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Monday 27 March 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Steve Helber/AP/Press Association Images Thomas Haynesworth, centre, and Kenneth Cuccinelli, left, speaking to the press yesterday.,
# Exonerated
Thomas Haynesworth exonerated after 27 years in US prison for rape
Haynesworth, now 46, was convicted in 1984 of three sexual assaults, but has been released following new DNA evidence.

A US COURT has exonerated a man who spent 27 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of rapes he did not commit.

Virginia’s appeals court yesterday fully exonerated Thomas Haynesworth, 46, of the convictions and issued him with writs of innocence after DNA evidence implicated another man in one of the cases.

Haynesworth was arrested in 1984 aged 18 on suspicion of carrying out attacks on five women and was later convicted of three of those sexual assaults.

Two years ago, DNA testing cleared him of one of those three attacks and implicated a man called Leon Davis who was already serving life sentences for multiple sexual assaults. Although there was no DNA evidence to check for Haynesworth’s other two convictions, DNA testing on one of the two cases he was acquitted of also implicated Davis.

Based on the new evidence uncovered in the forensic testing, Viriginia’s attorney general Kenneth Cuccinelli and two state prosecutors reviewed Haynesworth’s case and supported his push to clear his name. He was released on parole in March, but continued to push for exoneration.

The appeals court yesterday ruled 6 to 4 to grant Haynesworth’s petition and issue writs of actual innocence. However, two of the judges overseeing the appeal wrote a multi-page response to the petition saying that they believed it should be dismissed. They said that just because he had not committed other crimes, it did not necessarily follow that he had also not committed these crimes.

Speaking at a news conference yesterday, Haynesworth said he “never gave up hope, I kept pushing”. He said that being exonerated after 27 years of proclaiming his innocence was like having early birthday and Christmas presents.

Cuccinelli, who became emotional during yesterday’s press conference with Haynesworth, said that he and the two lawyers reviewing he case concluded that a miscarriage of justice had occurred in these convictions “not as the result of any misconduct, but simple because of a series of unfortunate, human mistakes”.

“Regrettably, no one at the time had the global view of the case that we are now able to see with the benefit of hindsight,” he added. “Today, the writs were granted. Today, we celebrate Thomas Haynesworth’s freedom. And today, we recognise that justice has prevailed.”

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