Exonerations Resulting from NIJ Postconviction DNA Testing Funding

The Justice for All Act of 2004 authorized the establishment of the Kirk Bloodsworth Postconviction DNA Testing Grant Program.

This competitive grant program, Postconviction Testing of DNA Evidence, provides funding to states to help defray the costs associated with postconviction DNA testing. States may use funds in cases involving violent felony offenses (as defined by state law) in which actual innocence might be demonstrated. Funds may be used to review the cases and to locate and analyze biological evidence associated with them.
The goals of the program are to:

  1. Review appropriate postconviction cases to identify those in which DNA testing could prove the actual innocence of a person convicted of a violent felony offense(s) as defined by state law.
  2. Locate biological evidence associated with such postconviction cases.
  3. Perform DNA analysis of appropriate biological evidence.

Though exonerations are not the sole measure of program success, the  exonerations listed below have resulted from NIJ's funding and the hard work of the grantees. 

List of Exonerations

Exoneree StateGrantee
Award Number
Released/
Convicted
Time Served
(Years)
Charges

Sentence
Christopher AbernathyIL Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority
2012-DY-BX-K004
2015
1987
28First Degree Murder, Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault, Armed Robbery

Life
Donovan AllenWAWashington State Patrol
2013-DY-BX-K005
2015
2002
15Aggravated First Degree Murder

Life without Parole
Bennett BarbourVAVirginia Department of Forensic Science
2008-DN-BX-K128
2012
1978
34Rape

10 years
Knolly BrownNCNorth Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts
2012-DY-BX-K001
2016
2009
4First Degree Rape, First Degree Kidnapping

5 years - 6 years and 9 months in Prison
Leon BrownNCNorth Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts
2012-DY-BX-K001
2014
1984
30First Degree Murder, First Degree Rape

Death
Malcolm Bryant[1]MDState of MD, Governor's Office of Crime Control & Prevention
2012-DY-BX-K005
2016
1999
17Murder, Illegal Use of a Weapon

Life in Prison
Victor BurnetteVAVirginia Department of Forensic Science
2008-DN-BX-K128
2009
1979
30Rape, Burglary

25 years
Uriah CourtneyCAGovernor's Office of Emergency Services
2011-DY-BX-K001
2013
2006
7Kidnapping, Rape, Assault, Robbery, False Imprisonment

Life
Calvin Wayne Cunningham[2]VAVirginia Department of Forensic Science
2008-DN-BX-K128
2011
1981
30Rape and Burglary with Intent to Commit Rape

20 years
Willie DavidsonVAVirginia Department of Forensic Science
2008-DN-BX-K128
2005
1981
24Rape, Sodomy, Robbery

20 years
Larry Davis
WAWashington Department of Commerce
2008-DN-BX-K127
2010
1993
17First Degree Kidnapping, First Degree Burglary, Accomplice to First Degree Rape

20.5 years
Jeramie Davis WAWashington State Patrol
2010-DY-BX-K404
2013
2008
5First Degree Murder, Burglary, First Degree Trafficking Stolen Property

40
Robert DeweyCOColorado Attorney General
2009-DN-BX-K242
2012
1996
16Felony Murder

Life without Parole
Garry DiamondVAVirginia Department of Forensic Science
2008-DN-BX-K128
2013
1977
36Rape, Sodomy

15 years
Joseph FreyWIWisconsin Office of Justice Assistance
2011-DY-BX-K006
2013
1994
19Four Counts First Degree Sexual Abuse, Burglary Armed with a Dangerous Weapon, False Imprisonment

102 years
Angel Gonzalez[3]IL Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority
2012-DY-BX-K004
2015
1995
20Sexual Assault, Kidnapping

40 years
Willie J. Grimes[4]NCState of North Carolina
2009-DN-BX-K247
2012
1988
24 2 counts First Degree Rape, Second Degree Kidnapping

Life
Michael HanlineCAGovernor's Office of Emergency Services
2013-DY-BX-K003
2014
1980
36First Degree Murder

Life without Parole
Thomas HaynesworthVAVirginia Department of Forensic Science
2008-DN-BX-K128
2011
1984
27Rape, Sodomy, Abduction, Use of Firearm, Attempted Robbery

74
Darrin HillLALouisiana Department of Justice
2009-DN-BX-K245
2012
1999
13Aggravated Rape, Attempted Aggravated Crime Against Nature, Kidnapping, Armed Robbery

Committed to Mental Hospital
Daryl Dwayne HollowayWIThe Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
2013-DY-BX-K404
2016
1993
242 Charges Sexual Assault, 2 Charges Robbery

120 years
Kenneth KagonyeraNCState of North Carolina
2009-DN-BX-K247
2011
2001
10First Degree Murder

12-15 years
Kimberly LongCACalifornia Governor's Office of Emergency Services 
2014-DY-BX-K002
2016
2005
11Second Degree Murder

15-Life
Senaca Malone[5]WIWisconsin Office of Justice Assistance
2011-DY-BX-K006
2013
2008
5First Degree Intentional Homicide

Life
Mark MaxsonIL Cook County State's Attorney's Office
2015-DY-BX-K007
2016
1994
24First Degree Murder, Aggravated Criminal Sexual Assault

Life without Parole
Henry McCollum[6]NCNorth Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts
2012-DY-BX-K001
2014
1984
30First Degree Murder, First Degree Rape

Death
Edward McInnisNCNorth Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts
2012-DY-BX-K001
2015
1988
27First Degree Rape, First Degree Burglary, Armed Robbery

Life + 20 years
Alan NorthropWAWashington Department of Commerce
2008-DN-BX-K127
2010
1993
17First Degree Rape, First Degree Kidnapping, First Degree Burglary

23.5 years
Charles PalmerIL Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority
2012-DY-BX-K004
2016
2000
18Murder

Life
Johnny PinchbackTXTexas Office of the Governor, Criminal Justice Division
2008-DN-BX-K169
2011
1984
272 Counts Aggravated Sexual Assault

99 years
Kerry Porter KYKentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
2008-DN-BX-K184
2011
1998
14Murder

60 years
William RichardsCACalifornia Governor's Office of Emergency Services 
2014-DY-BX-K002
2016
1997
23First Degree Murder

25 years - Life
Joseph SledgeNCNorth Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts
2012-DY-BX-K001
2015
1978
372 Murders

2 Life Sentences
Phillip ThurmanVAVirginia Department of Forensic Science
2008-DN-BX-K128
2005
1985
20Rape, Abduction, Assault

31 years
Luis VargasCAGovernor's Office of Emergency Services
2013-DY-BX-K003
2015
1999
16Rape, Kidnapping, Sodomy by Force

55 years to Life in Prison
Terry Vollbrecht[7]WIWisconsin Office of Justice Assistance
2011-DY-BX-K006
2013
1989
22Murder, Sexual Assault

Life
Michael VonAllmen[8]KYKentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet
2008-DN-BX-K184
2010
1982
11Sexual Assault, Robbery

35 years
John Kenneth WatkinsAZArizona Criminal Justice Commission
2008-DN-BX-K145
2010
2004
6Sexual Assault

14 years
Robert WilcoxsonNCState of North Carolina
2009-DN-BX-K247
2011
2002
9First Degree Murder

12-16 years
Johnny WilliamsCAGovernor's Office of Emergency Services
2011-DY-BX-K001
2013
2000
132 counts Forcible Lewd Conduct Against a Child Under 14, Attempted Rape

16 years

Notes

[1] The exoneration of Malcolm Bryant was received after the close of the award and not reported in any of the reports. The federal grant funding that had been awarded to the University of Baltimore Innocence Project Clinic was utilized to pay for the DNA testing and the litigation support that resulted in the exoneration.

[2] Prior to the Writ, Cunnigham was imprisoned due to a 4 year sentence on an unrelated charge.

[3] NY Innocence Project paid for testing.

[4] NON-DNA: The State of North Carolina’s used NIJ funds to review Mr. Grimes’ case, but the biological evidence used to convict Grimes was presumed destroyed or lost. The North Carolina Center on Actual Innocence and the State’s Innocence Inquiry Commission compelled the local police department to locate the files and evidence. Though they did not find the biological evidence, they did find a latent fingerprint card containing prints from the victim’s kitchen where the assailant was known to have touched. The fingerprints did not match Grimes, but this

evidence had been withheld until the trial. Grimes’ defense attorney requested, unsuccessfully, to have the two fingerprints sent to the FBI for comparison. Only in 2011 were the two fingerprints finally uploaded to the Automated Fingerprint Identification System where they hit on the case’s original suspect.

[5] Accepted new plea deal in 2012 to avoid new trial.

[6] Although the Commission’s investigation and DNA testing resulted in the release of two individuals, only one of them, Mr. Leon Brown, was a Commission claimant, which is why Mr. McCollum is not reflected in our report

[7] Accepted new plea deal in 2012 to avoid new trial.

[8] The DNA analysis produced inconclusive results. However, during the reinvestigation, the Kentucky Innocence Project discovered new evidence supporting Mr. VonAllmen’s claim of innocence. A Jefferson County judge vacated Mr. VonAllmen’s conviction, stating that the evidence shows he did not commit the crimes.

Date Created: September 3, 2013