David Lee Wiggins of Fort Worth had been sent to prison in 1989, largely on the basis of the 14-year-old victim picking him out of photo and live lineups. He was cleared by DNA testing that led state District Judge Louis Sturns to free him Friday, though the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals must accept the judge's recommendation or the governor must grant a pardon before it's all official, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Times said Wiggins will be eligible for $80,000 a year in compensation and other benefits once his conviction is formally overturned.
"He lost half of his life to this wrongful conviction. It's a startling reminder of the toll it takes," Wiggin's attorney, Nina Morrison of the New York-based Innocence Project, told the newspaper.
Morrison said her client is not bitter and does not blame the girl who wrongly fingered him as her attacker.
One of the first things Wiggins did as a free man, the Times said, was to go out to lunch with several other former Texas inmates who also have been exonerated. Wiggins had a hamburger, fries and a Coke.
The National Registry of Exonerations says 84 people have been cleared of wrongful convictions in Texas since 1989.