|Date / Location:||January 23, 1988, Virginia Beach, Virginia||Conviction:||Rape, Kidnapping, Robbery|
|Year of Conviction:||47 years||Release Date:||1989|
|Sentence:||October 16, 1996||Sentence Served:||7 1/2 years|
|Real perpetrator found?:||Not yet||Contributing cause to wrongful conviction:||Witness misidentification, Junk science|
|Compensation?:||Yes, amount not disclosed|
On October 16, 1996, after serving more than seven years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Troy Webb was released. DNA testing, unavailable at the time of Webb’s trial, finally excluded him as a possible perpetrator, proving what Webb had been saying for years: that he was innocent.
On January 23, 1988, a young Virginia Beach woman was approached by a man in the parking lot of her apartment complex when she returned home from work. The man pointed a gun at her, demanded money, grabbed her purse, and ordered her to a darker area of the parking lot, where he proceeded to rape her at gunpoint. After the rape, the perpetrator emptied her purse, stole her wallet, and left. The victim fled to her apartment, called her mother, and then called the police.
In the days following the attack, the victim was unable describe her attacker in sufficient detail to allow the police to design a composite sketch. She was also unable to identify the offender after looking at a collection of mug shots. After more than a month, she picked out Webb’s picture out of a photo array of six pictures. After identifying Webb, the victim claimed to be “ninety nine percent sure” that he was the man who had raped her. The next day, the victim was shown another photo line-up and again identified Webb as her rapist.
After the victim identified Webb as her attacker, police ran serology tests on Webb’s sperm and compared the results to those obtained from the rape kit. Webb was indisputedly a non-secretor, a man whose blood type cannot be ascertained from his semen. The semen in the rape kit was ascertainable as Type A. However, the serologist testified that the semen of a second man, such as the victim’s live-in boyfriend, could mask the semen of a non-secreting attacker. Webb’s defense counsel failed to ask the victim questions at trial to determine whether it was likely or even possible that any other man’s semen was present on her body or clothing at the time of the attack. Thus, although the serology tests certainly did not identify Webb as the attacker, the jury was told that he could not be excluded.
After hearing the serology test results and the victim’s in-court identification, the jury found Webb guilty of rape, abduction with intent to defile, robbery, and the use of a firearm during the commission of the robbery. He was sentenced to 47 years in prison.
After the verdict, Webb’s court-appointed attorney filed an appeal. The attorney focused his appeal on the jury selection process, arguing that two jurors – one who worked as a cocktail waitress and had herself been a rape victim and a second whose wife had been a rape victim – should have been removed from the jury. The appellate attorney also argued that the evidence used to convict Webb had not been sufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The appeal was ultimately denied by the Virginia Supreme Court.
It wasn’t until 1996 that Webb was finally able to prove his innocence. The Innocence Project took on his case and convinced the Virginia Beach prosecutors not to oppose DNA testing on the rape kit evidence. The results excluded both Webb and the victim’s then-boyfriend, proving that the original sample must have come from someone else: the real rapist. After learning about the results, the Virginia Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office did not oppose his petition for clemency.
Troy Webb was granted executive clemency by Virginia Governor George Allen and was released in 1996. He was eventually compensated by the state for his wrongful conviction.