Sentenced to life in prison for aggravated robbery, Darius Durom Elam has never taken a plea deal and continues to maintain his innocence. He is serving a life sentence and has been enslaved to the Department of Correction for 38 years – with not physical evidence linking him to the case and a recanted statement from jailhouse informant.
At the time of Darius’ incarceration, he was married with newborn twins along with another child. He had relocated from Chicago, Illinois to Houston attending TSU on a track scholarship with no record of violence or criminal past.
Darius’ conviction was based around untrustworthy jailed informants’ testimonies, and a reported fingerprint on a sheet of paper that was not initially included in the original evidence log and was reportedly found by an investigator 3 months after the original evidences were logged.
According to statistics gathered by the Innocence Project, a national litigation and public policy organization dedicated to exonerating and freeing wrongly convicted people, between 2.3% and 5% of all prisoners in America are actually innocent. Research done by the organization also shows that largely unregulated jailhouse informants’ testimonies like the ones utilized in Darius’ case are the leading reason for many innocent people who are wrongly imprisoned.
When Darius requested DNA post-conviction testing, the Houston Police Department (HPD) reported that it destroyed the questionable sheet of paper with Darius’ fingerprint in 1995. In addition to this sheet not being logged with the initial evidences, the HPD only destroyed the sheet of paper that was a major factor in Darius’ conviction. HPD maintained the original evidences: a bullet, shoes, clothing, fingernail clippings, hair, and blood samples.
In 2014, post-conviction DNA testing excluded Elam as a DNA contributor to these remaining items, which means no physical evidence links Elam to this crime.