Wednesday, October 06, 2004

And then there were 117

...people exonerated from death row, that is. The latest comes (surprise!) out of Texas. Ernest Willis spent 17 years for, in the words of the Associated Press, "a crime that may have never even occurred:"

Death-Row Inmate Freed After 17 Years


HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) - Ernest Willis walked out of prison a free man Wednesday after 17 years on death row for a crime that may have never even occurred.

Willis was convicted of setting a 1986 fire that killed two sleeping women in Iraan, about 230 miles west of San Antonio. But Ori White, district attorney in Pecos County since 1997, dropped the murder case Tuesday, saying there were strong indications the fire was an accident.

White said even if a crime was committed, he did not believe Willis was involved.

Willis, 59, bounded down the prison steps and into the arms of his wife, Verilyn, on their fourth wedding anniversary. It was the first time they touched.

"I don't really even know what to say," Willis said. "I know it's been too long coming. I'm just lost for words."

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