attacker also stole money and jewelry from both women and the keys to the car before fleeing into the woods, Watkins said.
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The Innocence Project, which works on DNA exoneration cases, said that Dallas County has led the nation in DNA exonerations since 2000. A spokesman for the New York-based group said 18 people have been exonerated in Dallas County so far and a judge has recommended that the conviction of two more be vacated. Evans' case would be the 21st.
In one of the cases, however, the DA's office believes the exonerated man is guilty of a related crime and will retry him.
After a district court judge in Texas recommends a conviction be vacated, that goes before the Court of Criminal Appeals as a writ, said spokesman Eric Ferrero. He said that the governor can also issue a pardon.