On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with Joyce F. King, broadcaster, columnist, and author of ‘Exonerated: A Brief and Dangerous Freedom.’
In 2007, King was stunned to find herself asked if she would become the first non-jurist to serve on the executive board of directors for the Innocence Project of Texas, a nonprofit devoted to overturning wrongful convictions in the state that leads the nation in DNA exonerations. King’s life changed dramatically when the Innocence Project of Texas helped a man named James Lee Woodard win his freedom after his wrongful conviction for the 1981 murder of the woman he loved.
At the time Woodard was exonerated, in April 2008, he became the longest-serving inmate in America to be freed by DNA evidence. Woodard did not know who King was, even though several of the lawyers with IPOT told him she was on the board of directors. Not long after, Joyce King and James Woodard were inseparable.
Falsely accused of murdering his girlfriend, James Lee Woodard served twenty-seven years and four months in prison. In April 2008, he became the 17th man exonerated by DNA evidence in Dallas County, TX. The same day he was granted his freedom, Woodard laid eyes on Joyce King, the 'prison wife' he’d fantasized about falling in love with for nearly three decades. It was the happiest day of his life.
’Exonerated’ is a love story. It's a deeply intimate story told from the dual perspective of a non-lawyer who was part of the team and a woman in love. But it is also a story about our criminal justice system and how we treat inmates in our prisons. It’s also a story about the people who were wrongfully convicted do suffer traumatic events. And being release to a society that provides them with no services – freedom does not always equal privilege or right.