Dallas exoneree loses battle with liver cancer

The 65-year-old Dallas man is battling liver cancer. But that isn't what's truly worrying the prison-system exoneree who spent more than 25 years behind bars for a rape he didn't commit.

DALLAS--The Lindsey household's living room looks more like a hospice unit every day.

There are medicine bottles and oxygen tanks next to a spot on the sofa where Johnnie Lindsey spends most of time.

"I'm a fighter. I'm gonna keep fighting to stay alive," Lindsey told WFAA over the weekend.

The 65-year-old Dallas man is battling liver cancer. He says his days are likely numbered.

But that isn't what's truly worrying the prison-system exoneree who spent more than 25 years behind bars for a rape he didn't commit

"Why can't she get it? That's what I don't understand," says Lindsey.

He's talking about his wife, Sherita, and what's likely to happen when he dies.

In 2009, Johnnie was found to be "actually innocent," shorty after being released from prison. He then elected to receive compensation from the state for his wrongful imprisonment dating back to the 1980's.

Some of that came in the form of a roughly two million dollar payment, while the rest was set to come via annuity distributions every month.

Cory Session, a longtime Innocence Project advocate, says in 2015, the state reworked the compensation law so that those eligible could designate a beneficiary for the annuities if they passed away.

But Johnnie missed a narrow, 45-day window to sign up the love of his life because he says a form letter mailed out wasn't clear.

"Just taking away that little bit, that's taking away a lot," he said.

Mounting medical bills are eating away at what he does have.

Session helped the Lindsey's get some federal, Medicaid dollars for the cancer fight, but it isn't covering everything.

And it won't be there if Johnnie slips away.

"You should be able to leave the rest of the money that's owed to them to whoever they want to leave it to," Sherita said an interview.

The family says they aren't pointing fingers, rather trying to raise awareness so that others wrongfully convicted aren't caught off guard.

They say from everything they've heard from the state comptroller's office, there isn't a way to rectify the beneficiary situation this late.

"All I'll have to leave are my assets," said Johnnie, fighting back tears. "I'm upset at myself, too, but it's not right. And I'll go to my grave preaching it's not right."

Editor's note: Johnnie Lindsey passed away around 5:30 a.m. Friday Feb. 2.

The family offered the following statement:

"The entire family is heartbroken Johnnie was a loving father, husband and Champion of Criminal Justice Reform. He will be sorely missed."

© 2018 WFAA-TV


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