New DNA testing of evidence from a 1977 rape may exonerate the man who pleaded guilty to the crime nearly 40 years ago.
Roy Watford III is asking the Virginia Supreme Court to exonerate him in light of new evidence that points to his innocence. Results of recent DNA testing by Virginia’s Department of Forensic Science, which reexamined the case as “part of an ongoing project to test DNA evidence from the 1970s and ’80s”, exclude Watford and his two brothers, who were also implicated in the crime but were never convicted, according to the Virginian-Pilot.
Watford, who suffers from a mild intellectual disability, was encouraged by his grandfather to plead guilty in 1978, after police said hair found at the scene of the crime “could have come from him.” By pleading guilty to the crime, Watford avoided a prison sentence, but his criminal record limits his social life and prevents him from securing gainful employment, according to the Pilot. Most of the jobs that he has secured pay less than medium wage. He was laid off from his last job a few years ago and has applied to over 300 jobs to no avail. Watford told the Pilot he hopes the court will clear his name so he can live the rest of his life to the fullest.
“It will make me feel I can do a whole lot more,” he told the Pilot.
Read the Virginian-Pilot coverage here.