“The first day of my life”


Innocence Project client Thomas McGowan walked out of a Dallas courtroom yesterday, a free man for the first time in 23 years. McGowan was convicted of a rape he didn’t commit in the mid-1980s, based mostly on an eyewitness misidentification. He was in his mid-20s when convicted and will turn 50 later this year. He is the 17th person cleared by DNA testing in Dallas – more than any other county in the country.

"Words cannot express how sorry I am for the last 23 years," said state District Judge Susan Hawk, moments after overturning his convictions. "I believe you can walk out of here a free man."

…McGowan, wearing a button-down shirt and slacks, looked trim and relieved. He said he prayed frequently and was benefiting from some "powerful forces." While in prison, one of McGowan's sisters died, and he said he missed watching his sibling's children grow up.

"I know God forgives, so hey, I've got to forgive, too," McGowan said. "It's not going to benefit me to be harboring anger or resentment."

"I've been living a life of a living hell and my nightmare is finally over with," McGowan said after the hearing. "This is the first day of my life. I'm going to go forward."

Media coverage of McGowan’s release:

Video: KVUE:

Man exonerated for rape gives forgiveness

Associated Press:

DNA frees man who spent almost 23 years in prison for rape

Dallas Morning News:

Richardson man cleared by DNA

Eyewitness Identification Reform Blog:

Another Flawed Lineup, Another Exoneration in Dallas County, and a Glimmer of Hope


Read about the

misidentification that led to McGowan’s wrongful conviction and reforms proposed to prevent future injustice


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