Marries his Longtime Fiancée
By David Simpson, Atlanta
Journal-Constitution, September 18, 2004
Clarence Harrison on Saturday married the woman who believed in
him when all he had to give her was a prison inmate's word of
honor that he was innocent.
Harrison's engagement to Yvonne Zellars lasted six years - the
final six of more than 17 years he spent behind bars for a rape
he steadfastly denied committing. On Aug. 31, he was freed after
prosecutors agreed with volunteer defense lawyers that recent
DNA tests proved his innocence.
Less than three weeks after he won his freedom, Harrison and Zellars
exchanged vows Saturday at the Straight Life Church of God Pentecostal
in south DeKalb County. More than 200 people filled the pews of
the sanctuary and frequently added applause or "amens"
to the hourlong ceremony.
The couple's attendants stretched across almost the entire front
of the sanctuary. They included two representatives of the Georgia
Innocence Project, the group that sponsored Harrison's DNA tests
and petitioned for his freedom. Executive Director Aimee Maxwell
was a bridesmaid. Jason Costa, one of a handful of unpaid interns
who tracked down the critical old evidence, was a groomsman.
Volunteer defense lawyer David Wolfe sat in a pew next to DeKalb
District Attorney Jeff Brickman. He was one of many in the congregation
who rose to snap photographs.
and Clarence Harrison after their wedding ceremony on Saturday.
(Photo courtesy AJC)
Harrison wore a white tuxedo and the same reserved smile that
has become familiar since his highly publicized release and subsequent
interviews. His story resonated so deeply with the public that
many of the wedding essentials were donated. Just this week, a
caterer stepped forward, and several lodges have offered honeymoon
or later vacation accommodations, said Georgia Innocence Project
spokeswoman Lisa George.
The couple spoke softly to well-wishers after the ceremony. They
asked for no interviews but did print a joint statement in the
wedding program: "We would like to thank everyone who has
assisted in making this day possible. This is our dream come true.
We appreciate the warm outpouring of love and generosity that
has been displayed to us and the loving greetings we have received
on this great day. Continue to pray for our marriage."
Brickman, Dekalb County district attorney, takes photos
during the wedding ceremony.
(Photo courtesy AJC)
The two met by chance seven years ago when a fellow inmate encouraged
Harrison to talk on the phone with his girlfriend's mother. On
the other end of the line, Zellars took an interest in Harrison.
She wrote to him on religious subjects and began to visit him.
After a year, he proposed.
Harrison was convicted in 1987 of a brutal rape and assault based
largely on the victim's picking him out of a lineup. He pursued
DNA testing shortly after his conviction, but the science at the
time produced inconclusive results. New testing was done this
year after he contacted the Georgia Innocence Project.