On March 8, 2013, the Virginia Supreme Court exonerated MAIP client Garry Diamond when it granted his petition for Writ of Actual Innocence based on DNA evidence. Diamond, who was sentenced to 15 years for the abduction that he did not commit, is the fourth man and the third MAIP client to win a Writ of Actual Innocence in a DNA case in Virginia.
“I am thrilled that the Virginia Supreme Court finally has vindicated what Mr. Diamond has been saying since he was arrested for this crime in 1976: that he is an innocent man who was the victim of a mistaken eyewitness identification,” said Parisa Dehghani-Tafti, the MAIP staff attorney who represented Diamond with Mary Kelly Tate, our co-counsel at the Institute for Actual Innocence at the University of Richmond. Former MAIP staff attorney John Hardenbergh also worked on the case.
Less than one year ago, Virginia’s Department of Forensic Science conducted DNA testing that proved Diamond was not a contributor to the semen found on a rape victim’s pants. That victim had been abducted, along with her two young children, from a rest stop on I-95 before dawn. When she described her attacker to police that morning, her description did not match Diamond. And, when her three-year-old son pointed out Diamond in a photo array, she expressly denied that it was him and pointed out the physical characteristics that did not match that of her attacker. Undeterred, police sent photo arrays that included photos of Diamond to the victim’s hometown and ultimately summoned her from out of state to attend a hearing at which Diamond appeared. It was at this hearing that the victim identified Diamond – after seeing his photo between two and four times. The previous description and non-identifications were never revealed to defense counsel. While the rape charge was dropped, Diamond was convicted of abduction with intent to defile in a bench trial based on this identification and testimony of a serologist regarding the victim’s pants. He was convicted despite at least three strong alibi witnesses.
Diamond’s case came to our attention in connection with the Virginia Old Case Testing Project, when he was notified there was biological evidence to be tested in connection with this case. When the test results were compared with Diamond’s DNA, they excluded him as the perpetrator. Ms. Dehghani-Tafti filed Diamond’s writ of actual innocence based on the exculpatory DNA results and then worked with the Office of the Attorney General, which ultimately agreed that, given the DNA exclusion, no rational trier of fact could have convicted Diamond of the crime in question.
“This case once again affirms the importance of Virginia’s Old Case Testing Project and the importance of cooperation between stakeholders in innocence cases,” said Shawn Armbrust, MAIP’s Executive Director.
In 2006, MAIP worked with then-Governor Mark Warner to secure DNA testing in hundreds of cases from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science in which biological evidence had been saved between 1973 to 1988. Including Diamond, eight people have been exonerated since then-Governor Warner ordered the testing of this evidence.
Diamond, who already had served his sentence, is thrilled to be vindicated after all these years.