DALLAS, Texas (AP) -- -- Charles Chatman said throughout his 26 years in prison that he never raped the woman who lived five houses down from him.
Now 47, Chatman is expected to win his freedom Thursday on the basis of new DNA testing that lawyers say proves his innocence and adds to Dallas County's nationally unmatched number of wrongfully convicted inmates.
"I'm bitter. I'm angry," Chatman told The Associated Press during what was expected to be his last night in jail Wednesday. "But I'm not angry or bitter to the point where I want to hurt anyone or get revenge."
If released on bond at a Thursday court hearing as expected, Chatman will become the 15th inmate from Dallas County since 2001 to be freed by DNA testing. That is more than any other county nationwide, said Natalie Roetzel of the Innocence Project of Texas, an organization of volunteers who investigate claims of wrongful conviction.
Texas leads the country in prisoners freed by DNA testing. Including Chatman, the state will have released at least 30 wrongfully convicted inmates since 2001, according to the Innocence Project.
Mike Ware, who heads the Conviction Integrity Unit in the Dallas County District Attorney's office, said he expects that number to increase.
One of the biggest reasons for the large number of exonerations in Texas is the crime lab used by Dallas County, which accounts for about half the state's DNA cases. Unlike many jurisdictions, the lab used by police and prosecutors retains biological evidence, meaning DNA testing is a viable option for decades-old crimes.
District Attorney Craig Watkins also attributes the exonerations to a past culture of overly aggressive prosecutors seeking convictions at any cost.
Chatman's nearly 27 years in prison for aggravated sexual assault make him the longest-serving inmate in Texas to be freed by DNA evidence, Innocence Project lawyers said.
Chatman was 20 when the victim, a young woman in her 20s, picked him from a lineup. Chatman said he lived five houses down from the victim for 13 years but never knew her.
At the time the woman was assaulted, Chatman said he didn't have any front teeth; he had been certain that feature would set him apart from the real assailant.
"I'm not sure why he ended up on that photo spread to begin with," Ware said.
Chatman, who was convicted in 1981 and sentenced to life in prison, said his faith kept him from giving up.
Ware said Chatman would likely be released on a personal recognizance bond until the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals makes an official ruling.
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/01/03/dna.ex ... index.html