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Julius Ruffin

21 Years in Prison: Innocent

Cause: Eyewitness Misidentification
Real Perpetrator Found: Yes
State: Virginia
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In 2003, more than two decades after being sent to prison, DNA testing exonerated Julius Ruffin. Ruffin had been found guilty of rape and sodomy. He was sentenced to life in a Virginia prison after two previous hung juries.

The victim, a young nurse, was assaulted and raped after the assailant broke into her apartment. Weeks after the attack, Ruffin walked into an elevator at the medical school where he was a maintenance worker and the victim a nursing student. She promptly called the police and identified Ruffin as the attacker.

Ruffin's girlfriend testified that he was with her at the time of the rape, but the victim said she was certain that Ruffin was the assailant. Scientific testing on semen done at the trial was linked to a group that contained only 8% of all African American men. After two juries could not reach a unanimous verdict, the third found Ruffin guilty.

As in the case of Marvin Anderson, Mary Jane Burton, a state forensic scientist, had kept bits of Ruffin's evidence in her laboratory notebook. Though this went against laboratory protocol, her anomalous behavior provided the evidence of Ruffin's innocence. In 2003, DNA testing was performed on the swab sample. Not only was Ruffin excluded, but another incarcerated man, in prison for rape, was linked to the sample.

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The Causes

  • Eyewitness Misidentification
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The Facts

Incident Date: 12/6/81
Jurisdiction: VA
Charge: Rape, Sodomy
Conviction: Rape, Sodomy
Conviction Date: 10/1/82
Exoneration Date: 3/19/03
Sentence: Life
Served: 21 years
Real Perpetrator Found: Yes
Compensation: Private Bill
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