On December 31, 1980, the body of Beverly Ann Jones was discovered near the Trinity River in Dallas County. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled. Her boyfriend, James Woodard became a suspect when Jones’ stepfather told the police that on the night she was murdered, James had come to his house looking for her.
Arrest & Trial
On New Year’s Day, James was arrested and charged with murder and sexual assault. He went on trial on May 18, 1981. A neighbor testified that she saw James arguing with the victim the night of the murder. She identified him although it was 3:30 am and she was several hundred feet away.
Woodard presented alibi witnesses who testified he had not been with Jones on the night of the crime. Despite no physical evidence tying him to the crime, he was found guilty on May 21, 1981 and sentenced to life in prison.
After he lost his appeals and his letters asking District Attorney Henry Wade to re-investigate the case were ignored, Woodard began filing applications for writs of habeas corpus. Six separate writs were denied or dismissed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, usually on the ground that he was abusing the system by filing too many applications.
When a law was passed making DNA testing available, Woodard began seeking testing. His first request languished for three years before the state responded in 2004 by saying there was no evidence to test. His appeals were denied.
Woodard wrote to the Innocence Project of Texas who, in cooperation with the Dallas DA’s Conviction Integrity Unit, tracked down the missing biological evidence in the case at the Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences. The evidence was tested on December 18, 2007 and James was excluded.
A further investigation showed that prosecutors had evidence that Jones was with three men on the night she was murdered, including two later convicted of unrelated sexual assaults. The evidence was withheld from James’ defense lawyers.
On April 21, 2008, a forensic pathologist submitted a sworn affidavit concluding that the rapist and the murderer were the same person and that James’ DNA was not a match. On April 30, 2008, James was released and the charges were dismissed.
On September 30, 2009, Woodard was pardoned by Governor Rick Perry.
Systemic Failures Have Wrongly
Imprisoned Thousands of
The Generosity of Their Fellow Citizens Can Provide Them
The Freedom They Deserve.