ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email
ANGELINA COUNTY, TX (KTRE) – Tony Hall sat outside looking at the trees, something he wasn't able to do for 15 years.
"When you go in there and you're innocent and you know you didn't do it and you're telling everybody you didn't do it and people you know, they're looking at you like yeah, because to live with the stigma it's not to live, you want to die," Hall said.
He was sentenced to 15 years behind bars for sexually assaulting a child.
"What will it take to prove to you that I didn't do this?" Hall said. "Like I said, I was a homosexual and I don't know, they kept trying to make me take this plea bargain. I said you mean you're trying to force me and take and say I did something that I didn't do. Sometimes in life you have to stand up for yourself."
About 17 years ago, Hall says he took the stand and denied the charges against him, but apparently it wasn't enough to convince the judge.
"I went to the penitentiary on hearsay, only hearsay, there was no physical evidence," he said.
After his release, his alleged victim wrote a statement saying he had not been abused.
His conviction was overturned.
Hall did not appeal the conviction while in prison.
"I tried," he said. "I asked him as we were walking out. They had me in handcuffs, I said I want to appeal this, he said give me $2,100. I said I don't have any more money."
Art Bauereiss prosecuted Hall's case more than a decade ago.
"Any time that we present a case in court, I have a personal obligation where I think the person is guilty of the crime charged," Bauereiss said. "Otherwise, I don't think I have any business in court presenting the case."
He says convicted felons can get an attorney appointed to them for the first round of the appeals process if they can't afford one.
He's surprised Hall never did.
"I did not have any reason to believe he was wrongfully convicted and I stand by the evidence that was presented at the time," Bauereiss said.
"According to the CPS records that exist, at the time this arose, he was able to provide the CPS worker with a recorded interview during which he used anatomically correct dolls to show how he had been violated," Bauereiss said.
The 43-year-old says he's thankful his name is clear, but being institutionalized has changed him.
"I want back what they took away," Hall said. "I want it more than anything in this world. That's what I want back, I want what you took."
The state of Texas owes Hall more than $1 million in compensation.
A state law grants those wrongfully imprisoned a certain amount for every year they're incarcerated.
Hall says it's not about the money.