Dwayne Allen Dail served 18 years in North Carolina prisons for a crime he always said he didn’t commit. On Tuesday, August 28, he was released from state custody after DNA testing proved that he was telling the truth all along. Dail’s attorneys at the North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence and county prosecutors jointly requested that a state judge dismiss the conviction and charges, and the judge pronounced Dail free in a hearing Tuesday morning. He is the 207th person nationwide exonerated through DNA testing.
"The science has proved that Mr. Dail is innocent," District Attorney Branny Vickory told reporters before Tuesday’s hearing. "He didn't do it. The evidence is so overwhelmingly strong, there's no need to wait."
"The first day of the rest of my life"
Dail told reporters that he plans to spend time with his family and eat some of his favorite foods to enjoy his first few days of freedom. He hugged his son, Chris Michaels, for the first time outside of prison walls on Tuesday. Michaels was born shortly after Dail went to prison.
"He's missed my whole life," Michaels told the Charlotte News-Observer. "I'm almost 18 now. I'm grown. I missed him all the time growing up. He's here now, and that's all that matters."
More Media Coverage of Dail’s Exoneration:
Man Cleared After 18 Years in Prison
A Misidentification and a hair examination
Dail’s wrongful conviction was caused in part by two of the most common factors in many of the 207 DNA exonerations nationwide: eyewitness misidentification and unreliable forensic evidence. Dail was misidentified by the 12-year-old victim in the case. Social science research conducted in the last three decades has shown that eyewitnesses frequently identify the wrong person and that traditional police identification procedures need reform. More than 75% of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA were caused, at least in part, by eyewitness misidentification.
Learn more about eyewitness misidentification
The limited science of hair microscopy has played a part in at least 40 of the 207 DNA exonerations. While microscopic hair analysis can sometimes rule out potential suspects, it can never identify a perpetrator in the way DNA testing can. Too often, jurors interpret hair analysis to be far more precise than it actually is.
Learn more about unreliable and limited science
North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence
, which worked on Dail’s case since 2001, is a non-profit organization and a law clinic affiliated with several North Carolina law schools. The NCCAI is also a member of the Innocence Network. Read more about the
Dail is the sixth person exonerated by DNA testing in North Carolina. Read more about
North Carolina wrongful convictions overturned by DNA testing