A Dallas man who served thirteen years in Texas state prisons for a murder he didn't commit, is now helping others fight for exoneration. Christopher Scott said he's not bitter about the time that he lost while he served. Instead, he's focused on helping others.
"In prison, we couldn't go look at the stars at night," Scott told a crowd of criminal justice students at UNT. "We had to look at four walls all day long."
For Scott, it seems like a lifetime ago, the day a Dallas police officer told him his fate. He was being charged with capital murder, for the shooting death of a Dallas man, Alfonso Aguilar, who was shot to death during a robbery.
"I didn't even know what capital murder meant," he said.
One thing Scott did know.
"Trust me and believe me," he said. "I didn't commit this crime."
A fact, which took thirteen years to convince others was true. In 1997, Scott was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
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"It's a big struggle," he says. "Because every day you look in the mirror, and you're looking at an innocent guy."
Six years into his sentence, another man confessed to the killing. It wasn't until 2009, that two men were arrested for the killing. Scott, and a co-defendant, were both exonerated.
"It's like the whole world was lifted off my shoulders," he said.
Scott shared his story with criminal justice students at UNT, part of a weeklong international criminal justice forum at the school, giving future cops and prosecutors something to consider.
"Of course, it's absolutely crucial," said Peter Johnstone, a criminal justice professor at UNT. "Because these are the very people that in the future will be our policy makers. They will be applying the criminal justice system of the United States."
It is difficult to say how many innocent people are imprisoned. Scott believes as many as one percent of the Texas prison population did not commit the crimes they are were convicted of. In the past two years, the Innocence Project of Texas has helped exonerate 18 people.
"If I wanted to be mad and bitter," said Scott. "I wouldn't be in the position I'm in now. Trust me."
After his release from prison, Scott formed his own non-profit, the Coppell-based House of Renewed Hope, which helps others fight wrongful prosecutions. He said he also received compensation totaling more than one million dollars from the state of Texas, for his wrongful conviction.
"It's no longer about me," he said. "It's about the men and women I left behind in prison, crying the same cry I did."
His mission, now; save others from a lifetime, lost.
"That's why we do what we do."