Innocent man fighting to get conviction off record after near decade in prison

Posted at 10:31 PM, Jun 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-06-16 23:36:24-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Michael McAlister spent nearly 30 years behind bars for an abduction and attempted rape he did not commit.

"It's too good to be true," McAlister said after being released.

Keith Harward served 33 years for a murder and rape he had nothing to do with.

"That's the worst part about this is my parents, it killed them, it devastated them," Harward told reporters when he left prison.

And Thomas Haynesworth completed 27 years in prison for rapes though he too was an innocent man.

(L to R) Haynesworth, Harward and McAlister

"The evidence never pointed to me," Haynesworth said.

All three were ultimately exonerated, one after another man confessed and the other two based on new DNA evidence.

When Haynesworth saw our CBS 6 investigation about Gary Bush, a man who spent nearly 10 years behind bars for two bank robberies, but was released last year after another man confessed, it brought back memories.

"Live your life don't worry about the 10 years you can't get back," Haynesworth advised Bush.

Gary Bush

Still, despite living as a free man, Bush still has those convictions on his record even though the man who confessed is now serving time for the crimes.

Like Haynesworth did, Bush is working with the Innocence Project at UVA to pursue a writ of actual innocence with the Virginia Court of Appeals.

"You gotta sit there and wait on that. It was a hard process to swallow," Haynesworth said.

Delegate Rip Sullivan (D-48th) said that process can take months.

"As sure as we wanted to be to convict them in the first place, you want to be as sure that they're actually innocent," Sullivan said.

Sullivan introduced legislation to obtain compensation from the state for McAlister and Harward after they got their records cleared.

Delegate Rip Sullivan

"It doesn't get to the General Assembly until the person has jumped through a bunch of hoops to establish his or her actual innocence," Sullivan said.

McAlister received a pardon from the Governor, and the Virginia Supreme Court granted Harward's petition.

"We're trying to right a wrong, and I'm happy to play a small part," Sullivan said.

The General Assembly created a formula several years ago to establish how to calculate the compensation.

The money comes out of the state budget.

Haynesworth, Harward and McAlister each were given more than a $1 million.

"The statute in my experience has worked very well," Sullivan said.

Gary Bush

Sullivan told CBS 6 Problem Solver investigator Melissa Hipolit he would be happy to do the same for Gary Bush after a court fully exonerates him, but for now, he'll just have to wait.

"The wheels of justice turn slowly, and too slowly," Sullivan said.

A lawyer for the Innocence Project at UVA said they plan to file a writ of actual innocence for Bush soon.

In the meantime, the man who actually committed the crimes and later confessed is apologizing to Mr.  Bush.

Christian Amos sat down for an exclusive interview inside the Riverside Regional Jail.

Tuesday at 11 p.m. Amos will explain how an eight-year-old compelled him to finally come forward, and why he hopes Mr. Bush will visit him in jail.

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