Mike McAlister Free After 29 Years!
Last night, after spending more than 29 years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Mike McAlister walked out of prison into the arms of his family after receiving an absolute pardon from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe. The pardon was based on evidence of Mike’s innocence and fully exonerates him of the attempted rape for which he was convicted.
Mike, MAIP’s client with Jim Bensfield and Jonathan Kossak of MIller & Chevalier, had completed his sentence but was facing indefinite detention as a sexually violent predator if Gov. McAuliffe didn’t act before a May 18 hearing in the case. He was facing this indefinite detention even though the man who arrested Mike thought he was innocent, and the sitting Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney joined the pardon petition that we filed in April. You can read more about the case here and here.
Mike’s case is a great example of how dedicated public servants and government officials can come together to do justice for someone who desperately needed it. We are particularly grateful to Gov. McAuliffe for having the courage to do the right thing, Richmond Commonweatlh’s Attorney Michael Herring for joining us and advocating for Mike, the law enforcement officials who supported Mike’s claim, the parole board investigator who obtained a confession from the real perpetrator, and the prison officials who were so gracious to Mike and his family.
Of course, this case also is an example of why we need to keep working to ensure that the innocent are able to challenge their convictions. Although the men who arrested and prosecuted Mike have believed in and championed his innocence for more than 20 years, Virginia law made it impossible to undo his conviction in court. The absence of DNA or a confession in 2002 meant that his initial request for a pardon was denied and that he had to spend even more time in prison.
Thus, while we are thrilled to see Mike at home with his family, we know that our work does not end with his release. We hope you will join us in celebrating Mike’s freedom, and we also hope you’ll join us as we continue to fight for a criminal justice system that is fairer, more just, and does not prioritize finality over justice.