2013 has been a blockbuster year for the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project (MAIP) and for David Boyce, Garry Diamond, Jerry Jenkins, and Johnathan Montgomery – all of whom were exonerated thanks to our efforts. Together, they served more than 35 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
Mr. Boyce was convicted of a brutal 1991 Newport News, Virginia, murder at a hotel based upon the testimony of a dog-sniffing expert, a jailhouse informant who had acted as an informant on many occasions, and testimony that Boyce had long hair and therefore matched the description of a hotel clerk who had seen the perpetrator enter the hotel with the victim. Unfortunately, the Commonwealth did not disclose the deal that the informant received or a photo taken of Mr. Boyce by the Commonwealth on the day of the crime with short hair. In addition, subsequent DNA testing indicated that Mr. Boyce did not match any of the physical evidence left at the crime scene, and additional investigation uncovered the existence of a compelling alternative suspect. His case came to MAIP when he began speaking with a former board member and volunteer executive director when she was visiting another client. MAIP, which had no attorney on staff at the time and recruited pro bono lawyers at Howrey LLP to represent Mr. Boyce; they uncovered much of the exculpatory evidence and litigate the case at the state level. The case ultimately as taken over by attorneys at Winston & Strawn LLP, who filed a federal habeas petition on Mr. Boyce’s behalf This spring, a federal judge granted that petition and reversed Mr. Boyce’s conviction based on the withheld photo, and a special prosecutor announced this summer that Mr. Boyce would not be retried.
Mr. Diamond was convicted of a 1977 kidnapping of a woman and her two children and the rape of the woman in Prince William County, Virginia, based on an eyewitness identification by the adult victim. Unbeknownst to the defense, however, the victim had failed to identify Mr. Diamond on more than one prior occasion; he remained a suspect only because the victim’s three-year-old son had identified him as the perpetrator. The victim only identified him when she saw him at a court proceeding. Mr. Diamond’s case was part of the Old Case Testing Project in Virginia, which involves post-conviction DNA testing in several hundred old cases from 1973 to 1988 where evidence was saved in the state crime laboratory. When Mr. Diamond received notice about the project, he contacted MAIP, which agreed to represent him and ensured that his DNA profile was compared to the profile left by the perpetrator. The results excluded Mr. Diamond, and the Commonwealth agreed to join MAIP’s Writ of Actual Innocence, which was granted by the Virginia Supreme Court last January.
Mr. Jenkins was convicted of a 1986 rape in Charles County, Maryland, based on eyewitness testimony that he “looked like” the perpetrator and scientific testimony that he fell within the population of people who could have committed the crime. Mr. Jenkins always proclaimed his innocence and began seeking post-conviction DNA testing as soon as he heard it was available – as early as 1989. Unfortunately, the physical evidence could not be located to test. In 2004, a serial rapist who had been convicted of crimes in nearby Virginia, was convicted of a Charles County rape that was incredibly similar to the rape for which Mr. Jenkins had been convicted – they both involved victims who were real estate agents working in model homes, a tall, stocky, blond perpetrator who wore a plaid shirt and a stocking mask, and eerily similar offenses. Based on that evidence, MAIP agreed to take the case as a non-DNA case in 2007, conducting an investigation of the alternative suspect. Then, as MAIP was about to file a Writ of Actual Innocence petition based on non-biological evidence with its co-counsel at Miller & Chevalier, Chartered, the attorneys decided to attempt one last search for physical evidence. This time, the state was able to locate a box of evidence that could be tested, and semen located on one of the victim’s hairs belonged to the individual that Mr. Jenkins and his lawyers had long believed to be the real perpetrator. In June, Mr. Jenkins was exonerated and is now seeking a pardon from the Maryland governor to fully clear his name.
Mr. Montgomery was convicted of a 2000 sexual assault in Hampton County, Virginia. The only evidence presented at trial was the alleged victim’s testimony: she testified Mr. Montgomery had assaulted her in her grandmother’s backyard. But she said this happened during a time when Mr. Montgomery was living out of state. Undeterred, detectives pursued the case and the alleged victim adjusted her story. The trial court, at the conclusion of the testimony, found Mr. Montgomery guilty based on the alleged victim’s credibility – finding she had no motive to lie. But she did. That motive became clear when the alleged victim recanted her testimony to police officers five years into Mr. Montgomery’s 45 year sentence. MAIP and co-counsel Hogan Lovells filed a request for a conditional pardon from the Governor, which released Mr. Montgomery from prison, but still required he report to probation and register as a sex offender. Shortly thereafter, we filed for a Writ of Actual Innocence, which was granted on December 20, 2013 — just in time for Mr. Montgomery to celebrate the holidays.
We are thrilled that our work has led to the exoneration of so many innocent men this year. No other innocence organization in the country has achieved more exonerations this year, and we have done this with less than one percent of the funding that goes to innocence work nationally. We’re optimistic that in 2014, we will be able to report the exonerations of other deserving clients who are languishing in prison.