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Old case DNA testing clears another criminal defendant

Based on DNA testing of old laboratory evidence, the Supreme Court of Virginia has erased the conviction of a man found guilty of abducting a family of three 36 years ago.

Friday’s exoneration of Garry Diamond marks the seventh time a convicted defendant has been cleared as a result of a massive DNA testing project using samples from old criminal cases.

Diamond was convicted of abducting a woman and her two young sons from an Interstate 95 rest area in Prince William County in 1976. Testing last year showed no match between evidence from the victim and Diamond’s DNA.

Diamond’s bid for a writ of actual innocence was supported by lawyers for the state, and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said he was pleased with the outcome.

“Normally, as attorney general, I am fighting to keep people in jail.  But this office has a responsibility to see that justice is done in every case, regardless of which side of the courtroom that justice may fall,” Cuccinelli said in a news release.

“I am just thrilled,” said Mary Kelly Tate of the Institute for Actual Innocence at the University of Richmond law school when informed of the court’s action. Tate had represented Diamond along with lawyers from the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project in Washington.

“This is an example of how well these cases can go when the parties work together,” said Shawn Armbrust, executive director of the MAIP.

Diamond, who already had served his prison term on convictions for abduction with intent to defile and two counts of abduction, is now living in another state and hoping to avoid attention, according to his lawyers.

Diamond may have been a victim of an eyewitness identification by a two-year child. When police first showed his picture to the crime victims, the mother did not identify Diamond as the perpetrator, but one of her young sons did, according to Armbrust.

Police kept Diamond’s picture in an array and the mother later picked him as her assailant.

The case is a “classic example of how an eyewitness identification can be contaminated,” Armbrust said.

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