Man freed after 27 years in prison for crime he didn't commit

By Nicole Bell - bio | email | facebook

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - After spending nearly three decades in prison for a crime he didn't commit Thomas Haynesworth is now a free man.

Haynesworth walked out of Greensville Correctional Center around 11:30 Monday morning -- on his 46th  birthday.

Moments after his release friends and family cheered.

"I always believed this day would come.  I didn't think it would be 27 years, but I knew it would come one day," Haynesworth said.

His mother is still in disbelief.

"It's hard to believe.  It has to sink-in.  He's right here I'm holding him," said Delores Haynesworth.

When Haynesworth was 18, he was arrested and locked up for a string of rapes in Richmond and Henrico.

Recent DNA  test results eliminate him as the culprit in two of the crimes in which he was charged.

The evidence implicated Leon Davis, also known as the Black Ninja Rapist -- he's currently serving seven life sentences for rapes and sexual assaults.

With the help of Governor Bob McDonnell, Haynesworth was granted parole.

"When you got hope anything is possible," Haynesworth said.

Lawyers for Haynesworth say his remaining two convictions should be tossed out. They also want Haynesworth's name cleared.  They're hoping he's exonerated. Until that happens Haynesworth must follow certain guidelines.

"He's going to have to register as a sex offender, so based on that there are going to be limitations for where he can go and who he can meet," said his attorney Shawn Armbrust, who's with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.

Haynesworth says he's not bitter.  He's looking forward to a home cooked meal and a new beginning.

"It's been a long journey but my family supported me and that's all that matters," Haynesworth said.

An appeal hearing for Haynesworth to be exonerated is set for March 30 with the Virginia Court of Appeals.

The bid is supported by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and the Commonwealth's Attorneys in Richmond and Henrico.

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