08/28/07 — Innocent - After 18 years in jail

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Innocent - After 18 years in jail

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on August 28, 2007 1:45 PM

No more shackles, no more bars, no more waiting.

Dwayne Allen Dail is a free man.

This morning, more than 18 years after the Goldsboro native was incarcerated for life after being convicted of first-degree burglary, first-degree sex offense, first-degree rape and taking indecent liberties with a minor, in connection with the rape of a 12-year-old girl, Wayne County Superior Court Judge Jack Hooks said the phrase Dail has longed to hear since March 30, 1989.

“Mr. Dail, you are a free man,” Hooks said.

And then the reaction came.

Dail and Family

News-Argus/Mitch Loeber

Dwayne Allen Dail walks out of the Wayne County Courthouse with family members and close friends after an 18-year-old rape conviction. Superior Court Judge Jack Hooks declared Dail innocent of the 18-year-old rape case.

Behind the cheers, family members gathered for long embraces — crying on each other’s shoulders, looking at Dail all the while.

“I’ve been in so many prisons and I’ve been treated very roughly,” Dail said. “I’m overwhelmed. I just want to get out of here with my family.”

Dail’s son, Christopher, was not born when his father was sent to prison.

In fact, his mother, Lorraine Michaels, was pregnant with him when the sentence was handed down.

“This is the first time I’ve seen my dad a free man,” Christopher said. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like. I don’t know how it’s going to be. I’ve wished he was here for forever.”

Dail's family

News-Argus/Bobby Williams

Members of Dail's family and legal team wait inside Courtroom No. 5 for the judge to say 'innocent.'

So has Dail’s 20-year-old daughter, Kristina.

From inside Courtroom No. 5, her tears had been flowing for hours.

“I don’t have to see him behind bars anymore,” she said, fighting back tears. “This is the best day of our lives.”

She knew there would be no more letters filtered through a warden, no more supervised visits between her father and brother — and no more bars.

At the time of conviction, Dail was 20.

Lorraine, now 39, said she is elated that he is free.

“It’s about time,” she said. “We have been fighting on this and working on this for a long time, trying to prove his innocence. We’ve all been robbed, but he’s been robbed more and been through more pain than we all have. He’s got a whole lot of life to catch up on.”

After Dail’s court appeals were exhausted, the evidence used in the trial was turned over to the police department and destroyed, in accordance with the law.

The Timeline to Freedom

Sept. 4, 1987 -- A 12-year-old girl told police that a man climbed into her bedroom window in Jefferson Park and raped her.

May 9, 1988 -- A Wayne County Grand Jury returned a true bill of indictment against Dail on charges of first-degree burglary, first-degree sex offense, first-degree rape and taking indecent liberties with a minor. This is the day he was formally charged with the crimes.

May 30, 1990 -- A Wayne County Jury found Dail guilty on charges of first-degree burglary, first-degree sex offense, first-degree rape and taking indecent liberties with a minor. He was sentenced to serve the rest of his life in prison for the crimes.

Aug. 27, 2007 -- Wayne County District Attorney Branny Vickory received verbal confirmation that semen found on the victim's nightgown excluded Dail as the perpetrator in the case.

Aug. 28, 2007 -- Vickory asked Superior Court Judge Jack Hooks to dismiss the charges against Dail and release him from the Nash County Correctional Institute in Nashville.

-- Information: Goldsboro News Argus.

“There were some boxes that were not introduced into evidence that were found recently by the police department,” Wayne County District Attorney Branny Vickory said.

Two Goldsboro Police Department crime scene investigators, Robert Smith and William Cassady, were reorganizing a storage closet and stumbled on a box of evidence from the case that was not introduced in the trial.

The box of evidence contained the victim’s nightgown, a sheet and other evidence.

“We resubmitted it to the lab and found evidence that excluded Mr. Dail,” Vickory said.

He said he got a call from the director of the crime lab that Dail’s DNA was excluded from semen found on some materials.

This is what prompted Vickory to ask Hooks to exonerate Dail on all charges.

Vickory said he believes what Dail has always affirmed — that he is innocent.

“We are saying Dwayne Dail is absolutely innocent of this crime,” he said. “We’re going to keep trying to get the person who did it.”

And Dail said now that he has been freed, he will work to help the other wrongly convicted.

“I know that I will do all that I can to make sure that this doesn’t happen to anyone else,” he said. “I am just as confident and cavalier today as I have ever been.

“Today is the first day of the rest of my life,” he added. “I’m going to make the most of it. In a few days, I’ll have my toes in the sand and a drink in my hand.”

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