Wrongly-convicted Fort Worth man's name cleared after serving nearly 20 years

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A Fort Worth man who was wrongly convicted of murder has been exonerated.

John Earl Nolley was legally declared innocent at a court hearing Wednesday morning. Judge Louis Sturns apologized to him on behalf of the state of Texas, saying he realized that it can never make up for what he’s endured.

“To the extent that words can't express our sorrow and regret for this, I certainly wish to apologize to you and I also wish to thank the Innocence Project the tremendous work they do throughout the nation," the judge said.

Nolley was accused of murdering his friend Sharon McLane. She was stabbed 57 times in her Bedford apartment in 1996.

Nolley was freed on a personal recognizance bond in 2016 after a jailhouse snitch admitted he lied when he told investigators Nolley confessed to the crime. New technology also proved a bloody palm print found at the crime scene was linked to someone else.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned Nolley’s murder conviction in May. He had been serving a life sentence and had already spent nearly 20 years of his life behind bars.

"I always knew that is how my life wasn't supposed to end,” Nolley said. “And I just woke up every day believing that would be the day and eventually it came."

The National Innocence Project worked with the DA's Office and Bedford Police through a special integrity unit to clear Nolley.

"We were able to do collectively over 70 interviews of witnesses, and we did literally a hundred different forensic tests over the last eight years together,” Nina Morrison with the Innocence Project. “We weren't able to hand them the real killer on a silver platter. We don't still to this day know for sure who did it. There are some other suspects they're looking at."

Nolley has a new son, a grandson and says he's at peace.

"I don't have any resentment towards anybody at this point. I mean, of course in the beginning,” he said. “But I think that as you grow and mature, you kind of understand that the faults you have other people have to, and they're just human error."

After his name was officially cleared, Nolley told the court he was just glad Criminal District Attorney Sharen Wilson did the honorable thing in his situation.

Nolley's case inspired the DA to create new policies for jailhouse informants in Tarrant County.