The Other Side of Innocence

More

The Washington Post talks to a woman who wrongly identified a man for rape:


For so long, his face and his name were where I directed my anger," the Henrico County woman said in a recent interview. "That's gone now. He's not the name. He's not the face. "Now when I hear his name, I feel guilt. Obsessive guilt." 

DNA evidence has proven that Haynesworth, who was an 18-year-old high school dropout when he was arrested, did not rape the woman. Haynesworth, now 46, was released from prison Monday on parole and is fighting to clear his name. DNA exonerated him in a second rape as well. But he was convicted of two other attacks for which there is no genetic evidence to test.

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R) and two prosecutors, who have become convinced that Haynesworth was wrongly convicted in all of the attacks, are supporting his petition to the Virginia Court of Appeals for a writ of actual innocence. So is the Henrico rape victim. 

"It's been 27 years," she said. "I wish that somehow all that time could be given back to him. But it's impossible."

One reason for the police to get it right, obviously, is to make sure someone innocent doesn't go to jail. But almost equally important is making sure that the victim has some security the perpetrator will actually go to jail. I understand why the woman feels guilty, but she isn't really to blame. As they say in the piece, memory isn't like video-tape.


Jump to comments
Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle. More

Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.

Get Today's Top Stories in Your Inbox (preview)

Sad Desk Lunch: Is This How You Want to Die?

How to avoid working through lunch, and diseases related to social isolation.


Elsewhere on the web

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register. blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Where Time Comes From

The clocks that coordinate your cellphone, GPS, and more

Video

Computer Vision Syndrome and You

Save your eyes. Take breaks.

Video

What Happens in 60 Seconds

Quantifying human activity around the world

Writers

Up
Down

More in National

From This Author

Just In