IMAGE: Larry Fuller
Ron Heflin  /  AP
Larry Fuller talks to the media Tuesday in Dallas after he was freed.
updated 10/31/2006 9:40:54 PM ET 2006-11-01T02:40:54

A decorated Vietnam veteran convicted of rape 25 years ago became a free man Tuesday after a judge ruled he probably wouldn't have been found guilty if DNA testing had been available.

Specialized DNA testing performed this year proved Larry Fuller, 57, was not the assailant who raped a Dallas woman in her home. Fuller has spent about two decades in prison for the crime.

"My faith was tested, and I won," he said, trembling slightly as he left the courthouse carrying two worn paperback Bibles.

Fuller was sentenced in 1981 to 50 years behind bars after jurors convicted him of aggravated rape. Authorities claimed that he broke into a 37-year-old woman's apartment and raped her, using a butcher knife to cut her as she struggled.

The woman looked at two photo lineups, both of which included Fuller. She picked him in the second one, even though Fuller was bearded in the picture and she said her attacker had no facial hair.

At the time, Fuller was a 32-year-old Vietnam veteran who had received the Air Medal for taking care of his crew. He was pursing a career in art and had worked as a driver and warehouse employee.

Fuller served 18 years in prison before being released in 1999. He was sent back to prison last year for a parole violation. All the while, he professed his innocence and tried to prove it through DNA. This year, the Dallas County prosecutor's office agreed to allow the additional testing.

Both the assistant district attorney and state District Judge Lana McDaniel apologized to Fuller; neither was involved in the original case. The judge said she felt sick to her stomach over all the time he spent in prison for a crime he didn't commit.

"Thank you," Fuller responded. "Apology accepted."

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