“Sometimes, winning and losing becomes more important than justice.”

April 29, 2008 at 10:58 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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That was a quote from the Honorable Mark Stoltz, as he addressed James Lee Woodard. He said it to highlight how the legal system is flawed.

Woodard was freed, after spending 27 years and four months in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.

The Innocence Project of Texas started the proceedings. Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins , and Mike Ware followed. Watkins even apologized to Watkins…on behalf of the county and state, and a legal system that failed him.

Then, Judge Stoltz spoke to Woodard. 

Stoltz’s face was flush, and he fought back tears as he told Woodard “Unfortunately Mr. Woodard, you’re not getting justice today. You’re just getting the end of injustice.”

Finally, Mr. Woodard stood up to talk.

He praised DA Watkins for the job he’s done. He thanked the IPOT for their countless hours of work. He thanked Texas Wesleyan Univ law student Alexis Hoff for her work, and she hasn’t even passed the bar.

Then he thanked God for letting him live through the experience. The gallery, from journalists to family members, attorneys and friends, all gasped when he said that. Those words made me bite my lip.  He went through a long nightmare, but was thankful he survived.

It made people think. Could they last 27 years in prison, trapped behind four walls, trapped in your own mind for a crime you know you didn’t commit? Not many people could. But James Lee Woodard did.

He didn’t give up. He kept writing letters asking for help. He even prayed, but Woodard said “I figured out a long time ago, God is not a bondsman; he’s not a parole commissioner.”

He kept the faith, but prison bars kept his thoughts in perspective.

 When asked what he went through his mind when he walked into court on Tuesday, Woodard said: “After living in a controlled environment, a door is just a door, but now, I feel a lot different.”

Woodard walked out today a free man. I talked to one of his attorney’s later in the afternoon. She told me he didn’t want to do interviews. He was busy enjoying his first meal outside of prison: beef soup.

I’m sure it was the best tasting meal he’s ever had.


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