A man has been released from a Virginia prison after serving more than three decades for crimes authorities now say he didn’t commit.
Keith Allen Harward walked out of the Nottoway Correctional Center on Friday after the Virginia Supreme Court agreed that DNA evidence proves he’s innocent of the 1982 killing of Jesse Perron and the rape of his wife in Newport News. Harward was a sailor on the USS Carl Vinson, which was stationed close to the victims’ home. The prosecution in Harward’s case leaned heavily on the testimony of two experts, who said Harward’s teeth matched bite marks on the woman’s leg.
Virginia’s attorney general says the DNA evidence implicated Jerry L. Crotty, a former shipmate of Harward’s who died in an Ohio prison in June 2006.
Harward thanked his attorneys from the Innocence Project for setting him free. “This is what you want our justice system to look like,” he said as he motioned toward his lawyers, “because they go for the truth.” He called the people who prosecuted and convicted him “criminals.”
He plans to return to his home in Greensboro, North Carolina. “It’s the small things you lose out on, so I’m going to be overwhelmed because I’ve got to start my life over again.”
His parents, who died while he was imprisoned, lived in Floyd County. “The worst part about this is my parents,” Harward emotionally told reporters. “It killed them. It devastated them.”