FORT WORTH — He spent 24 years in prison for a crime he didn't commit. On Friday, David Wiggins, 48, began life as a free man.
"It's a burden lifted," he said after having a watch fitted. "It feels good to be free."
The watch was a gift from another man who was exonerated after spending years behind bars.
On Friday, to a standing ovation at the Tarrant County Courthouse in Fort Worth, Wiggins regained his freedom.
He was arrested in 1988, accused of raping a 14-year-old girl who picked him out of a lineup. He spent the next 24 years in prison, until DNA evidence cleared his name.
"It's kind of overwhelming," Wiggins said. "People kind of look at you differently."
And starting a new life is already full of surprises.
"Heard the phone ring in the car... what's that?" Wiggins asked. "It was on the speakers or something... I don't know."
His sister is also introducing him to the relatively easy steps of using a GPS device.
"I'm supposed to remember all of that, right?" he asked.
One thing David Wiggins won't forget is the journey he's already been on, and the purpose he's found along the way.
"I want to do something to enrich and better somebody's life... save other people. I believe that's what God has put in my heart to do," he said. "I thank God for the evidence in my case, and this opportunity, but I don't want to forget about them, either."
Wiggins plans to begin his new life with his brother in Tyler.
He expressed thanks to the Innocence Project for their help in getting him exonerated. Wiggins added that he has no bitterness for the victim who wrongly accused him so many years ago.
As he adjusts to freedom, Wiggins may need to prepare himself for some sticker shock.
The average price of unleaded gas back when he was convicted in 1988 was 91 cents; now it's $3.73.
The cost of a stamp was 24 cents; now Wiggins will find a lot of people use e-mail instead, and when they do lick a stamp it costs 45 cents.
A movie ticket was $3.50 in 1988; now the price tag to see the latest release is $8.
The top movies in 1988 included "Rain Man," "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and "Big."
One of the biggest news stories (that people read about in newspapers) was the victory of George H.W. Bush over Michael Dukakis in the presidential election.