He was innocent enough to be freed from prison, but is he innocent enough to have his record cleared? A Virginia man was released from prison last week, after having served nearly two decades in prison for crimes he asserts he didn’t commit. And though there is evidence linking someone else to at least two of the crimes, a lack of evidence in a remaining conviction had him pleading his case before the Virginia Court of Appeals this week.
The man, now 46 years old, was convicted of several offenses involving the attack and rapes of five women back in 1984. All five women identified the defendant. He was convicted on crimes against three, charges were not filed in one, and he was acquitted in charges against the fifth.
In 2009, DNA evidence in three of the cases would prove that he was actually innocent of three of the attacks (two which he was convicted of and the one for which he was originally acquitted). He was exonerated of these two convictions.
The third conviction, for which he was serving time until last week, is what brought him before the Court of Appeals this week. Because there was no DNA evidence available for testing in this case, it’s the job of his attorneys to argue to the court that he is actually innocent of this last charge and entitled to exoneration.
The DNA connected his neighbor to the attacks, a man who was already serving time for serial rapes in the region. The defendants attorney argues this final conviction matches the patterns of the convicted neighbor and was no doubt committed by him to.
While it seems this case would be somewhat cut and dry, the legal field isn’t always so simple. Exoneration means he will be ultimately cleared of the criminal charges, with no implications on his record and his ultimate removal from the sex offender registry. It will also make him available to receive compensation for the years he was wrongly imprisoned.
In order for him to be exonerated, “actual innocence” must be proven. This means his attorneys must go far beyond proving the court made a mistake in convicting him, they must prove he did not commit the offense in question.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch his defense attorneys aren’t alone in their arguments; the Assistant Attorney General agrees that he is innocent of the original charges and that victim eyewitness testimony was mistaken in identifying him, not an unusual occurrence.
Facing criminal charges can be difficult. When you are innocent, it can be particularly hard to sit back and watch people paint a negative picture of you that simply isn’t accurate. If you are facing charges in the Virginia criminal courts, contact our attorneys today to see how we can help and how having aggressive representation can put you more at ease.