Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Lawyers claim DNA proves former Navy sailor was wrongly convicted of raping a woman and murdering her husband more than 30 YEARS ago

Keith Allen Harward, 59, has served more than 33 years of a life sentence for the murder of Jesse Perron, who was beaten to death with a crowbar, according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The killer repeatedly raped Perron's wife as their children slept in a nearby bedroom.

Last month, the Innocence Project filed an innocence petition after initial DNA testing failed to identify Harward's genetic profile in sperm left by the killer.

Harward was convicted largely on the testimony of experts who said bite marks on the rape victim matched his teeth to within 'reasonable medical certainty' and 'reasonable scientific certainty'.

But after the sperm was run through the national DNA database forensic scientists reported a 'cold hit' on Jerry L Crotty, who was Harward's shipmate stationed on the USS Carl Vinson during the time of the attacks. The aircraft carrier undergoing work at a location near the victims’ home.

The case became known as 'the bite-mark case,' after more than 1,000 sailors on the aircraft carrier underwent dental screenings to see if their tooth alignment matched the bite marks on the rape victim’s legs, according to the Times-Dispatch.

Crotty, who died in an Ohio prison in June 2006, was serving seven to 25 years for abduction, burglary, theft and firearms violations.

Harward's lawyers wrote to the Virginia Supreme Court in a brief filed last week: 'The stark evidence of his innocence not only meets the rigorous standard of proof for a writ of actual innocence, but indeed far surpasses it.'

A spokesman for the Virginia Attorney General's Office, told the Times-Dispatch that they 'are working with Mr. Harward's attorneys to get the situation resolved as quickly as possible'.

Olga Akselrod, Harward's lawyer with the Innocence Project, said he first contacted them in 2007, seeking DNA testing, but there was a long line ahead of him.

He was moved up because he was convicted on bite mark evidence, which is a controversial forensic technique.

The rape victim, who was attacked while no lights were on in the house, was unable to identify Harward.

But she described her attacker as a white male, 19 or 20 years old, clean-shaven and wearing a sailor's uniform, according to the Times-Dispatch.

Crotty was 19 at the time of the attack and Harward was 26 at the time.

A security guard at the shipyard also identified Harward as a clean-shaven sailor he saw enter the shipyard with blood spatter on his uniform.  But old photographs strongly suggested Harward had a mustache.

His lawyers said studies have since discredited the scientific basis for bite mark comparison and that the security guard identified Harward from a spread of mug shots after he had been hypnotized by investigators, according to the Times-Dispatch.

In 1983, Harward was convicted of capital murder, robbery, sodomy and rape.

His lawyers wrote: 'Given the irrefutable proof of Mr. Harward's innocence, Mr. Harward respectfully requests that the court expedite its review of the case so that he can be exonerated as quickly as is feasible and finally be released from his three-decades-long nightmare.'

Original report here

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