Posted Dec. 13, 2007 – John White, who spent 24 years in prison after being accused of raping a 74-year-old woman, says he will never forget his excitement when he heard that the real rapist had left a hair and skin sample at the scene.
:: AD ::
"I knew right then that it was all over. Through the grace of God, there was still some left for them to check," he said at a news conferenceTuesday.
White is the first to admit that he’s not a saint, that he spent way too much of his life running on the wrong side of the law. Getting shipped off to prison at age 20, he says, "I was raised on the chain gang, and I didn't know how to make my life once I got out."
But when it came to raping that elderly White woman in Georgia in August 1979, he did all he could to convince the world that he was not the culprit. But after the victim, who had also been beaten and robbed, picked him out of a police lineup, his pleas were immaterial.
Eight months later, he was convicted of rape, aggravated assault, burglary and robbery and sentenced to life in prison plus 40 years. He served about 10 years of that sentence before being paroled in 1990. Three years later, he was convicted for drug possession and was sent back to prison for two more years.
In 1995, he was back on the streets, but it only took two years for him to return to a cell, this time for robbery. He was given a seven-year sentence, but the worse news was that his parole was revoked, meaning that he was forced to face his original sentence of life plus 40 – for the crime he never committed in the first place.
In 2004, he wrote to the Georgia Innocence Project (GIP), a non-profit group that uses DNA testing to free those wrongly convicted. The microscope analysis, technology that was not available at the time of his conviction, determined that he was innocent. The evidence also helped convict the real rapist. The rape victim has since died.
"It felt good, like something had been lifted off my shoulders," he said after his wife, Mary, his mother and three of his six sisters went to the Macon State Prison Monday night to pick him up. "I used to wonder, why did this happen to me?"
How should he be compensated for his false imprisonment? Click "Discuss Now" to post your comment.