In 1983, Elam was originally charged with murder and credit card fraud. The murder charge was changed to aggravated robbery after the DA’s office was unable to convict on murder. When arrested, Elam was a working young man in his twenties, an honor roll student on a track scholarship at TSU, an Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity member, and husband with 4 young children under the age of 5. In 1983, he became a casualty of America's flawed justice system that is quick to convict and slow to exonerate when evidence proves innocence.
Darius Elam was convicted of aggravated robbery of a white man found dead with a gunshot wound to his head on the campus of Rice University on May 7, 1983. He has been serving a life sentence since 1984 despite no confession; a deeply flawed investigation; and compelling evidence he was wrongly convicted.
EVIDENCE SUPPORTING DARIUS ELAM'S INNOCENCE
To date, there are three things pointing to Elam’s innocence: a recanted paid jailhouse informant testimony, DNA testing excluding Elam, and an unidentified person’s DNA found at the crime scene.
- Recanted testimony from Houston Police Department (HPD) jailhouse informant who was paid $300 and facing a “three strikes out” life sentence for a gun probation violation that was later quashed.
- DNA testing on the original items (a bullet, shoes, clothing, fingernail clippings, hair, and blood samples) excluded Darius as a DNA contributor and found a 3rd unidentified person’s DNA under the victim’s fingernail.
- Questionable yellow sheet of paper with alleged blood spatters was never logged or mentioned by three investigators on May 9, 1983. Ninety days after the initial investigation, HPD Officer Leonard Cooper reportedly found this sheet of paper on the front passenger’s side floor of the victim’s car. Suspiciously, this sheet of paper was not documented in the original evidence log and was the only item destroyed by Harris County District Clerk’s Office in 1995. Destruction of this vital piece of evidence prevented Elam from getting DNA testing on it.
LATEST WITH THE CASE - UNDEFINED TIMELINE AND DELAYED DUE PROCESS
- DECEMBER 2022 | Hearing Regarding Recanted Informant's Testimony | The Honey Brown Hope Foundation requested the Houston Police Department to conduct the post-conviction investigation that ultimately led to the informant recanting his 1983 testimony. In Judge Josh Hill’s failure to properly review all the evidence, he did not address the June 2021 Supplemental Writ regarding a recanted informant's testimony. The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals ordered the December 7, 2022 fact-finding hearing about the informant’s recanted statement because Judge Hill failed to rule on the supplementary writ regarding the informant’s recanted statement. Despite the untrustworthy informant not recanting his 1984 testimony on the stand during the hearing, our Founder Tammie Lang Campbell and Houston Police Sergeant Richard Rodriguez both testified the informant recanted to them. After the hearing, Judge Josh Hill's will give reccomendation to the Criminal Court of Appeals, who will make the final decision.
- JANUARY 2022 | Judge Recommends Denial of Writ | After a 2-year delay, on January 10, 2022, Judge Josh Hill, 232nd Judicial District Court of Harris County, finally issued his recommendation to the Court of Criminal Appeals. fter a two-year delay, on January 10, 2022, Judge Josh Hill, 232nd Judicial District Court of Harris County, finally issued his recommendation to the Court of Criminal Appeals. He recommended that Darius Elam’s application for Writ of Habeas Corpus be denied, and that the original guilty conviction be upheld. His recommendation didn't address the June 2021 Supplemental Writ regarding recanted informant's testimony.
- MAY 2022 | Harris County District Attorney "Un-Recuses" Itself to Investigate & Judge Joshua Hill Denies DA Request to Take Back the Case | The Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg recused the entire office because a staff member, Vivian King, served as Darius’ public defender when the motion to request post-conviction DNA testing was denied in 2009. However, in May 2022 the Harris County District Attorney’s office notified the Honey Brown Hope Foundation that the office will be “un-recusing” itself and investigating Darius’ innocence claims. This new development meant that the DA Office could decide to no longer prosecute and dismiss Darius' case, if actual innocence was found. However, Judge Josh Hill, Texas 232nd District Court of Harris County, declined to accept District Attorney Kim Ogg’s Office request to un-recuse/ take back Darius D. Elam’s case. Instead of granting DA Ogg’s motion to un-recuse her office and investigate Elam’s claim of actual innocence, Judge Hill appointed a new special prosecutor Jarvis Parsons, District Attorney of Brazos County to represent the State in this case.
- MARCH 2021 | Jailhouse Informant Recants His Testimony | The Honey Brown Hope Foundation requested the Houston Police Department to conduct the post-conviction investigation that ultimately led to the informant recanting his 1983 testimony.
More details about the case are below.