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Dallas man arrested for sexual assault 33 years ago cleared by DNA evidence

DALLAS, TX - MAY 24: Tyrone Day attends his exoneration hearing in the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas, Texas on May 24, 2023. (Montinique Monroe for Innocence Project)
Montinique Monroe
Innocence Project
Tyrone Day, along with his wife Terry Lee, Innocence Project attorney Vanessa Potkin and paralegal Brenda Cachay Gutierrez after his exoneration hearing in the Frank Crowley Courts Building in Dallas, Texas on May 24, 2023.

A man who spent almost 26 years in prison for a sexual assault conviction in Dallas was officially found innocent on Wednesday.

Tyrone Day was accused and convicted of sexually assaulting a woman in Fair Park Oct. 25, 1989. At the time, there was no DNA evidence and he was only identified by a white hat he was wearing.

"In 1989, Tyrone Day was walking down the street when he was misidentified by a young woman who had just reported to police that she was pulled into a vacant apartment and sexually assaulted," said Day's attorney Vanessa Potkin who works with the Innocence Project.

Potkin said the young woman came to believe that Day was the perpetrator, even though she had only seen him from a distance of about 50 feet.

Day maintained his innocence, but eventually pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 40 years in prison. He was just 19 years old when he was convicted.

His case is one of the oldest that the Innocence Project — which works to exonerate wrongfully convicted people — has worked on. Day first wrote to the organization in 2000 pleading for them to work on his case.

Day was eventually released from prison on parole in 2016 but had to register as a sex offender, which Potkin said only served to make his life more difficult.

Dallas County District Attorney John Creuzot's office said extensive DNA testing led to Day's exoneration on Wednesday.

“This exoneration would not have been possible without advancements in forensic science, specifically DNA testing, but I am most proud of the dedication our [Conviction Integrity Unit] and other attorneys involved have had to see this case through until the end,” Creuzot said.

Day's moment in court came with a recognition of his innocence as well as an apology from Creuzot and Dallas criminal court Judge Carter Thompson.

“We are pleased to be able to right this wrong, and while we know Mr. Day can’t get back the years lost, we hope he finds some solace in seeing that justice has finally been done today,” Creuzot wrote in an emailed statement.

Day may be compensated up to $80,000 for each year spent in prison, according to Texas state law.

Potkin said the exoneration and apology doesn't take away the 33 years Day lost, but she said she hoped it was a sign of systemic change for the criminal justice system in Dallas.

"This day was everything to Tyrone and his family," Potkin said.

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Pablo Arauz Peña is the Growth and Infrastructure Reporter for KERA News.