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Commonwealth of Virginia
Office of the Attorney General

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For media inquiries only, contact:  Brian J. Gottstein
Email: bgottstein@oag.state.va.us (best contact method)
Phone: 804-786-5874

 

Statement of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on Thomas Haynesworth's state compensation for wrongful incarceration

RICHMOND (April 5, 2012) - Below is the statement of Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on the governor signing legislation today providing for Thomas Haynesworth's compensation for wrongful incarceration.  SB41 provides $1,075,178 in compensation:

"For 27 years in prison, Thomas Haynesworth always maintained his innocence in three 1984 sexual assault convictions. For those 27 years, he continuously displayed tremendous dignity and grace, steadfastly believing that justice would one day be served. Last December 6th, Thomas Haynesworth was fully exonerated, and an unimaginable nightmare ended. Today, a new chapter in his life can begin," said Cuccinelli.

"Although we wish that the amount of money could have been greater, we also know that no amount can make up for those 27 lost years. We pray that this will allow Thomas a new beginning to pursue the dreams he has been waiting almost three decades to fulfill."

Background

In 1984, while picking up groceries for his mother, Haynesworth was mistakenly identified as the man who had attacked five women in Henrico County and Richmond. He was later convicted and imprisoned for three of these attacks. Haynesworth then served 27 years behind bars for crimes he did not commit.

In 2009, DNA testing cleared Haynesworth of one of the rapes and also confirmed that another man -- Leon Davis-- actually committed the crime. No DNA evidence remained in the two remaining convictions, but DNA testing in another case where Haynesworth was acquitted also cleared him and implicated Davis. Davis is currently serving seven life sentences for another series of rapes.

Cuccinelli, along with commonwealth's attorneys Michael Herring and Wade Kizer, were presented with this information and concluded it was necessary to take up Haynesworth's fight to clear his name.

"We independently reviewed the evidence, the DNA analysis, and the case summaries in the cases," said the attorney general back on December 6th at a news conference when Haynesworth was exonerated. "We also met with and sought input from both commonwealth's attorneys' offices involved in the original prosecutions. In light of all the information available to us, we concluded that a miscarriage of justice had occurred - not as the result of any misconduct, but simply because of a series of unfortunate, human mistakes. Regrettably, no one at the time had the global view of the case that we are now able to see with the benefit of hindsight.

"Given our conclusion, we encouraged Thomas's legal team to apply for writs of actual innocence to allow him to be freed from prison and exonerated of the convictions. This office supported the application. Normally, as attorney general, I am fighting to keep people in jail. But this office has an obligation to see that justice is done in every case, regardless of which side of the courtroom that justice may fall. Here, unlike the vast majority of cases we handle, our duty was not to defend a defendant's conviction, but to prove his innocence. Justice demanded it."

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A copy of this news release may be found on the attorney general's web site here.

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