On September 19, 2009, MAIP client Thomas Haynesworth became the first person in Virginia to win a Writ of Actual Innocence in a DNA case, when the Supreme Court of Virginia found that DNA testing had proven his innocence in the 1984 rape of a Richmond woman.
Mr. Haynesworth, who is represented by MAIP, the Innocence Project in New York, and Hogan & Hartson, was charged as the perpetrator in five separate incidents involving robberies, sexual assaults, or attempted sexual assaults in Richmond and Henrico County between January and April of that year.
He has always insisted that he was innocent of those crimes, but he ultimately was convicted in three of them. For years, he has sought DNA testing that he said would prove his innocence and link the crimes to Leon Davis, a serial rapist known as the “Black Ninja” who committed several rapes in Richmond and Henrico County during the latter half of 1984. Notably, Mr. Davis was a neighbor of Mr. Haynesworth’s, and the two men look alike.
This year, DNA testing performed as part of Virginia’s Old Case Testing Project proved that Mr. Haynesworth was innocent of one of those rapes. Instead, the profile matched Mr. Davis, proving that he committed at least one rape in the early half of 1984.
This victory eliminates 10 years of a 74-year sentence that Mr. Haynesworth is serving for the three crimes. The other two crimes for which Mr. Haynesworth was convicted were not part of the Old Case Testing project, but MAIP and its co-counsel are continuing to investigate the other cases in which Mr. Haynesworth was convicted and are optimistic that additional investigation may help prove Mr. Haynesworth’s innocence.