innocence blog

A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Exonerated Man Awaits Legal Reversal of Rape Convictions

This article appeared in the Virginian Pilot on September 28, 2006:

Exonerated man awaits legal reversal of rape convictions

By DUANE BOURNE

NORFOLK - Arthur Lee Whitfield, who was exonerated for two 1981 rapes by DNA evidence, remains on the state's sex offender registry because his convictions have not been legally overturned by a court or the governor.

The question arose Monday when The Virginian-Pilot accompanied a state trooper on Operation Vigilant Locator, which aims to find 300 sex offenders who have not provided current employment information to the state registry.

Whitfield was among 160 people on the registry who provided law enforcement agents with updated information Monday.

In 2004, the state Parole Board released Whitfield from prison at the request of the Norfolk Commonwealth's Attorney's Office. He had served 22 years of a 63-year sentence.

Although DNA testing of evidence cleared Whitfield of the two rapes in Norfolk's Ghent neighborhood, no action by a judge or the governor has been taken to vacate his convictions.
"He is still a convicted individual until somebody does something," said Thomas Lambert, a legal specialist for the State Police.

In December, Whitfield asked the governor for a pardon. His attorney, Michael Fasanaro Jr., said the petition could take at least a year.

Earlier, Whitfield had sought a writ of actual innocence from the state Supreme Court. The court said it did not have jurisdiction because Whitfield had been released from prison, Fasanaro said.

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