FORT WORTH – "State of Texas vs. David Lee Wiggins," the clerk said, and so began an extraordinary hearing Friday in a Tarrant County courtroom.
David Lee Wiggins was only 24 when a 14-year-old rape victim picked him out of a lineup. This time, the packed courtroom gave the now 48-year-old Wiggins a standing ovation, including the prosecutors who told the judge DNA evidence proves Wiggins' innocence.
"Feels good," Wiggins smiled after stepping out of the courtroom. "I ain't gonna lie. It's a weight off my shoulder to finally hear that. The innocence. It's just awesome."
Wiggins first began asking for a new thing called DNA testing back in 1988. The state said the science wasn't good enough then.
But new tests funded by the Innocence Project exonerated him.
"They said the results are in and I'm innocent," he said, describing the phone call. "You know, it was kind of like when I got the first life sentence. Numb, you know? I couldn't believe it."
A gaggle of cameras followed David Wiggins down the hall and out into the sunshine in downtown Fort Worth.
After 24 years of prison food, he made a beeline for Jake's Hamburgers, where he celebrated with attorneys who helped him. A half dozen other inmates exonerated by DNA joined in.
He said he bears no bitterness for the victim who misidentified him.
And he said his faith will guide his future as it sustained him in prison, where he was baptized in 1997.
"It's been my desire for long time to be in ministry in whatever capacity God chooses me to serve,” he said.
For now, he'll go home with his brother to Tyler and start over. He's not sure how.
"Really, to be honest, I'm just going moment by moment," he said.