Thomas Haynesworth asks for exoneration in VA Court of Appeals

RICHMOND, VA - "For 27 years my life was taken from my family. I'm innocent. I didn't do nothing," Thomas Haynesworth told our cameras.

Haynesworth hopes a court will believe that he is not responsible for a series of rapes in the 80's. Haynesworth was released on parole last March after DNA evidence indicated another man, Leon Davis-- also known as the black ninja rapist-- was actually responsible for the crimes.

Haynesworth's release from prison doesn't reverse his convictions.

"He's going to have to register as a sex offender," Shawn Armbrust, his attorney, told us at his release. "So, based on that there are going to be limitations for where he can go and who he can meet."

Tuesday, Haynesworth's lawyers and the Commonwealth will argue that he deserves to be exonerated, meaning those convictions would disappear from his record.

Mary Kelly Tate, Director for the Institute of Actual Innocence at the University of Richmond Law says the decision is important: "Were he to succeed, in this matter he would be fully exonerated. He would have a completely clean slate."

The case has snagged both statewide and national attention, calling into question procedures for declaring innocence: "How difficult are we really going to make it for individuals who have compelling cases of actual innocence? How difficult are we going to make it for these individuals to be exonerated? There's a very strong argument to be made that we are making it too difficult."

A decision is not expected the same day. The court will hear the oral arguments, and then form what's called an opinion- or a decision- on the request. It might take weeks, even months. NBC12 will be in the courtroom to tell you what happens.

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