Today, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned the conviction of Innocence Project client John Nolley, finding that important exculpatory evidence in the State’s possession was never heard by the jury that convicted him in 1998. The ruling was the result of a joint reinvestigation of Nolley’s innocence claim by the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit (“CIU”) and the Innocence Project. Nolley’s was the first case accepted by the CIU when District Attorney Sharen Wilson formed the CIU in 2014.
Nolley has always maintained his innocence of the 1996 murder for which he was convicted in 1998. He was released on bond May 17, 2016 after prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed that he had been wrongly convicted. The district court’s order recommending the conviction be overturned was approved today by Texas’s highest criminal court.
Nina Morrison, the senior staff attorney representing Nolley, praised the collaboration with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office to the the Dallas Morning News, saying, “It’s an example of the best kinds of collaborations between prosecutors and defense lawyers. This is exactly the way we hope these investigations are conducted.”
The District Attorney’s Office also praised the ruling and the process that led to it, stating, “The collaborative partnership on this case between our office, the Bedford Police Department and the Innocence Project demonstrates a single-minded commitment to what should be at the heart of every conviction integrity unit: discovering the truth.”
Nolley’s case has already led to important reforms in Texas regarding the use and disclosure of information relating to jailhouse informants. In 2017, the Legislature passed a new law on informants modeled after a policy adopted by the Tarrant County District Attorney in the wake of the Nolley investigation.