Marvin Anderson

Marvin Anderson became the first Virginian to be cleared of a crime by genetic testing after new results ruled him out as the perpetrator in 2001. Anderson, who spent 15 years in prison, was convicted based on testimony from the victim in the case, who identified him in a conventional lineup.
Marvin Anderson became the 99th exonoree to be cleared of a crime by DNA testing. (Photo: Steve Helber/AP)

Marvin Anderson was only 18 years old when he was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to serve 210 years for a rape he did not commit. In December of 2001, more than 15 years after he was convicted, DNA testing proved his innocence.

In 1982, a young black man brutally raped a young white woman in Hanover County, Virginia. During the assault, the perpetrator told the victim he had a white girlfriend. Anderson became a suspect solely because police knew he had lived with a white woman.

Since Anderson had no criminal record, police used a color photo taken from his employee identification card in the photo array they showed the victim. She selected his picture—the only color photo in the array. After viewing his photo, she selected him in a lineup. It didn’t matter that he differed from the victim’s initial description of the perpetrator—he had a dark complexion, was clean shaven, and had no scratches on his face—or that several alibi witnesses placed at home. He was charged with the crime.

Marvin Anderson and his mom, Joan Anderson (Photo: Lisa Ross)

At the time, there was another suspect named John Otis Lincoln. However, police ruled him out when the victim selected Anderson’s photograph. By 1988, Lincoln had confessed to the crime, but a judge did not find him credible and refused to release Anderson.

In 1997, Anderson was released from prison on parole, but still had to register as a sex offender. Four years later, MAIP Board member Paul Enzinna and the Innocence Project secured DNA testing for the case, exonerating Anderson. In 2002, he was pardoned by the Governor of Virginia, and the conviction was expunged from his record. He was granted $1.2 million dollars in compensation for serving over 15 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.

Marvin Anderson now owns a truck driving company, raises his three sons, and serves as a Lieutenant in the Hanover (VA) Fire Department.

Read more about this case:

Innocence Project

National Registry of Exonerations

The New York Times

Time Magazine