Ideally, when you are innocent of a crime, you shouldn’t have to serve prison time for it. Even if you are convicted, which does happen, there should be safeguards in place to ensure you have access to relief through the appeals process. This is an ideal situation. Unfortunately, in most states we are operating at far less than the ideal.
The Virginia law that allows convicts access to exoneration is being criticized as being poorly written. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, in a position that normally backs all conviction, says that parts of the law are definitely “worthy of reconsideration.”
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the flaw isn’t involving cases where there is DNA or similar evidence, but in those where there is only non-biological evidence. In such cases, the attorney for the allegedly wrongfully convicted must prove to the courts “by clear and convincing evidence that no reasonable juror would find beyond a reasonable doubt” that this person committed the crime.
In discussing the hurdles one has to go through to overcome a wrongful conviction, Cuccinelli said, “It needs to be a high bar, by the process by which it’s handled and the hoops you have to get through, I think, are worthy of reconsideration.”
The issue with the law concerning nonbiological evidence is that it includes both a “clear and convincing” standard and also a “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, both of which are pretty high. In addition, the rule is written in an awkward manner, making it even more difficult.
Interestingly Cuccinelli was one of the state senators at the time who wrote and passed the law.
The most recent case, and only one of two to have successfully used the law was that of Thomas E. Haynesworth. Haynesworth served 27 years in prison for several crimes he didn’t commit. He was convicted in 1984 at the age of 18 for attacking four women. DNA evidence later proved his neighbor, who resembled him and had his same blood type, was actually guilty in at least two of the attacks. There was no DNA evidence in the final two cases.
It took several years and much work for Haynesworth to be exonerated for the other two crimes, but it did happen and he was only the second in the state to be granted a writ of actual innocence based on non-biological evidence.
Cuccinelli said the case proved, “the system isn’t perfect, and neither are we.”
When you are mistakenly accused of a criminal offense, you never think it would result in you spending years behind bars. You assume that things will be worked out long before then.
Whether you are wrongfully accused of violating a protection order or if they “got the wrong guy” in a robbery case, you need a tireless advocate working on your behalf. Call today for a legal consultation.