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Post-conviction DNA testing has exonerated a growing list of the wrongfully convicted – some that have even spent time on death row – but, it only added to the evidence against one convicted man in a particular case in Virginia.
The conviction of a man for a 1974 home invasion and rape appears to be confirmed from the most recent DNA testing that had been sought by the Innocence Project, according to multiple reports.
Joe Stevenson, now 63, has been serving a life term in prison for abduction and two counts of rape since his 1975 trial.
He was convicted of breaking into a second-floor townhouse window in Oceanfront on July 2, 1974, raping a 28-year-old woman inside, abducting her in her car, raping her again, and then fleeing on foot. Stevenson was identified by the victim and a detective, and arrested two weeks later. He also confessed after nine hours of questioning, later recanting his admission before trial.
Stevenson contacted the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project around 2005, and the attorneys filed motions asking for the DNA testing in 2014.
But the order filed last month confirmed the samples of sperm from the rape kit were indeed Stevenson’s, according to the results from a private lab, Forensic Analytical Sciences, according to The Virginian-Pilot.
At the time of the arguments for the additional testing last year, the Virginia Beach commonwealth’s attorney’s office argued against it – but the Innocence Project eventually won, based on arguments about the strength of the technology’s accuracy.
“The testing Mr. Stevenson seeks is scientifically recognized as state-of-the-art, and Forensic Analytical Sciences…. the laboratory Mr. Stevenson proposes to retain and pay, is widely recognized as an expert in the field,” the Innocence Project said in its court filing.
Another Virginia Beach rape case will also get a reevaluation from DNA analysis of decades-old evidence. The Innocence Project’s chapter at the University of Virginia argued successfully for genetic testing of a single hair that resulted in the conviction of Darnell Phillips for a 1990 rape of a 10-year-old girl, which resulted in a sentence of 100 years in prison.
Some other exonerations have led to significant civil lawsuits totaling tens of millions of dollars. A trio of wrongful-conviction awards have resulted in huge payouts in Washington D.C. alone.
The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project has secured the exonerations of 19 men who were cleared by DNA testing and other forensic investigation.