In 2004, State District Judge Sharen Wilson ruled that John Michael Harvey was “actually innocent” and recommended his release. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals agreed with Judge Wilson on a vote of 5-4 and Harvey was set free, exonerated of the crime that had wrongfully kept him in prison for 12 years.
Sharon Keller was one of the four judges on the CCA who voted to keep this innocent man in prison. Keller faces the voters in November. Will she survive the vote or have Texans grown weary of her unwillingness to protect innocent people from being wrongfully incarcerated?
John Michael Harvey missed out on a lot the past 12 years behind bars: marrying the love of his life who never believed he molested a 3-year-old girl, spending time with his parents who never doubted his innocence.
His relationship with his fiancee fell apart after he was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 1992. After draining most of their life savings to defend him, his father died of health problems in 2000, and his mother lost her battle with cancer in 2002.
Now that he has been cleared of the conviction and is finally free again, Harvey must start over. His old life is gone.
“In order for the next several years not to be contaminated and ruined, I need to put closure on it and try not to feel sorry for myself,” said Harvey, 40. “I want to have future relationships and not be sad and sour. I need to get back to the man I once was.”
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday upheld a lower court ruling of “actual innocence,” saying Harvey had been wrongfully convicted. The alleged victim, now a teenager, had recanted.
On Friday, a sheriff’s deputy drove Harvey from a prison in the Texas Panhandle to the Tarrant County Jail. He was released that evening after the appeals court received documentation that prosecutors would not seek a new trial for Harvey.
He started walking in downtown Fort Worth, carrying two small bags of belongings, but had no money and nowhere to go. His Houston attorney, Sean Buckley, picked him up Friday night, took him out for a steak dinner and drove back Saturday to Houston, where Harvey has relatives.
“This has allowed the public to see that a wrongful conviction is not as rare as they once thought it was,” Buckley said.