Criminal Justice

Va. Inmate Imprisoned for 27 Years Obtains Writ of Actual Innocence; He Now Works for State AG


A Virginia inmate who spent 27 years in prison for multiple rape convictions has obtained a writ of actual innocence and a job with the state attorney general who supported his quest.

The Virginia Court of Appeals issued the writ exonerating Thomas Haynesworth on Tuesday in a 6-4 en banc decision (PDF), according to the Washington Post and a press release.

Haynesworth became a suspect after a rape victim spotted him in a Richmond, Va., market in 1984 and concluded he was the man who had raped her, the Post says. Five women eventually identified Haynesworth as their attacker, leading to three convictions. He was acquitted in a fourth case while charges were dropped in the fifth.

Haynesworth benefited when former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner ordered a re-examination of cases with DNA evidence in 2005, the story says. New DNA technology cleared Haynesworth in two of the cases, including the one that resulted in acquittal; no genetic material was available in the two other cases that resulted in convictions.

The DNA evidence suggests the rapes may have been committed by a convict known as the “Black Ninja” rapist, according to the press release.

Haynesworth was supported by two state prosecutors and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who has hired Haynesworth to work in his mailroom. Haynesworth was represented by the Innocence Project, the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and Hogan Lovells, the press release says.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “Virginia AG Not Only Seeks to Exonerate Paroled Rapist But Hires Him to Work in AG’s Office”

Updated at 5:44 p.m. to link to earlier ABAJournal.com post.

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