RICHMOND, Va. — It was only the second time Virginia’s attorney general opposed such a sweeping move ultimately granted by the state’s supreme court – a writ of actual innocence that cleared a Fairfax native’s name.
But after four decades, Winston L. Scott is now innocent of a 1975 Fairfax County rape, no longer legally associated with a controversial conviction that ruined his life.
“For 43 years, Winston Scott has been branded a rapist for a crime he didn’t commit,” said Frances Walters, Winston’s lawyer with the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project.
“Today’s decision erases that burden and will allow him to live the rest of his life without that stain.”
The Office of the Attorney General argued against Scott’s exoneration, asserting problems with evidence collected and tested for DNA samples.
The unanimous court rejected the argument, writing in its decision the DNA results were “clear and convincing evidence that no rational trier of fact would have found proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”
After a first round of testing in the 70’s concluded Scott and the attacker had different blood types, retesting before trial indicated Scott could possibly fall into the category of people who committed the crime.
On July 24, 1975, a stranger raped a Reston woman in her apartment, after breaking and entering her home.
Scott was 19 at the time the victim identified him in a photo lineup, after she worked with police to create a composite sketch.
A Fairfax judge levied a sentence of 14 years, with Scott serving about five years before parole in 1981. The conviction remained with him, derailing a planned career with the Navy.
A spokesperson for Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring declined to comment for this article.