A Fort Worth man who has spent 24 years in prison after being wrongfully charged and over-sentenced will soon return home.
James Aaron Dyson, 41, was sentenced to 50 years in prison when he was 17 for shooting a man who had killed his best friend. While Dyson admits the shooting occurred, prosecutors at the time charged him with engaging in organized crime and presented false evidence that Dyson was a member of the R-13 gang, which enhanced the charge and sentencing guidelines.
Dyson has spent the last two decades fighting for his innocence while vehemently denying he was a gang member or that the shooting was gang-related. In August, Steve Conder with the Tarrant County District Attorney’s Office Conviction Integrity Unit, investigated Dyson’s claims and agreed.
“My sworn obligation is to make sure verdicts and sentences are correct,” Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson said in an emailed statement.
Dyson, his attorney Chris Self and Conder went in front of a Tarrant County judge in March to plead their case and present evidence of why Dyson should be released from prison on time served. Several of Dyson’s childhood friends testified that Dyson was not a gang member and that the shooting was motivated by grief and anger over his friend’s death.
The killer was sentenced on a murder charge to 20 years less than Dyson’s charge.
“The desired outcome is for Aaron’s story to be heard and the appropriate charge to be applied,” Self said before the hearing. “He is taking responsibility for what he did do and a maximum sentenced for that — aggravated assault — is 20 years.”
On Tuesday, the state agreed again with Dyson’s argument and found he is eligible for bond based on his application for habeas corpus.
He is scheduled to be transferred to the Tarrant County Jail, where he will be released to his family in two to three weeks, an advocate said.
“James Aaron Dyson has served his time,” Wilson wrote. “It’s time for him to be released from prison.”
Dyson plans to live with his mother, Angie Auldridge, and his stepfather, both of whom have been supportive of Dyson’s release and have fought for more than two decades to bring him home.
Dyson has multiple promising job opportunities upon his release, according to a motion to release Dyson on bond that was signed by District Attorney Sharen Wilson, Conder and Dyson’s attorney.
“These are warm invitations by people who genuinely believe in Mr. Dyson’s character and work ethic and are personally invested in his success,” the motion states.
The document also says that, “Dyson exemplifies the increased capacity for rehabilitation that is typical of people who enter the criminal justice system at a young age. He is no longer as susceptible to impulsiveness, risky behavior, and uncontrollable emotions as he was at 17 years of age.”
In the meantime, the lower court’s decision has been sent back up to the Criminal Court of Appeals for review.