Rickey Wyatt Freed from Texas Prison After Serving 31 Years of 99-Year Sentence for Rape; Conviction Overturned over Withheld Evidence
A Texas man was freed from prison after serving 31 years of a 99-year sentence for a rape he says he did not commit. His conviction was overturned due to evidence withheld by prosecutors in 1981.
Rickey Wyatt, who is now 56 years old, was arrested in connection with a trio of Dallas rapes. He was found guilty of raping one of those women. Throughout his trial (and ever since), he has maintained his innocence. He even turned down a plea bargain that would have led to his release after five years behind bars. Instead, Wyatt was sentenced to 99 years.
“It was devastating,” he told the Los Angeles Times. “But I was sure that one day I would be free.”
Following Wyatt’s arrest, Dallas police did not notify prosecutors that one of his alleged victims said he did not match the description of her attacker. Victims described the actual rapist as clean-shaven and weighing 170 to 200 pounds; Wyatt had facial hair and weighed only around 140.
The prosecution failed to pass this ultra-important information to the Wyatt’s defense.
Speaking of Wyatt’s defense, his release was secured with the assistance of the Innocence Project. Co-founder Barry Scheck says that if prosecutors had turned over the evidence to Wyatt’s defense, he may never have been convicted.
“He did ask very, very specifically for certain photographs and information which if the police had disclosed in this instance and somewhere in the prosecutors files, if it had been disclosed Rickey never would have been convicted”, Scheck told CW33.
“I always knew it would come if you’re innocent. God’s good you know”, Wyatt told CW33.
As Judge John Creuzot prepared to release Wyatt, he offered this apology:
“Good luck to you and I apologize for all this and good luck to your future.”
Lisa Hill, Wyatt’s daughter who was only three years old when her father was locked up, was in tears.
“I’m so glad this is over. My life has been like in a total wreck without my father and I’m so glad he’s back and everything”, she told CW33.
Wyatt’s release is not an exoneration. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will decide whether or not to vacate the conviction based on the new evidence. If he is found innocent, he could receive compensation from the state for his wrongful imprisonment.
For now, Wyatt is simply overjoyed to be free.
“I feel great. I feel great to be free to be able to move as you please it’s a great feeling”, he told CW33.
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