Attorney General Mark R. Herring released a statement Thursday on the Supreme Court of Virginia’s granting of Keith Allen Harward’s petition for a writ of actual innocence.
The Court agrees that Harward is actually innocent of the convictions that have kept him in prison since 1983. Yesterday, Attorney General Herring filed a brief supporting Harward’s efforts to be declared innocent and requested that the Supreme Court expedite the matter:
“This is wonderful news and it’s great to know that Mr. Harward will soon be reunited with his family. It’s just heartbreaking to think that more than half of his life was spent behind bars when he didn’t belong there. The Commonwealth can’t give him back those years, but we can say that we got it wrong, that we’re sorry, and that we’re working to make it right.”
This is the fifth writ of actual innocence granted by the Supreme Court of Virginia based on new biological evidence. Once the Commonwealth files an answer to a petition for a writ of actual innocence, the Supreme Court of Virginia typically considers it for several weeks before acting on it.
Harward’s petition to be declared innocent was based on recent DNA testing performed by the Virginia Department of Forensic Science which showed that Harward could not have been the perpetrator of a 1982 rape and murder in Newport News. The DNA profile developed by the testing was compared to the national DNA databank which identified the true perpetrator as Jerry L. Crotty, who died in prison in Ohio in 2006.