While many unjust prosecutions end with the truth being kept in the darkness and the falsely accused serving a sentence for a crime that wasn’t theirs, some do end with the truth being brought to light and the falsely accused being freed. The case of Dale Lincoln Duke is one of the latter cases.
As reported on myfoxhouston.com Dale pleaded no contest to a charge he sexually assaulted his then 7-year-old stepdaughter back in 1992. He received 10 years deferred adjudication probation. When he refused to admit to the offense, his probation was revoked and he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. (The story does not specify exactly where he refused to admit guilt; it is worth noting the Alford doctrine says that admission of guilt is not necessary to enter a guilty or no contest plea.)
Fast forward to 2011. The victim has recanted and Judge Susan Hawk agreed with prosecutors that Dale was innocent, and said it was her “privilege” to release him. The judge’s words triggered applause and a standing ovation from the courtroom gallery.
I’m pleased that justice was finally served in this case. It’s a tragedy when the accused are innocent and yet are prosecuted nonetheless. And I don’t know what the judge at the time (it may not have been Judge Susan Hawk) was thinking when revoking Dale’s probation just for not admitting to the offense. My guess, based on what I know, was that the revocation may have technically been for “failure to satisfactorily complete psychiatric counseling” where the reason for not completing counseling is simply “remaining in denial.” I hope my guess is wrong, because this amounts to court-ordered brainwashing and an abuse of judicial authority in light of the Alford doctrine.
As far as it being Judge Susan Hawk’s “privilege” to release Dale, I’d be more inclined to call it her “duty” as dispensing justice is something I’d expect a judge to do. I would like to think Judge Hawk did not pick her words just to elicit a response from the gallery; that is not something judges should do.
Now, remember that Dale was sentenced to 10 years deferred adjudication. Notice he was sentenced to 20 years in prison upon revocation. That’s not a typo.