Seven months after he was cleared of one of the three rapes he was convicted of, MAIP client Thomas Haynesworth now has the opportunity to prove yet again that he is innocent of a rape he was acquitted of nearly three decades ago.
A Richmond Circuit Court judge ordered the testing of DNA evidence found in the 1984 case, which remains unsolved. Haynesworth was arrested in connection with a series of five rapes that occurred in Richmond during that time and was ultimately convicted of three and sentenced to 74-years in prison. Haynesworth has always maintained his innocence in all five crimes, and suggested that notorious local serial rapist Leon Davis actually committed them.
Under the Virginia Old Case Testing Project, DNA evidence was found in one of the rapes Haynesworth was convicted of and one in which he was acquitted. Testing was conducted on the first rape last year and both excluded Haynesworth amd implicated Davis. Davis, who called himself the "Black Ninja," was a neighbor of Haynesworth, has a striking physical resemblance to him, and is serving seven life terms for sexually charged crimes he has been convicted of. In September 2009, a judge threw out that conviction, which reduced Haynesworth's sentence by ten years.
MAIP, working with Hogan and Hartson and the Innocence Project in New York, moved to have DNA tested in the case Haynesworth was acquitted of. In its brief to request the testing, the legal team argued that a test that excluded Haynesworth and implicated Davis "would provide further evidence to support Mr. Haynesworth's claim of innocence …because it would demonstrate once again that Mr. Haynesworth bore a sufficiently striking resemblance to Leon Davis."
They added that in addition to their similar appearance, "the court records of Leon Davis' convictions reveal that his modus operandi bears several similarities to the other crimes for which Mr. Haynesworth was tried."
Commonwealth's Attorney Michael N. Herring supported the testing request. DNA is not available in any of the other cases Haynesworth was implicated in. All of the convictions were based solely on witness identification, which is the leading cause of wrongful convictions. The Judge acknowledged that even though Haynesworth was acquitted of the rape that will soon be tested, the evidence "may prove the convicted person's actual innocence" in the cases that he is currently serving a sentence for.
The testing is a part of the Old Case Testing Program, an effort that is being coordinated by MAIP to retest preserved evidence from Virginia cases that took place from 1973 to 1988.
MAIP is grateful that both the judge and Commonwealth's Attorney have been cooperative to finding the truth in this case, and looks forward to finding out the results.
Click here to read an article in the Richmond Times Dispatch about the decision.