‘This is Justice': DNA Evidence, Determination Exonerates Dallas Man

Tyrone Day was wrongfully convicted for a 1990 sexual assault near Fair Park

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A Dallas man is exonerated after spending decades in prison and fighting to clear his name.

Family and friends packed a Dallas County courtroom Wednesday to hear a judge declare Tyrone Day innocent, wrongfully convicted of a crime he did not commit 33 years ago.

“There’s a weight lifted off my shoulders,” said Day. “This is justice.”

In 1990, Day was convicted of sexually assaulting a woman near Fair Park.

Unable to afford an attorney, Day pleaded guilty to the crime despite maintaining his innocence. He feared a trial might lead to a longer sentence in prison.

“A lot of people say they would never do that, but I come from a single-family home,” Day said. “I was given a choice. Either take this 40 years and whatever evidence we have against you or you can go to trial and take 99 to life.”

He spent 25 years locked up.

His daughters were ages 2 and 3 when he was sent away. Daughter Dametra Harper’s earliest memories are writing letters to her father in prison.

“It really weighed heavy on me as I grew up and became older and understood what was going on,” said Harper. “It weighed very heavy on me.”

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Tyrone Day, center in the bow tie, after his exoneration.

At the urging of Day and his attorneys with The Innocence Project, the Conviction Integrity Unit of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office began looking into the case.

DNA testing cleared him.

“This is a prime example of a person who didn’t give up on himself,” said Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot.

According to a release by the district attorney’s office, DNA testing, unavailable at the time of the crime, excluded Day. It also identified two other men as possible suspects, further corroborating Day’s claims of innocence.

However, based on the statute of limitations and other information developed during the re-investigation, the district attorney’s office said it remains doubtful those men could or would be prosecuted today.

The re-investigation also found evidence in the case amounted to a single eye witness.

The Conviction Integrity Unit found the woman’s identification of Day was based solely on a similar hat he wore and that she was not shown a photo lineup, nor could she identify Day in any other way, according to the release.  

“It’s a sad state of affairs,” Creuzot said. “This case should have never been presented to the grand jury. It was not properly investigated by the police. This case was not properly investigated by the [district attorney’s] office."

Day was released on parole in 2015 but had to register as a sex offender. He’s been working with Restorative Farms to bring fresh produce to food deserts in Southern Dallas.

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Tyrone Day, pictured, after his exoneration.

“It’s been a struggle, but I made the best of whatever I had to make of my life being out,” Day said. “It’s been a success so far.”

"He never gave up on making this day happen," said Vanessa Potkin with The Innocence Project. "He's one of the relatively few people who have DNA in his case. Most people who are convicted, most crimes don't have any type of DNA to advance getting to the truth."

Day's cases mark the 44th overall exoneration for Dallas County since 2001.

"There are innocent people convicted all over the country, but one thing I can say is that Dallas County today, under DA Creuzot and the Conviction Integrity Chief Cynthia Garza, is the most likely place in the country to have a wrongful conviction today set aside," said defense attorney Gary Udashen with The Innocence Project of Texas.

"Because in Dallas County we're working and the DA's office is working hard at doing the right thing and people like Tyrone Day are the beneficiaries of that," Udashen said.

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