Random DNA testing ordered by Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner in 31 long-closed criminal cases has led to the exoneration of two men convicted of rape, the Richmond Times-Dispatch repors. It also led Warner yesterday to order a more extensive review and further DNA testing to find if there are other innocent people who can be cleared by evidence saved by state serologists, some of it decades old.
Evidence stored by serologist Mary Jane Burton, now deceased, had earlier led to the exonerations of three men convicted of rapes. It was those exonerations that prompted Warner to order the random review of other cases last September. Last month, Warner commuted the death sentence of Robin Lovitt to life in prison, citing the destruction of evidence in the case by a court clerk. Lovitt’s lawyers argued that could have exonerated Lovitt or at least have raised doubts about his guilt. Several former serologists saved biological evidence from their testing in their case files between 1973 and 1988, before the use of DNA. Nearly all of the 31 cases recently studied were handled by Burton who kept samples in her files although the practice was contrary to state lab practices, Hall said.