DNA evidence casts doubt on 1984 rape conviction
FRANK GREEN AND REED WILLIAMS TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITERS
In addition to the Jan. 3, 1984, rape in Richmond, Haynesworth was convicted of a Jan. 30, 1984, rape, sodomy, sexual assault and abduction in Henrico; and a Feb. 1, 1984, abduction and attempted robbery in Richmond. A Richmond jury acquitted Haynesworth on charges he sodomized a woman on Jan. 21, 1984, at knifepoint.
In a more notorious case, Leon W. Davis, 45, the so-called "Black Ninja" rapist, is serving seven life terms for rapes, robberies and other 1984 crimes, also in Richmond and Henrico.
Reached by telephone at the Greensville Correctional Center this week, Haynesworth said he has maintained he was innocent from the day he was arrested and that he believes he knows who the rapist was.
"Nobody ever listened to me," he complained.
The absence of a suspect's DNA profile from a crime scene does not prove innocence, but it can call into question the accuracy of victim or eyewitness identification and raise reasonable doubt about guilt.
Ten Virginians convicted of rapes have been cleared -- and in several cases, the real attacker implicated -- by DNA testing.
A massive, first-of-its-kind DNA project launched by the Department of Forensic Science is aimed at clearing anyone else who may have been convicted wrongly of rape or other serious crimes in the 1970s and 1980s.
Shawn Armbrust with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, which is assisting in the state lab's effort, met with Haynesworth yesterday and said the organization will be representing him. "It appears this was a case of mistaken identity," she said of the Richmond case.
The victim, who was 20 when the Jan. 3, 1984, rape occurred, could not be reached for comment.
She was attacked in an East End church day-care center where she worked. According to accounts of the trial, she picked Haynesworth's photograph out of a spread and identified him again in the courtroom.
Her assailant, armed with a knife, had broken into the center and was waiting when she arrived and turned on the lights shortly before 7 a.m. Haynesworth and his mother testified at his trial that he was home asleep when the attack occurred.
Armbrust said the Innocence Project also will be looking into Haynesworth's other convictions. His 1984 trial lawyer in Henrico, Robert J. Rice, could not immediately recall the case yesterday.
It is not clear if any DNA testing has been conducted or can be conducted in Haynesworth's other cases.
R.E. "Trip" Chalkley III, now the Hanover County commonwealth's attorney, represented Haynesworth in the Richmond trial. "He could not have been any more of a pleasure to represent," Chalkley said of Haynesworth.
"His mother was entirely devoted to him and convinced of his innocence," he said yesterday.
Herring said that if he is satisfied there is reasonable doubt that Haynesworth committed the crime, his office will seek to have a court vacate the sentencing order in the Richmond rape.
Contact Frank Green at (804) 649-6340 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact Reed Williams at (804) 649-6332 or email@example.com.
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