Lawyers: DNA proves man innocent in 1982 rape, murder case

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Lawyers for a man convicted in a 1982 rape and murder case say recent DNA testing proves he is innocent.

The attorneys for 59-year-old Keith Allen Harward’s filed a petition for a writ of actual innocence on March 4, citing Virginia Department of Forensic Science testing that failed to find Harward’s DNA on sperm left by the perpetrator, the Richmond Times-Dispatch (http://bit.ly/1QVTT7H) reported.

Harward is serving a life sentence in connection with the killing of Jesse Perron and the sexual assault of his wife in Newport News. According to trial summaries, the suspect also bit the woman’s legs, leading investigators to photograph the bite marks and collect saliva samples. Investigates also collected other biological evidence including sperm.

Two experts testified during Harward’s trial that his teeth matched bite marks left on the rape victim. Innocence Project lawyer Olga Akselrod said Harward was convicted primarily on bite mark evidence, which is now a controversial forensic technique.

In his petition to the Virginia Supreme Court, Harward stated, “Given this new scientific evidence of my innocence, no rational trier of fact would have found me guilty.”

The Virginia Department of Forensic Science’s test was ordered by Newport News Circuit Court in July and was completed in January. Harward’s lawyers said the testing was not opposed by prosecutors.

Newport News prosecutor Howard Gwynn did not immediately respond to messages.

Harward is currently being held at the Nottoway Correctional Center in Burkeville. He has served 33 years of his life sentence.

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