Cleveland Wright, 56, was exonerated on Friday when a Superior Court judge declared him innocent of the 1978 murder for which he served 28 years in prison.
In Sunday’s edition of the
, reporter Spencer Hsu writes that prosecutors claimed that Wright and his childhood friend Santae Tribble robbed a Washington, D.C., flower shop and a cab driver in July 1978, killing William Horn and John McCormick in the process. An FBI forensic hair expert testified that a hair found in a stocking near the scene of McCormick’s death probably came from Tribble. Tribble was convicted for McCormick’s death, and Wright was convicted for Horn’s.
Tribble served 25 years and was released on parole in April 2003. Wright was denied parole twice because he refused to admit guilt. He was released in March 2007.
In 2009, Tribble wrote to Sandra Levick of the Public Defender Service for the District of Columbia. Levick had the hair from the McCormick murder sent for mitochondrial DNA testing. The results excluded both Tribble and Wright from the sample. Tribble was exonerated in December 2012.
In August 2013, Levick filed a motion requesting that Wright’s conviction also be vacated and dismissed and that he be granted a certificate of innocence. The prosecution did not oppose the dismissal but opposed granting a certificate of innocence.
On January 28, 2014, a judge vacated Wright’s conviction and dismissed the case. On Friday, Wright was granted a certificate of innocence, which permits him to pursue compensation under the District’s wrongful conviction law: $50,000 for each year he spent in prison.
“This is the day that Mr. Wright and his family have been waiting for for more than 36 years. Judge Cordero has given him the complete victory he deserves,” Levick told the
. “We are proud to share in his victory and in the undoing of a terrible miscarriage of justice.”
Wright is the fifth D.C. man since 2009 to be cleared after being convicted in connection with flawed FBI forensic testimony.