On February 18, 2006, police went to a motel room in Lubbock, Texas to investigate a complaint of marijuana smoking. During a search of the room, police confiscated a handgun and arrested the owner, 28-year-old Darian Contee.
Contee pleaded guilty on September 4, 2007 to unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon and was sentenced to three years in prison.
In January 2010, police took the weapon out of storage to carry out ballistic tests because they suspected it was used in a homicide. Crime lab technicians then discovered that the gun was actually an air pistol.
Contee’s defense attorney had never checked the gun prior to his guilty plea and the prosecution took the word of police that they confiscated a real handgun.
The Lubbock County District Attorney joined with an attorney appointed to represent Contee in filing a state petition for a writ of habeas corpus.
Contee was released from prison on February 18, 2010. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted the writ and set aside the conviction on August 5, 2010.
The prosecution dismissed the charges on August 20, 2010.
Contee filed a compensation claim under the state’s wrongful imprisonment statute and in August 2011, he received $214,583.
– Maurice Possley