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After 40 years, Virginia man's rape conviction vacated

A man who had been convicted of rape 40 years ago has had his conviction vacated. According to the Virginia Supreme Court, due to new evidence presented to them, they deemed it impossible that a jury would have determined the man committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

In 1978 the man, who was 18-years-old at the time, pleaded guilty to rape. While he maintained he was innocent, he was advised to take the guilty plea to avoid being sent to prison. At the time the alleged incident occurred, DNA testing was not available.

He has since petitioned to have his conviction of guilt overturned in light of new biological evidence. The alleged victim testified that she rode her bike to an abandoned house, had a blanket thrown over her and was raped by three individuals. She did admit that she did not see the accused and wasn't sure if she heard him speaking when the alleged incident occurred. However, according to the man, the evidence obtained from the alleged victim and that which was found at the crime scene did not contain any of his DNA. The Court agreed.

The Court in its opinion stated that the man proved his case through clear and convincing evidence, which is a high standard to meet. The man reports feeling relief. He aims to become employed and earn an income. He stated that ever since being convicted he has had a hard time finding stable and sustainable employment. He is glad to be free of the felony conviction that had affected his entire life.

It is important to note that back in 2005, Virginia's Governor ordered that DNA tests from 1973 to 1988 should be reviewed, the review of which led to this man's exoneration. DNA testing can be accurate, and a person whose DNA could not be found on the victim or at the crime scene should not be unlawfully convicted. Those who have concerns about cases like these are encouraged to seek legal advice from a qualified criminal defense attorney.

Source: The Washington Post, "Virginia Supreme Court vacates 40-year-old rape conviction," Justin Jouvenal, March 1, 2018

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