DNA testing and other evidence prove that Thomas Haynesworth has served 27 years in prison for a series of crimes he didn’t commit, but he remains behind bars. Earlier this month, the Innocence Project joined with local prosecutors in filing a motion for Haynesworth’s release. This week, Virginia Attorney General Kenneth Cuccinelli II also filed a motion urging his release. While Haynesworth awaits a decision from the court, he has been encouraged by an outpouring of support from the Innocence Project’s community of supporters around the world. Take action today by sending Haynesworth a message of support in prison.
In an op-ed on Sunday, the Washington Post called for Haynesworth to be freed, writing "Mr. Haynesworth can never get his years back, and as long as he remains in prison, justice is disserved." Haynesworth was 18 and had no criminal record when he was charged with committing five rapes or attempted rapes in the Richmond area in 1984. Prosecutors dismissed one of the cases, but he was ultimately convicted of three of the crimes and acquitted of one. After his conviction, however, similar attacks continued in the area. Eventually, another man, who described himself to his attackers as the "Black Ninja," was convicted of committing several crimes bearing striking resemblance to the crimes for which Haynesworth was convicted. Haynesworth proclaimed his innocence from prison and asked for his case to be reopened, but his pleas went unheeded for more than two decades.
In 2005, a statewide evidence review led to DNA testing in one of Haynesworth’s cases. The results pointed to the "Black Ninja," clearing Haynesworth. The Innocence Project and Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project sought further testing, and DNA tests also cleared Haynesworth in the crime for which he was acquitted. Although there is no biological evidence available in Haynesworth’s other two convictions, two local prosecutors conducted a careful review of the evidence and now agree that Haynesworth is innocent of these as well.