Clyde Charles, a Louisiana man who served nearly two decades in prison for a crime he didn’t commit before DNA testing proved him innocent in 1999, died last week at the age of 55. He left behind several brothers and sisters who fought for his freedom.
Charles, who is African-American, was 27 years old when he was arrested in Houma, Louisiana, for allegedly raping a white woman. He was tried a year later by an all-white jury. The prosecution presented the victim’s eyewitness identification of him as the attacker (which occurred while she was in the hospital and police brought Charles to her bedside in handcuffs), and the testimony of a lab analyst that two Caucasian hairs found on Charles’ clothing were “similar” to the victim’s hairs. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
The Innocence Project took on his case in 1999 and obtained post-conviction DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene. The results proved that Charles could not have committed the crime and he was freed. Sadly, he only enjoyed eight years of freedom before he passed away at his home last week.
His sister Lois Charles Hill, who worked for Charles’ freedom from the day of his arrest, said although he was released from Angola in 1999, it was last week that he became truly free.
“This week, it’s about my brother, and all I can say is that a man set free after serving 18 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, on January 7, became truly free indeed,” Hill said.
“I have no regrets. Two weeks ago while visiting my brother at his home, while talking, Clyde looked at me and said, ‘Lois, I know what you did for me. I know you stood beside me when many people had fell along the way, and that made me feel real good. You can’t buy that kind of love.’ I have my brother’s love, and that is the best gift I have ever received,” Hill said.
The family will hold a memorial service in Charles’ memory on Saturday.
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The Innocence Project mourns his loss.