This week marks the sixth year anniversary of the day
was freed from a Louisiana prison. He served nearly 22 years for a rape he did not commit before DNA testing secured by the Innocence Project led to his 2003 release.
was a principle factor in Willis' wrongful conviction. The witnesses were young girls, aged 9 and 7; the victim was 10. Much of the case against Willis was built not only on the girls' conflicting statements as to what happened, but on a pair of underwear found at the house (some ten sizes bigger than the size Willis wore), semen, and scrapings found under the victim's fingernails that matched Willis' blood type. DNA tests showed that the semen on the shorts and the fingernail scrapings did not belong to Willis.
It was not a family member or a friend, as in many cases, who first advocated Willis' innocence, but a paralegal formerly unacquainted with Willis. Janet Gregory spent years advocating on Willis' behalf and was instrumental in his exoneration. An upcoming Lifetime original movie called
The Wronged Man
, tells the story of Willis' case and his unusual friendship with Gregory.We'll have more about the film on the Innocence Blog before it premieres.
Since his exoneration, Willis got married and now lives in California. Last year, Willis was reunited with a longtime friend from prison and fellow DNA exoneree –
Watch footage of their reunion here
Other Exoneration Anniversaries This Week:
, Texas (Served 3.5 Years, Exonerated 9/21/94)
, Florida (Served 18 Years, Exonerated 9/21/07)
, Montana (Served 8 Years, Exonerated 9/22/97)
, Texas (Served 15 Years, Exonerated 9/24/08)