Two Decades Behind Bars for a Murder He Didn’t Commit

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Georgia Chief Judge Stephen G. Scarlette Sr. has dismissed all charges against Dennis Perry, who was convicted for a fatal shooting two decades ago, reports the New York Times. DNA testing from two pieces of hair left at the scene did not match Perry’s, helping set him free. Perry was convicted in 2003 on two counts of homicide in the deaths of Harold Swain, 66, and Thelma Swain, 63, at the Rising Daughter Baptist Church in Waverly, Ga., in 1985. The case drew outside attention, and was mentioned on cold case shows and podcasts. The Atlanta Journal Constitution  produced an award-winning investigative article, digging into the alibi used by Erik Sparre, a man who had been investigated in connection with the killings.

The Georgia Innocence Project, which took up the case, found that DNA samples from a Sparres family member closely matched the ones found at the scene, suggesting it could be a relative. In July 2020, a judge overturned Perry’s conviction and he was released, but the charges remained. However, with the new evidence and attention given by podcasts, stories and the Innocence Project, the case was pushed towards the decision to drop charges earlier this week. No one has been charged for the murders since. “I never gave up hope,” Perry told The New York Times. “I’ve always been innocent, and that’s what I tried to tell them. People don’t want to listen.”

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