Marvin Anderson never stopped fighting to prove his innocence. Despite being released on parole in 1998—after serving 15 years in a Virginia prison for a rape he didn’t commit—he kept searching for the evidence that could officially exonerate him. In 2001, a portion of the rape kit from his case — said to have long been destroyed — turned up in the old lab books of Mary Jane Burton, a former forensic analyst. After testing proved Anderson didn’t commit the rape, he was officially exonerated on August 21, 2002. This week marks the sixth anniversary of his exoneration.
Anderson’s exoneration was just the beginning. With the discovery of the evidence from Anderson’s case, Virginia authorities discovered that Burton had systematically stored a portion of case evidence in her case files. Because it was stored in files, this evidence had not been destroyed along with lab samples after an inmate’s conviction. Soon, Virginia had exonerated four more men and then-Governor Mark Warner had ordered the state to search for DNA evidence in thousands of cases from the 1970s and 1980s.
These exonerations wouldn’t have been possible if Burton had simply discarded the evidence—as was the standard procedure at the time. Even today, only 26 states have laws regarding the preservation of evidence. What’s your state’s procedure? Click
to find out?
And watch a two-minute video about Anderson’s case
Just last week, DNA testing conducted as part of Virginia’s massive case review led to new charges in a 1978 murder and could posthumously clear a man who was wrongfully convicted of the crime. Read more
Other exoneration anniversaries this week:
, New York (Exonerated 8/22/91, Served 7 Years)
Charles Irvin Fain
, Idaho (Exonerated 8/23/2001, Served 17.5 Years)