HOUSTON – James Harris knew he would have to wait a few months, possibly six, but now 11 months have gone by since Texas’ top criminal court first agreed to hear Harris’ plea for freedom.
“I really didn’t want to think that, but deep inside I had a feeling I was gonna get put on hold, just get tossed around,” Harris said.
Harris is awaiting his case to be heard before Texas’ Criminal Court of Appeals, which agreed on last May to do so.
Harris wants to be exonerated after being sentenced to 25 years in prison for a crime he’s long maintained he did not commit. Yet, his case remains pending 11 months later, leaving Harris, a father and grandfather, home on parole just waiting.
“Being a black man caught up in the system, it didn’t take but two days to give me 25 years. So, I knew I wasn’t a priority,” Harris said.
This time last year, he didn’t feel so pessimistic. That was when Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg said her office no longer would prosecute Harris because a DNA test showed no trace of him on the scales and other drug paraphernalia used to convict him.
The decision, along with testimony from the Houston police officer who arrested Harris in 2009, led a judge in Harris County Criminal District Court to recommend the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals hear the case for exoneration.
“Pleaded and pleaded and pleaded and told them it wasn’t me, but it was easy for them to believe the officer,” Harris said of a judge’s decision to sentence him to 25 years in prison.