5 possible wrongful convictions in Va. under investigation

Posted at 6:04 PM, Jul 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-06 18:47:03-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – State prosecutors are investigating five possible wrongful convictions from Norfolk and Carroll County.

The cases are among 70 the Virginia Department of Forensic Science was giving a second look as a part of an audit. It tested the biological evidence in forensic files, which failed to identify the convicted person’s DNA.

Virginia has ten DNA exonerations as a result of similar testing of evidence taped into case files, primarily of Mary Jane Burton, who contrary to lab policy taped evidence samples in her files.

Most recently, her evidence helped clear Richmonder Thomas Haynesworth, who spent nearly three decades behind bars for a crime he didn’t commit.

“The methods and forensic methods thirty years ago are obviously 30 years old. And the quality of the science isn’t what it is now,” says Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Mike Herring. “Thank goodness for Mary Jane Burton. To consider all of this is the product of one woman who could see around the curve 20 years ago… it’s just amazing.”

Herring says the fact that many of these cases took place decades ago, when technology wasn’t as good as it is now, is why many prosecutors aren’t standing in the way of those DNA cases being reopened.