Charles Chatman was sent to prison for 27 years for a crime he didn’t commit. Now, 2 years after DNA evidence from the case exonerated him, he is still having trouble getting a US passport.
According to DallasNews.com, Mr. Chatman went to jail in 1981 on a rape conviction, the result of a mistaken identification. He always maintained his innocence, but it wasn’t until 2001 that Texas state law allowed prisoners to request DNA tests of existing evidence. It took officials two more years to find the evidence in his case, and it was not until 2007 that a test was developed that was sensitive enough to use.
In 2007, Mr. Chatman was exonerated and released from prison. He began building a new life for himself, fell in love and conceived a child. He wanted to take his partner on a cruise for Valentine’s Day, and to do that, he needed a passport.
However, even though 2 years had passed since he was released from prison, his record still indicated to US passport officials that he was a felon who had not yet completed his sentence. If you are convicted of a felony, in most cases you can get a passport once you’ve served your sentence, but if you are still under supervision, you’re out of luck.
Since the State Department would not issue Mr. Chatman a passport, he was unable to take the cruise, and would have been out all of his money if the media hadn’t gotten involved. Fortunately, once the situation was publicized, Carnival issued a credit. Hopefully, he gets his US passport soon and he and his girlfriend get a much-deserved vacation!
This situation demonstrates why it’s important to apply for an expedited passport if you think there’s anything that could possibly go wrong. The sooner you know that there’s a problem, the sooner you can get it fixed, and the less likely you are to miss your trip.