Man Freed After 27 Years in Prison for Crimes He Did Not Commit

Thomas Haynesworth starts a new life as a free man.

Thomas Haynesworth is a free man.
Thomas Haynesworth is a free man.

Fresh from our “Blame a black man” file, Thomas Haynesworth of Richmond, Va., has finally been freed to come home after serving 27 years in prison for crimes he did not commit. Haynesworth was 18 years old when he was arrested as he walked to the market to buy sweet potatoes and bread for Sunday dinner. A woman who had been attacked days earlier saw Haynesworth and told a police officer that he was the man who had attacked her. Haynesworth, who had no criminal record, told police they had the wrong man. But five women ultimately identified him as their attacker. He was convicted in three attacks and acquitted in one; one case was dropped.

In 2005, in the wake of the exonerations of five other wrongly convicted men, then-Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner, a Democrat, ordered a sweeping review of thousands of criminal cases from 1973 through 1988. Haynesworth’s was among them. Using technology that wasn’t available in the 1980s, authorities tested DNA collected from a January 1984 rape for which Haynesworth was convicted. The results cleared him and implicated a convicted rapist named Leon Davis.

Three decades after being imprisoned, Haynesworth has his freedom, but he is still fighting to clear his name. He was released after Republican Gov. Robert F. Mc­Don­nell asked the parole board to review his case. The state of Virginia is supporting Haynesworth’s bid to have the Virginia Court of Appeals issue a “Writ of Actual Innocence.”

“I believe in Mr. Haynesworth’s innocence, and I will continue to work toward a complete vindication,” Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli said in a written statement.

“It’s been a long journey,” Haynesworth said. “I just want to reflect and sit down and talk to my momma and eat a meal with her.”

How sad is it that case after case keeps surfacing in which inmates are innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted? Imagine going out for bread and sweet potatoes at 18 years of age and never coming home again? How scared and devastated would you be? Haynesworth has lost 27 years of his life. At 46, hopefully he will be able to spend what is left of it with his family and friends while still fighting to clear his name.

Read more at the Washington Post.

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