The Info List - Earl Washington, Jr.

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Earl Washington Jr. (born May 3, 1960) is a former Virginia death-row inmate, who was fully exonerated of murder charges against him in 2000. He had been wrongfully convicted and sentenced to death in 1984 for the 1982 rape and murder of Rebecca Lyn Williams in Culpepper, Virginia.[1] Washington has an IQ estimated at 69, which classifies him as intellectually disabled. He had confessed to the Williams crime when picked up a year after the crime, but apparently only after being coerced by police investigators, and while confessing to four other crimes. He narrowly escaped being executed in 1994.[2] Washington was scheduled for execution in September 1985 but a pro bono defense effort and appeal gained a stay while working to gain appeal of his conviction. Based on questions about his murder conviction raised in 1993 due to DNA testing, which had not been available at the time of trial, Washington's death sentence was commuted in 1994 by Governor Douglas Wilder to life imprisonment. In 2000 additional DNA testing was done, as new technology was available. Based on this, Washington was fully exonerated of the murder charges by Governor James Gilmore and released from prison. In 2006, the innocent man was awarded a settlement from the estate of Agent Gilmore, who had coerced his confession. In 2007 he received a settlement from the state.


1 Background 2 Review and appeals 3 See also 4 Notes 5 References

Background[edit] In 1982 the 19-year-old, Rebecca Lyn Williams, mother of three, was raped and murdered in Virginia. Earl Washington Jr., a black man with an IQ of 69, was picked up about a year later when arrested in Fauquier County,Virginia for alleged burglary and wounding. He confessed to this and four other crimes under coerced questioning by police, including a confession to the Williams crime. But police records demonstrated that his "confession" was filled with errors, showing little knowledge of Williams, the crime scene, and other details. He had to be rehearsed four times before recording a statement that the police approved of.[2] With low-quality representation by defense counsel, Washington was convicted of Williams capital murder and sentenced to death. His defense counsel had failed to discuss his intellectual disability as a mitigating factor in sentencing. Review and appeals[edit] After fellow death row inmate Joseph Giarratano took on his case in 1985, shortly before Washington's scheduled execution in September of that year, he noted the inmate's mental disability.[3] Giarratano contacted Maria Deans, a volunteer advocate with whom he had worked, who enlisted pro bono help to gain a stay of execution. Washington's defense attorneys gained approval in 1993 to conduct an analysis of DNA evidence from the crime scene. This showed that Washington could not have made the semen stain and raised doubt that he was responsible for the crimes for which he was sentenced.[1] But the appeals court refused to hear the case, because Virginia has severe limitations on when new evidence can be introduced post-conviction. Nine days before Washington's rescheduled execution, Virginia's Governor Douglas Wilder commuted his sentence to life in prison.[2] In 2000, after more accurate DNA testing strengthened the case for his innocence, Washington was exonerated, receiving a full pardon from Governor James Gilmore.[1] Washington was represented by attorneys Robert T. Hall, Eric M. Freedman, Gerald Zerkin and Barry A. Weinstein.[3] Since Washington's exoneration, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia (2002) that the death penalty for persons with intellectual disability was unconstitutional. It ordered states to review the cases of persons on death row who had been convicted and shown to have such disability, and to commute their sentences to appropriate lower levels of punishment. In 2006, Washington was awarded $2.25 million from the estate of Agent Wilmore, who had coerced the false confession from the defendant.[4] In 2007, he received a settlement for wrongful conviction from the state.[2] In 2007, Kenneth Tinsley, who was identified as matching DNA from the Williams crime evidence in a review of the state DNA database, pleaded guilty to the rape and murder of Rebeca Lyn Williams. He was sentenced to life in prison.[2] Washington's case is frequently cited by opponents of the death penalty as an example of a wrongful conviction and death sentence. He is an innocent man who was narrowly saved from being executed.[5] See also[edit]

List of wrongful convictions in the United States Legal ethics Exculpatory evidence Innocence Project List of miscarriage of justice cases Race in the United States criminal justice system Capital punishment in the United States Innocent prisoner's dilemma Miscarriage of justice False confession Overturned convictions in the United States


^ a b c Murnaghan, Ian, (28 December 2012) "Famous Trials and DNA Testing; Earl Washington Jr.", Explore DNA website, Retrieved 13 November 2014 ^ a b c d e (June 2012) "Earl Washington" University of Michigan Law School, The National Registry of Exonorations, Retrieved 14 November 2014 ^ a b Edds, Margaret (2006). An Expendable Man: The Near-Execution of Earl Washington, Jr. New York and London: New York University Press. ISBN 978-0814722398. ; a review of this book can also be found on the internet by Bearss, Sara. "Virginia Libraries v50n1 - Virginia Reviews". Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 19 November 2014.  ^ Jebb, John F. (2011). True Crime: Virginia: The State's Most Notorious Criminal Cases. Stackpole Books. ISBN 9780811745123.  ^ Northup, Steven A. (20 July 2014) Death penalty is unfair and must be repealed, VADP, Retrieved 19 November 2014


"Know the Cases: Browse Profiles: Earl Washington" . The Innocence Project Richmond Times-Dispatch "Earl Washington, Jr", The Justice Project "Actual Killer in Earl Washington Case Pleads Guilty", The Innocence Project

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Miscarriage of justice

Types of misconduct

Prosecutorial misconduct Police misconduct Selective prosecution Malicious prosecution Selective enforcement Abuse of process Attorney misconduct Abuse of discretion Entrapment False arrest Gaming the system Legal malpractice Kangaroo court Sharp practice Jury tampering Witness tampering Brady disclosure Spoliation of evidence

False evidence

Forced confession False accusation of rape False allegation of child sexual abuse Police perjury False accusation Mistaken identity Eyewitness memory Misinformation effect Tampering with evidence

Wrongful convictions

List of wrongful convictions in the United States List of exonerated death row inmates Miscarriage of justice List of miscarriage of justice cases Overturned convictions in the United States Wrongful execution


Innocence Project National Registry of Exonerations Investigating Innocence

Related concepts

Legal ethics Exculpatory evidence Right to a fair trial Race in the United States criminal justice system Capital punishment in the United States Innocent prisoner's dilemma Racial profiling Loophole Ineffective assistance of counsel Show trial Actual innocence Cross-race effect Eyewitness memory Eyewitness identification Equal Protection Clause Batson v. Kentucky List of United States death row inmates Prosecutor's fallacy Innoce