After missing out on the nearly three decades that encompassed the Internet boom and cell phones, not to mention his entire 20s and 30s, Thomas Haynesworth has a bit of catching up to do.
You see, Haynesworth has spent most of his life behind bars for crimes he did not commit. On Monday, after serving 27 years in prison, the 46-year-old was released from a Virginia correctional center.
“It’s been a long journey,” Haynesworth told reporters following his release. “I just want to reflect and sit down and talk to my momma and eat a meal with her.”
It was 1984 when police arrested the then 18-year-old for allegedly raping and attacking several women, the Washington Post reports. Haynesworth, who was arrested as he was walking into a market to buy groceries, had no criminal record and had always maintained his innocence. But five women identified him as their attacker and he was convicted in three of the crimes and ordered to serve 36 years in prison.
Fast-forward to 2005, when former Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner authorized a review of thousands of criminal cases in the state from 1972 to 1988 after five other wrongly convicted men in the state were exonerated. Using DNA technology, and with the help of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, authorities were able to clear Haynesworth of three of the rapes using physical evidence. Since no DNA evidence in the other two rapes remained to be tested, Haynesworth took a lie detector test in connection to those crimes and passed. Two of the crimes were found to be connected to jailed convicted rapist Leon Davis—to whom Haynesworth bears a resemblance. He was released on parole following a parole board review of his case, which was ordered by current Gov. Robert F. McDonnel. Haynesworth is now asking the state to officially issue a “Writ of Actual Innocence” to fully exonerate him of all the crimes. In the hours after his release, Haynesworth, whose mother always kept a bedroom available for him in her home, said he preferred the simple pleasures of home and freedom.
“When we’re here tonight and it’s just the two of us, it will sink in,” Dolores Haynesworth told the Post.
No word yet on whether Haynesworth plans to sue the state.
(Photo: Courtesy of Washington Post)