DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - DNA testing has cleared scores of wrongfully convicted inmates in Texas, hundreds across the nation. Now, it’s helping to clear wrongfully accused dads; and, in a Dallas man’s case, freeing him from jail.
Barry Wallace remembers missing the ordinary things in life when he was in jail like home cooked meals and time with his wife and kids.
Barry was jailed in January in Tarrant County as a “Deadbeat Dad,” owing more than $50,000 in child support payments for a child he said was never his.
He was still in jail Monday. “It’s been very hard on me, my wife, my kids. Knowing I’m in here for something I shouldn’t be in here for is very hard. Very stressful,” he said.
Barry and his wife Lorrie live in Dallas. They have two children together. But during a separation in 2006, a Fort Worth woman entered the picture.
“Young, dumb, foolish. ‘Went out to the club with some fellows one night. Met the girl,” he said. “One thing led to another. A two night stand. Next thing you know, she’s saying, ‘Hey, you’re the father,’” he remembers.
But a new Texas law allowed Barry to set the record straight. His attorney purchased a drugstore, DNA paternity kit. He secured the proper chain of custody and then sent in the samples.
The results, back in just a few days, showed zero probability that Barry was the father. He was freed from jail at 10:30 Monday night.
Sitting comfortably at home on Tuesday, Barry marveled at his change of circumstances. “Wow. It was like, ‘Whew!’ ‘Just to get to see my family. Hug my wife. Hug my kids. It was awesome,” he said.
The ordeal that had started six years ago had effected the entire family.
Lorrie Wallace said, “The torment I felt and went through day after day, night after night. It was just a nightmare and I was waking up from it. Finally. It was over.”
“The worst part was being a single mother,” she said.
Though he was released from his parental responsibility over the child, Texas law said Barry still owed $50,000 in back child support.
Then, something amazing happened.
Dennis Fuller, Barry’s Attorney, said, “By grace, the woman he owed $50,000 worth of child support to agreed to relinquish that child support.”
The woman gave up her claim to the money. “It definitely is a miracle for me. It really is,” Barry said.
She didn’t have to. “That needs to be written into the state law,” Fuller said.
Judge Nancy Berger of the 322nd Family Law Court terminated the parent-child relationship when the DNA results showed the child was not his. Judge Berger supports the new law and not just for parents. “I think a child has a right to know who the parents are when they’re being raised,” the judge said.
And Barry Wallace has his own children to raise.
Barry still owes some money though – more than $1,300 to the Attorney General’s Office court and administration fees and medical care for the mother.
Barry, who’s 31, realizes his story is a cautionary tale.
“When you step outside the will of God, you put yourself in a position for bad things to happen. And, that’s what happened to me,” he said.
“One simple act has led to a domino effect of chaos and torture and simply a nightmare and a headache in itself,” said Lorrie.
His attorney, Dennis Fuller, believes Barry’s case is a first, at least for Texas.
“I’ve asked the attorney general’s office. I’ve asked every judge. No one can find a case where someone’s been released under this new statute,” he said.
The new law gives other men who doubt their paternity until September 1 to file a claim. Time is running out.
“I’m ecstatic about the outcome for Barry Wallace. But, I’m also ecstatic that other people can hear about it and know this is out there. This is an option for them,” Fuller said.
CBS 11 has run a series of stories on the new law. It was Barry’s mother who heard about the change in the law from a story aired in February.
“She called her son’s wife and she said you need to get on the internet. You need to look at the statute change,” he said.
Barry had previously driven a truck for a living but had enrolled in radio broadcasting school. He was taking classes when he was arrested. But Providence smiled on him one more time. They saved his place for him.