Man convicted for multiple sexual assaults could be exonerated

By Nicole Bell - bio | email
Posted by Terry Alexander - email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A push is underway to free a Richmond man convicted of a string of sexual assaults and the move is being backed by several legal heavyweights.

Thomas Haynesworth has been behind bars for nearly three decades, but that may soon change. Recent DNA testing proves Haynesworth did not commit two of the crimes in which he was charged. Now, his legal team wants him released from prison.

Haynesworth has always maintained his innocence. His family is optimistic.

Haynesworth's sister, Sandra, says she can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Back when they were teenagers she called her brother, Jitterbug.

"He loved to dance and he loved to record cassettes and make music," said Sandra.

The music stopped in February 1984.

"It was so emotional. We all broke down crying behind this," said Sandra.

While Haynesworth was walking to the store to pick up an item for Sunday dinner he was arrested and charged with multiple crimes, including rape. Haynesworth didn't have a record. Victims identified him as their attacker.

Ultimately, he was convicted of two rapes, robbery and abduction and sentenced to 74 years. But recent DNA test results eliminate Haynesworth as the culprit in two of the crimes in which he was charged. The evidence implicates, Leon Davis, a serial rapist who called himself, "Black Ninja." Davis is currently serving 7 life sentences.

"It also proves that multiple victims made the same mistake. They thought Davis was Haynesworth," said Shawn Armbrust, Executive Director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project and Haynesworth's Attorney.

The crimes Haynesworth and Davis were convicted of happened in 1984 in Henrico and the East End of Richmond. All of the victims were white women.

Haynesworth's legal team has been working with commonwealth's attorneys in Richmond and Henrico, as well as the state attorney general on the case. All back Haynesworth being released.

"We're really optimistic. It's rare to come to court with everybody in agreement that something went wrong and needs to be corrected," said Armbrust.

As for Sandra, she says her brother's life was taken away. She's hoping he'll get it back.

"He's missed out on everything. He's ready to come home," said Sandra.

Haynesworth's  legal team plans on filing paperwork Thursday morning at the Virginia Court of Appeals requesting their client be  exonerated - that court has supported such a measure only once  in the past.

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