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Posted at 4:31 PM ET, 02/ 3/2011

Va. prisoner files innocence claim

By Maria Glod

An Virginia man who is in prison for a series of 1984 attacks against women has asked a Virginia court to declare him innocent.

Modern-day DNA tests have exonerated Thomas Haynesworth, 45, in two sexual assaults and implicated a convicted rapist. But Haynesworth remains behind bars for two crimes in which there is no genetic evidence to test.

Haynesworth's legal team, headed by the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, on Thursday asked the Virginia Court of Appeals to grant a Writ of Actual Innocence. The request, which comes after a months-long reinvestigation of the nearly three-decade-old crimes, has the extraordinary support of prosecutors and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II.

Haynesworth's attorneys allege that convicted rapist Leon Davis, who was implicated in two of the crimes, is responsible for all the attacks. Davis, who is serving several life sentences, lived in the same neighborhood, resembled Haynesworth and has the same blood type. He has not been charged with additional attacks as a result of the new genetic testing.

"The results of the joint investigation prove what Mr. Haynesworth has maintained for almost 27 years - that he is innocent of all the crimes with which he was charged," attorneys wrote in the petition. "All parties now agree that Mr. Haynesworth is an innocent man who has spent nearly 27 years in prison for three crimes he did not commit."

Haynesworth's freedom is not guaranteed. The state Court of Appeals has only once exonerated a convict in a case that wasn't based on biological evidence. The court must be convinced that no jury would convict Haynesworth if it heard all the facts known today.

By Maria Glod  | February 3, 2011; 4:31 PM ET
Categories:  From the Courthouse, Maria Glod  
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Comments

ANOTHER INSTANCE OF GROSS INJUSTICE IN VIRGINIA, SUPPORTED BY A SYSTEM THAT DOES NOT PROVIDE FOR INNOCENT PEOPLE BEING FREED IMMEDIATELY ONCE THEIR INNOCENCE HAS BEEN PROVED OUTSIDE OF THE USUAL JUDICIAL SYSTEM. In Virginia every effort has been established to convict people as soon as possible without giving them a fair opportunity to defend themselves unless they happen to have a lot of money and standing in the community, otherwise they are at the mercy of the court and jurors who are NOT THEIR PEERS because of the process of selecting jurors in this state. No one has clearly examined how much this jury selection process is stacked against minorities. I have live in Virginia 10 years, have no criminal background, registered voter, mature and well educated woman who has never been called to jury duty in the county in which I live but I am aware of people who have been on juries over and over -- most of whom are not african american or any other minority. How does that happen -- easily with Virginia's patently unfair jury selection system, but it is the capital of the confederacy and refuses to change much.

Posted by: hotezzy | February 4, 2011 9:17 AM | Report abuse

I know people want to be tough on crime and we should be, but over the past 10 years and longer DNA has proven so many people innocent. The word closure is used so much by family members and the police when a person is incarcerated for crime. But are we really so heartless that we would take 27 years away from an innocent person, so that the family and society can feel safe. How are you safe when the real animal is still free?

Posted by: bobby31 | February 4, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

Common sense is the victim of the law.

Posted by: jckdoors | February 4, 2011 10:50 AM | Report abuse

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