A new article in Richmond Magazine features the wrongful conviction of Innocence Project client Marvin Anderson and the long road he traveled to prove his innocence.
Anderson was convicted of abduction, rape and robbery in 1982 and spent 15 years in prison before DNA evidence exonerated him. He was a volunteer firefighter before he went to prison, and has pursued that passion since his release. Today, he is district chief of the Hanover Courthouse Volunteer Fire Company and a full-time truck driver.
Convicted in large part as a result of the victim’s eyewitness identification, it still remains unclear how the victim identified Anderson as the perpetrator. When showed a stack of photos for her to thumb through, all but one was black and white. Anderson’s picture was the only color photo. She would eventually give testimony about her attack and stated she was sure Anderson was the attacker.
After the testimony of the victim and other witnesses, the judge called a brief recess. Marvin and his family stood outside the courthouse, smoking and talking. The victim walked up to the group and asked for a light. Marvin was standing the closest to her. Stunned, he told her he had a light and struck a match. She apparently didn’t know it was him.
While eyewitness testimony can be persuasive evidence before a judge or jury, 30 years of strong social science research has proven that eyewitness identification is often unreliable. Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing.