John Earl Nolley

Man wrongfully imprisoned for 19 years for fatally stabbing friend 57 times

On Wednesday, a Texas judge exonerated a man who spent 19 years in prison for a 1996 murder that he didn’t commit.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that John Earl Nolley was sentenced to life in prison in 1998 for the stabbing death of his close friend, Sharon McLane, based on false testimony from two jailhouse informants. McLane was stabbed 57 times in her Bedford apartment on December 14, 1996.

One of the informants who provided false testimony was John O’Brien, an inmate who was facing 25 to 99 years at the time for stealing farm equipment. Nolley met O’Brien in jail while awaiting trial. O’Brien claimed Nolley admitted to killing McLane during an attempted robbery because her blood got on his shoes. The informant ultimately accepted a plea deal and received 10 years deferred adjudication probation, according to the newspaper.

Nolley, now 44, was freed in 2016 after a bloody palm print was linked to someone else. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals overturned his conviction in May. However, Wednesday’s exoneration officially makes him an innocent man—and eligible for state compensation, according to KTRK.

In Texas, individuals found to be wrongfully incarcerated are entitled to $80,000 for every year they spent behind bars. Nolley stands to receive a payout of $1.52 million for the 19 years he spent imprisoned.

Speaking with the Star-Telegram, Nolley thanked District Attorney Sharon Wilson for playing a role in his exoneration. Wilson established the Conviction Integrity Unit in 2015 to examine cases where someone is possibly wrongfully found guilty of a crime.”

“I got to give honor to God,” Nolley said. “There’s no other way I could be here. In my right mind, having gone through all that. I thank the district attorney and the Bedford police department and the system as a whole. We don’t always make the right decisions. But Sharen Wilson did the honorable thing in this situation. I thank you a lot.”

[Featured image: John Earl Nolley/KTVT]