|Date / Location:||July 17, 1982, Hanover County, Virginia||Conviction:||Rape|
|Year of Conviction:||210 years||Release Date:||1983|
|Sentence:||December 6, 2001||Sentence Served:||15 years|
|Real perpetrator found?:||Yes||Contributing cause to wrongful conviction:||Witness misidentifcation, DNA evidence later excluded him|
Marvin Anderson was just 18 years old when he was arrested, convicted and sentenced to serve 210 years for a rape he did not commit. In 1983, an all-white jury convicted him based on a mistaken identification by the victim. While Anderson was adamant that he was innocent from the very beginning, it took more than 15 years for DNA testing to clear his name.
On July 17, 1982, the victim, a young white woman, was approached by a young black male on a bicycle. The man brutally raped and sodomized her, threatening her with a gun for more than two hours. During the attack, the perpetrator told the victim that he had a white girlfriend. Anderson became a suspect solely because police knew he had lived with a white woman.
He had no criminal record, so police had to use a color photo taken from Anderson’s employee identification card in the photo array shown to the victim. His was the only photo in the array that was in color, and the victim picked him out. A live lineup was held shortly thereafter, and she identified him again. Despite the identification, Anderson differed from the victim’s initial description of the perpetrator in significant ways – he had a dark complexion, was clean-shaven, and had no scratches on his face. Moreover, several alibi witnesses placed him at home at the time of the crime.
Nevertheless, he became the sole suspect and was charged with the crime. While Anderson was the main focus of police investigation, a man named John Otis Lincoln was rumored to be the real offender for four reasons: (1) Lincoln was also known to have a white girlfriend; (2) witnesses had seen him riding a bicycle near the site of the rape shortly before it occurred; (3) witnesses had heard him make comments to young girls walking by suggesting that he might sexually force women against their will; and (4) witnesses saw him ride toward the area where the rape occurred. However, police apparently ruled out Lincoln as a suspect once the victim viewed a photograph of Anderson and identified him as her rapist.
Although Anderson and his mother told their lawyer their theories regarding Lincoln, the lawyer never investigated Lincoln or used the evidence surrounding his possible guilt in trial. Unknown to Anderson and his family, the lawyer had previously represented Lincoln in a separate case and had advised him that he could become a possible suspect in the Anderson case. At trial, prosecutors relied entirely on the victim’s identification of Anderson.
Although DNA testing was not yet available in 1983, a supervisor from the Virginia Bureau of Forensic Sciences testified that she had performed blood typing on swabs from both Anderson and the victim and that she was unable to identify Anderson as the source of semen samples collected in the rape kit.
Anderson was convicted on all charges. His conviction was upheld again in 1988, even after Lincoln confessed to the crime in court, sharing details that only the attacker could know. The judge hearing the case said Lincoln was not credible and refused to release Anderson. Anderson tried to prove his innocence once more by petitioning the governor for clemency, but his petition was denied. In 1997, Anderson was released from prison on parole, a procedure that required him to register as a sex offender.
Anderson continued pushing to clear his name, seeking DNA testing. The official evidence from Anderson’s case had been destroyed pursuant to police procedure, but the lab technician who had originally done the testing had saved parts of the evidence in the file, even though that was not the usual lab procedure. As a result, on December 6, 2001, DNA testing secured by MAIP Board member Paul Enzinna and the Innocence Project, Inc., proved that Anderson was innocent and that Lincoln had committed the crime.
On August 21, 2002, Anderson was pardoned by the Governor of Virginia, and the conviction was later expunged from his record. After serving more than 15 years for a crime he did not commit, Anderson was granted 1.2 million dollars in compensation. John Otis Lincoln, the real perpetrator, was charged and found guilty of the attack. Marvin Anderson now owns his own truck driving company, raises his three sons and recently accomplished his goal of becoming a firefighter and serves as a Lieutenant in the Hanover (VA) Fire Department.