On Monday Randy Arledge, 59, walked out of a Navarro County, Texas courtroom after his 1984 rape and murder conviction was overturned based on new DNA evidence proving his innocence and pointing to another person who later committed other serious felonies, including an assault against a woman with a similar MO.

Arledge has spent more than 30 years of his life behind bars for a crime he did not commit.

Randy was wrongly convicted based on the false testimony of an incentivized informant who was given favorable consideration in his sentencing in another case.

Incentivized testimony is one of the leading causes of wrongful convictions, contributing to more than 15% of the 302 wrongful convictions overturned by DNA,” said Maddy deLone Executive Director of the Innocence Project in Chicago which took up Arledge’s case and worked to set him free.

“With 47 DNA exonerations, Texas has the unfortunate distinction of leading the nation in the number of wrongful convictions overturned by DNA, but

one of the reasons we are able to help so many people in Texas is because it has one of the best evidence [preservation] laws in the country and is one of only nine states that guarantee defendants access to search the CODIS database. Without these laws, it’s unlikely that Randy would have been freed today,”

added deLone. Because of the preservation law, the evidence was still available for testing from the 1981 crime. Similarly, having the ability to upload the DNA profile that was recovered from crime scene evidence to CODIS was critical to identifying the likely real perpetrator, who has a violent criminal history said deLone.

However Mr. Arledges road to full exoneration isn’t over yet. The court’s findings must be approved by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. But given that the Navarro County District Attorney consented to his release on probation, “we’re hopeful that his exoneration will be official in a matter of weeks,” according to deLone.  Meanwhile, Randy Arledge is happy to be reunited with his son and daughter who were small children when he was sent to prison.

The Innocence Project sought Arledge’s release after it was discovered that a DNA sample uploaded to the federal DNA database — known as the Combined DNA Index System, or CODIS—came back with a match to convicted offender and Navarro County resident, David Sims.

Carolyn Armstrong’s body was discovered on the morning of August 30, 1981 on a dirt road off of Highway 22 in Navarro County, Texas. She was naked from the waist down and had been stabbed in the neck and chest over forty times. Armstrong’s car, which was found several miles away, was searched and a number of items were collected including a black hairnet which provided the first DNA link to Sims. Additional items from the victim’s body were also tested and washings of the victim’s pubic hairs revealed a DNA profile consistent with Sims.

Randolph Arledge was sentenced to 99 years in prison in 1984 for killing Carol Elaine Armstrong. But a state district judge in Corsicana, about 50 miles southeast of Dallas, agreed with prosecutors and Arledge’s attorneys that he could no longer be considered guilty after new DNA tests tied someone else to the crime.  Judge James Lagomarsino agreed to release Arledge on bond while the process of overturning his conviction is pending.

Arledge wore shackles around his wrists and ankles at the start of the hearing.

“They suffered more than anybody,” Arledge told reporters afterward. He gestured to his daughter, Randa Machelle Arledge. “She’s always talking about, she wanted me to come pick her up from school. Now she’s picking me up.”

His children said they remained hopeful through the years, not doubting his innocence.

“Every time he came up for parole, it was broken, shattered hopes,” his daughter said.

Navarro County District Attorney Lowell Thompson said authorities are searching for the person matched to the DNA and believe they know where he is. The case “will stay open until we solve it,” he said in an interview.  While Thompson credited the system for freeing Arledge, he said he remained committed to finding Armstrong’s real killer for her relatives.  “It’s their daughter; it’s their sister who was victimized,” Thompson said. “I empathize with them as much as I can, but you know it’s not easy for them to have to have all this brought back up.”

Like many wrongfully convicted inmates, Arledge was sent to prison with the help of faulty eyewitness testimony. Two co-conspirators in an armed robbery testified at his trial that he had admitted to stabbing someone in Corsicana and that he had blood on his clothes and knife.  One of those witnesses has since admitted to lying about Arledge due to a personal dispute.  Texas now has a law allowing all inmates convicted of a crime to seek new DNA testing. It also has the nation’s most generous law for ex-inmates who have proven their innocence, providing a lump-sum payment of $80,000 for each year someone wrongly spent behind bars, as well as an annuity and other benefits.

Sources:  DailyJournal  |  SkyValley  |  Innocence Project  |  ABC Local |  CBS Local  |  HuffPost  |  MSN  |  Crime Magazine

  1. Jennifer Shehan says:

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  2. Donia Thimons says:

    How about Sirhan Sirhan, incarcerated for the past 44 years for a crime he did not commit!
    Why was Thane Ceasar ignored? Politics?


    • Some eyewitness accounts and a recording show that it is possible there may have been a second unknown shooter due to the fact that more bullets were heard than could have been in Sirhan’s gun. But, the second shooter theory doesn’t exculpate Sirhan. Some people have speculated that it could have been Caesar. Yes, politics definitely plays a huge part throughout the process because assassinations tend to be politically motivated.
      I don’t like to get political on this blog because I don’t think the criminal justice system should have anything to do with politics, it only invites trouble. I think criminal justice issues are universal and not split down any party lines. It should be about doing what’s right and not about who likes who or who’s in this chair and who’s in that office. Or who’s up for election.
      There are legitimate questions, that aren’t just crazy conspiracy theories, to these assassinations, but they have not been proven innocent yet. The sad thing is, when you are innocent and convicted, the courts look at you like you are guilty and just trying to con your way out, so you have to basically prove you are innocent. It’s scary how easy it is to go to prison and how hard it is to get out. For goodness sake, prosecutors usually block DNA testings. You’d think they would feel like that would prove their case and end the appeals and questions, but it seems more like they think they were wrong, don’t care, and don’t want anyone to find out. There is absolutely no reason to say no to someone in prison requesting a DNA test of items from the crime they were convicted of.


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