Summary Courtesy of The National Registry of Exonerations
by Maurice Possley
On May 27, 2003, James Webb accused his nephew, 18-year-old Jesse Griffith, of stealing a shotgun, a BB gun, and two rings from him in Lubbock, Texas.
At the time, Griffith and his mother were living with Webb and Webb’s mother, Verda. Griffith admitted that he had taken Webb’s 32nd degree Masonic ring and pawned it. However, he regretted what he had done, so he got the ring back and gave it to his mother, who then returned it to Webb.
Webb became angry and accused Griffith of stealing that ring as well as the shotgun, a BB gun, and a diamond ring that belonged to Webb’s mother. Griffith had the BB gun and had used it in front of Webb, but he then returned it to Webb.
Nonetheless, on June 3, 2003, Griffith was charged with felony theft and on December 11, 2003 he pled guilty. He was sentenced to two years of deferred adjudication.
In the ensuing years, Griffith was homeless, had no phone, and missed appointments with his probation officer. As a result, his deferred adjudication was extended. In 2010, following numerous violations, his deferred adjudication was revoked and he was sent to prison for a year.
In 2016, Webb, who was a paraplegic due to a motorcycle accident, discovered that the shotgun was in a closet that he didn’t have access to, and that it had never been stolen. Webb also told Griffith that the diamond ring was not stolen—that Verda, who was suffering from dementia, still had the ring.
In April 2017, attorney Allison Clayton, working with the Innocence Project of Texas through the Texas Tech School of Law’s Innocence Clinic, filed a state law petition for a writ of habeas corpus seeking to vacate Griffith’s conviction. The Lubbock County District Attorney’s Office supported the petition and the trial court judge recommended that the writ be granted.
In October 2017, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ and vacated Griffith’s convictions. On December 18, 2017, the prosecution dismissed the charge.