Dallas Exoneree Fighting for Other Innocent Inmates

May 01, 2017 by

With nothing other than a false identification, Christopher Scott was found guilty of murder and wrongfully imprisoned with a life sentence. His attorney told him he had a million-to-one chance of getting out because there was no DNA in his case. Scott replied, “I’m going to be that one out of that million.”

Scott was arrested in Dallas in 1997 after a false identification led police to charge him with murder. Scott unsuspectingly drove past the murder scene, which led police to follow him home. Once home, he was arrested and detained at the local jail. Police brought in the widow of the murder victim and asked her, while Scott was handcuffed to a bench, if he was the man who murdered her husband. She answered affirmatively.

Years later, another man confessed to the crime for which Scott was serving a life sentence.  After a retrial and two-day jury deliberation, he was found innocent and was finally free after twelve years behind bars. “His silence put me in prison, his confession set me free,” said Scott.

But that was when his real work began.

Scott, realizing that many may be as hopeless and helpless as he was, decided to start House of Renewed Hope, a grassroots nonprofit detective and lobbying agency that seeks to exonerate innocent inmates. Along with fellow exonerees Johnnie Lindsey and Steve Phillips, he investigates complaints of wrongful convictions and lobbies the Texas Legislature for aid for exonerees. This is all done under the supervision of attorney Michelle Moore.

Phillips and Lindsey were wrongfully imprisoned for 25 and 26 years, respectively.

“I don’t think I could live with myself knowing that I got a second chance at life not to fight for the guys still behind prison bars,” said Scott.

The work that the agency does can be mentally and morally taxing.

As exonerees themselves, the group has to weigh the pleas they get to determine if those reaching out for their help are actually innocent of the crimes they’ve been convicted of, or if they are just trying to find a way out.

The group has a documentary coming out about their history and the work that they do.

The film, True Conviction, follows Scott, Phillips, and Lindsey as they review pleas and work with former Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins. Watkins was the driving force behind the nation’s first “Conviction Integrity Unit” in 2007. Since that unit began, Dallas County has had over 40 overturned convictions.

Also seen in the documentary is Scott confronting the actual perpetrator of the crime he was convicted of, saying to him, “I had a judge ask me why she shouldn’t seek the death penalty when I went to jail for y’all, and the only thing I could tell her is how could you kill an innocent man?” Luckily, the judge in that case did not seek the death penalty.

“As much as I paid for his weakness, he didn’t do this to me, it was men much more powerful than [him]. Cops, prosecutors, D.A.s, judges, the justice system wronged me so much I had to come out and try to make a change.”

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About the Author

Charles operates the Houston office for Empower Texans/Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.