A record 87 exonerations of wrongly convicted people were recorded across the country last year, four of them in Virginia.
The National Registry of Exonerations, a project of the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law, said the 2013 total will likely increase as other cases surface.
Its report released this morning the registry said there have now been 1,300 exonerations — cases in which a person was wrongly convicted of a crime and later cleared of all the charges — from 1989 through last month.
Virginia was tied with two other states, Georgia and Connecticut, for the seventh most exonerations in 2013. Texas led the country with 13.
The four Virginia cases are: Garry Diamond, rape, Prince William County; David Boyce, murder, Newport News; Johnathan Montgomery, sexual assault, Hampton; and Malgie Conteh, robbery, Fairfax.
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The Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project worked on three of the Virginia cases and the Innocence Project Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law helped represent Conteh.
The Washington-based Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project also helped win the exoneration of a Maryland man, Jerry Jenkins, in a rape case. Montgomery was the most recent Virginia exoneration.
The Virginia Court of Appeals issued a writ of actual innocence to the 27-year-old Montgomery in December after the woman who falsely accused him of sexually assaulting her in Hampton in 2000 recanted the story and pleaded guilty to perjury.
The national registry said that like in Montgomery’s case, in almost a third of the 87 exonerations last year no crime occurred.
Also, as in Montgomery’s case, police and prosecutors cooperated or initiated the exonerations in 38 percent of the cases.
The registry deems there has been an exoneration if a pardon issued, the charges were dismissed or the defendant acquitted on retrial or, a certificate of innocence is issued.
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