News 09.15.10

DNA Clears Three Men of 1979 Rape and Murder

A hearing is scheduled in Hattiesburg, Mississippi tomorrow to decide whether three rape and murder convictions from 1979 will be thrown out based on DNA proof of innocence.

Larry Ruffin, Bobby Ray Dixon and Phillip Bivens were convicted of raping and murdering a woman on May 4, 1979 in Hattiesburg and received life sentences. DNA tests requested by the Innocence Project New Orleans showed that biological evidence from the crime scene matched another man who is serving a life sentence for a separate rape two years later.

If the court rules in their favor, Bivens, who is serving a life sentence, would be released.  Dixon spent 32 years behind bars before being medically released as a result of terminal illness.  Ruffin, who died in prison in 2002 after serving 23 years, would be the third person in American history to be cleared by DNA after their death. 

According to The Clarion Ledger and trial transcripts, Dixon and Bivens were allegedly beaten until they falsely confessed and named Ruffin as the rapist. Ruffin claimed his innocence and said that the statement he gave authorities came after he also was beaten.

Of the 258 DNA exonerations nationwide, 63 involved false confessions, and 19 involved false guilty pleas.


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