During an interview with Scott Pelley, James told Pelley why he refused to admit guilt to a murder he did not commit. 'A man has to stand for something,' James said. I've always loved James Woodard for his brutal honesty, even when it hurt.
Dallas, Texas (PRWEB) August 08, 2014
James Lee Woodard is one of 50 Texans exonerated by DNA evidence and released from prison after serving years—sometimes decades—for crimes they did not commit. Woodard, then-55 years old, was set free as cameras from 60 Minutes captured his exoneration in a Dallas courtroom on April 29, 2008. He became instantly known throughout the world as the “17th Dallas man” exonerated by DNA evidence in the same county that has had more than any single jurisdiction in America: 25 men since 2001.
Seated behind Woodard, and his defense team, was a woman named Joyce King, the first non-lawyer appointed to serve on the board of directors for the group that helped Woodard secure his freedom: the Innocence Project of Texas. Woodard and King locked eyes. The gavel banged and court was in session. A few minutes later, James Woodard was a free man. It had taken 27 years and four months to overturn the wrongful conviction for murdering the young woman he loved.
Two days after being exonerated, Woodard spoke his first words to King. They quickly became inseparable. But she was a high-profile author who had been featured on CNN, BET, NPR, Book TV, Good Morning Texas, and, The Oprah Winfrey Show. He was an ex-inmate. She was on the board of directors for the Innocence Project. Woodard was their client. But love does not respect social boundaries or any accomplishments. The strangers were also connected by fate some 20 years before ever meeting.
Soon, they were engaged and the relationship critics were shocked at the unlikely union. By 2012, the pressure had evolved into a chronic nightmare of misery. Sadly, the famous exoneree landed back in the last place he’d ever wish to see again: Dallas County Jail. In October 2012, James Woodard died behind bars. Before his tragic death, Woodard made King promise, multiple times, that she would tell the world how hard he worked to survive his freedom. Her grief made King nearly inconsolable.
For six months, King would not venture beyond the home she once shared with Woodard. The native Texan knew she had to keep her promise to the man she still loved. King sold everything of value she had—including her Mercedes—to keep a roof and a promise. And now, the result is her new book, EXONERATED: A Brief and Dangerous Freedom (River Grove Books, 2014), the first offering about a DNA case told exclusively from the perspective of a woman who really knows what it was like to love a man so damaged by wrongful incarceration that he could not function in the free world. What haunted James Woodard nearly consumed them both. In the end, Joyce King was also exonerated.
King is respected throughout Texas, and the nation, for her thesis that “justice can open the door to healing.” Her first book, HATE CRIME: The Story of a Dragging in Jasper, Texas (Random House, 2002), was critically-acclaimed for its ability to draw the reader into the story of how a man named James Byrd, Jr. was dragged to death behind a truck. In April, King returned to Jasper to participate in a documentary on hate crimes in America. Today, HATE CRIME is used in countless university criminal justice courses.
The former CBS Radio news anchor/reporter is also an SMU Honors Department Lecturer and was named a William S. Morris Distinguished Lecturer for Texas Tech University. In 2010, she was appointed to serve on CPRIT, the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, by Gov. Rick Perry. And thanks to her provocative voice, King’s freelance pieces have been featured in numerous publications, including D Magazine, The Christian Science Monitor, Hope Magazine, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The Dallas Morning News, Houston Chronicle and USA Today.
In 2007, King was invited to join the executive board of directors and work for the Innocence Project of Texas. Her love of justice and desire to make Texas a more inclusive state for all preceded her in the work she chose, the columns she wrote, and how she represented the Lone Star state across the globe. In 2008, everything changed when James Woodard asked Joyce King to save his life.
EXONERATED: A Brief and Dangerous Freedom is the poignant, true story of what happened when they entered the gates of hell to conquer prison demons. And how new demons—in the free world—pursued them and the money that Woodard was entitled to: $4 million dollars in state compensation. What King witnessed will shock, sadden, anger, and amaze you.
For your copy of EXONERATED or to schedule an interview with King, please call 214-923-6185 or email execasst16(at)yahoo(dot)com. Please visit writerjoyceking.com for more information.
EXONERATED: A Brief and Dangerous Freedom is available in paperback and as an e-book through Amazon or B&N.com.