News 09.02.09

North Carolina Man Exonerated After 14 Years

At 2:30 this afternoon, Joseph Abbitt walked out of a North Carolina courthouse a free man for the first time in 14 years, proven innocent through DNA testing. He was serving life in prison for a rape he didn’t commit, and a state judge today vacated his sentence and dropped all charges against him.

DNA testing completed this year shows that another man raped two teenage girls in their Winston-Salem home in 1991.

The North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence

represents Abbitt and has worked on his case for four years. Although much of the evidence collected in the case had been destroyed, the Winston-Salem Police Department had preserved critical biological evidence collected from the victims’ bodies – and tests on this evidence proved Abbitt’s innocence.

Abbitt becomes the

242nd

person exonerated in the United States through DNA testing and the

seventh

in North Carolina. His conviction was caused in part by eyewitness misidentifications – a factor in

more than 75% of wrongful convictions overturned through DNA testing

.




News coverage of the case:

Winston-Salem Journal:

Man Cleared By DNA Evidence Goes Free

WLTX.com:

DNA Clears Man Held of Rape Charge Since ‘95

News & Observer:

DNA Test Clears Man of 1991 Rape Charges

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