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First innocence writ issued in rape case

The Supreme Court of Virginia has issued its first writ of actual innocence and cleared Thomas Edward Haynesworth of a 25-year-old rape.

Haynesworth was convicted of two rapes, one in Richmond and one in Henrico County, at the same general time that a notorious serial rapist known as the Black Ninja was assaulting about a dozen women.

Sophisticated DNA tests not available at the time have connected Leon W. Davis, the Black Ninja, to the Richmond assault and exonerated Haynesworth. The Supreme Court granted the writ of actual innocence at the request of Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring and Virginia Attorney General Bill Mims, who said, “When there is compelling evidence of actual innocence, our office works quickly and diligently to ensure that justice is done.”

There’s no DNA in the Henrico case, however, and Haynesworth’s release date before the exoneration on the Richmond charge is 2024. He also is serving time for other offenses in Richmond.

He contends that Davis, who is his age, shares his blood type and resembles him, was the culprit in the Henrico attack as well. His conviction in that case was based on the victim’s identification of him from a spread of photographs.

Henrico Commonwealth’s Attorney Wade A. Kizer said his office has sent “everything we’ve got” to the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project so that it can review that case. He said he also expects to sit down and compare the circumstances of the Henrico and Richmond cases with Herring, who said, “I’m definitely open to investigating” the other Richmond cases.

By Alan Cooper

One comment

  1. Why does everyone ignore the real story here? How does an innocent man get convicted “beyond a reasonable doubt” in the first place? The judge is ultimately responsible for what happens in his courtroom. Their decisions quite often are based on their own bias rather that the evidence or the law.

    Virginia judges have no accountability or oversight. Vacriminaljustice.webs.com shows there are bad judges all over the commonwealth. Last year’s General Assembly session showed the judiciary would rather cover it up than fix the problem.

    The fact that is lost in all this is that when an innocent person is convicted, the guilty person continues to walk free. Therefore these biased judges are actually endangering all of us. Virginia will not survive in the 21st century unless we bring accountability and oversight to our judiciary.

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