“There are a lot of people behind the scenes who believed in me. Twenty-seven years, I never gave up.” – Thomas Haynesworth
Thomas Haynesworth was an 18-year-old with no criminal record when he was mistakenly identified as a man who had attacked five women in Richmond, Virginia in 1984. All five victims identified him as their attacker, and he was sentenced to 74 years in prison.
In 2009, DNA testing proved that Haynesworth was innocent of one of the rapes and implicated Leon Davis, a notorious serial rapist at the time. There was no DNA evidence in Haynesworth’s remaining convictions, but DNA evidence in case where he was acquitted also cleared him and implicated Davis.
The evidence proved that Haynesworth was mistaken for Davis several times, and at the request of the Commonwealth’s Attorneys in the two jurisdictions Haynesworth was convicted in, he took and passed two polygraph examinations. Based on all this evidence, both Commonwealth’s Attorneys and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli agreed to support Haynesworth’s petition for Writ of Actual Innocence.
Haynesworth was released on March 21, 2010, but had to wait nine months for a judgement by the Virginia Court of Appeals before he could be taken off the sex offender registry. MAIP attorneys, Haynesworth’s legal team, and the Virginia Attorney General’s Office argued before the Court twice, until the Virginia Court of Appeals issued a 6-4 decision and fully exonerated Haynesworth.
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