Choosing truth over freedom: “I mean, a man has to stand for something”

Last Sunday the CBS show 60 Minutes ran a story about Texas inmates being released after DNA tests1. One of the stories was quite amazing. A gentleman by the name of James Woodard spent 27 years in prison before a DNA test proved he was not guilty.

That’s not the amazing part. What truly makes Mr. Woodard stand out as a man of integrity, is the fact that he chose not to lie to the parole board even though doing so would have had him released much sooner. Here’s some of the story:

When he went in, Woodard had just turned 28; he is 55 years old now.

From the very beginning, Woodard wrote letters to District Attorney Henry Wade.

“I don’t know your philosophy of life but I would assume that you wouldn’t take a man’s freedom just because you can. That’s why I keep sending these letters to you,” Woodard recalls.

Wade’s office wrote back to say that the letter would be referred to an assistant. Woodard never heard anything from them again.

“I have to wonder after 27 years how did you stand it?” Pelley asks.

“You can only go one day at a time ever. I don’t really know myself. I just did the best I could. Just you know every day I have hope well maybe today will be a better day,” Woodard says.

“You had hope?” Pelley asks.

“That’s all a man has,” Woodard says. “I had hope for parole. I think I came up about 12 times.”

“When you appeared before the parole board what did they say to you?” Pelley asks.

“They always told me, as long as you deny your guilt its saying something about you, you know you are not willing to own up to your deed. And we gonna deny you,” Woodard says.

But Woodard refused to admit guilt. “I wasn’t guilty,” he says.

“You chose truth over freedom,” Pelley remarks.

“I mean, a man has to stand for something,” Woodard says.

  1. DNA Helps Free Inmate After 27 Years []

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