Another Convict Found Innocent … Decades Later

Some Attorneys General still have the guts to do the right thing.

On Wednesday April 6 of this year, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring made the announcement that a man previously convicted of rape and murder was innocent. The man, Keith Harward, was sentenced to life in prison for the murder of Jesse Perron, and the rape of Perron’s wife.

Mr. Herring cited DNA evidence that excluded Mr. Harward’s genetic profile from the sample of semen collected at the crime scene. Instead, the sample implicated another man, a sailor named Jerry L. Crotty, who died in prison in 2006; he was serving a term on charges of kidnapping and burglary.

The state supreme court granted Mr. Harward’s petition for a writ of actual innocence and he was released on Friday April 8th. A writ of actual innocence is a legal device used by convicts who have new exculpatory evidence that was not disclosed at trial.

At a time when Attorneys General are more likely to defend their colleagues’ wrongful convictions than speak out for the innocent, Mr. Herring’s words are refreshingly just. Mr. Harwards’s exoneration – at the very least – shows us that DNA is still the one piece of exculpatory evidence that government lawyers cannot ignore.

Sherene G.

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