Freed after 33 years in jail, thanks to DNA evidence

WASHINGTON • A former US navy sailor has been acquitted with the help of DNA evidence after spending 33 years in prison, wrongly convicted of raping a woman and killing her husband in 1982.

Mr Keith Harward, now 59, was convicted on expert testimony that a bite mark on the woman matched his teeth imprint. He was sentenced to life in prison.

Three decades later, DNA tests have revealed that the rape and murder were carried out by a different sailor, who died in prison in 2006 while serving a sentence for another crime.

Harward had been convicted of entering a home in Newport News in Virginia, killing the husband with a crowbar and raping his wife while their three children slept nearby. The Virginia Supreme Court wrote in a decision on Thursday that it "vacates Harward's convictions for murder, rape, forcible sodomy and robbery".

Mr Harward was due to be released from the Nottoway Correctional Centre yesterday, an attorney with the Innocence Project, which took on the case, told the Associated Press.

His attorneys say the case is a prime example of the unreliability of bite-mark evidence, which is still allowed in courts today.

Harward is the 25th wrongful conviction or indictment based on bite-mark evidence since 2000, according to the Innocence Project.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2016, with the headline 'Freed after 33 years in jail, thanks to DNA evidence'. Print Edition | Subscribe