Wilton Dedge spent the past 22 years behind bars in Florida for a rape he didn’t commit. The results of sophisticated DNA testing released yesterday confirmed what Dedge has always insisted: He was not the man who slashed and sexually assaulted a 17-year-old girl in 1981, the Orlando Sentinel reports. Seminole-Brevard State Attorney Norm Wolfinger asked a judge to release Dedge, now 42. He is the first person in Florida to be exonerated since the legislature allowed DNA re-testing in older cases. “He lost half his life in jail,” said Nina Morrison of the New York-based Innocence Project.
Wolfinger said his office was stunned by the results. “There is no way you can prepare for a moment like this,” he said. “It is truly tragic to have an innocent person spend time behind bars, not to mention as much time as Wilton Dedge.” Wolfinger, who defended his office’s handling of the case, said the last thing prosecutors would have wanted was to convict an innocent man. Wolfinger said the woman who identified Dedge during two trials as the man who repeatedly slashed her with a knife and raped her twice “was devastated by the news” that he was not her attacker. He said there are no other suspects in the decades-old case.