Va. man wrongfully convicted of attempted rape is pardoned

May 13, 2015, 5:01 PM

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Gov. Terry McAuliffe on Wednesday pardoned a Virginia man who has spent 29 years in prison for an attempted rape that authorities now say he did not commit.

Michael Kenneth McAlister, 58, was exonerated just five days ahead of a hearing that could have led to his indefinite confinement as a violent sex offender under the state’s civil commitment law.

“My staff and I have carefully and thoroughly reviewed the documentation in this case and concluded that a pardon is appropriate in light of the overwhelming evidence, including a recent confession by another individual, pointing to Mr. McAlister’s actual innocence of the crime for which he was convicted,” McAuliffe said in a written statement.

McAlister’s sister, Denise Haas, said the family was ecstatic.

“We are just floating on cloud nine,” she said in a telephone interview. “We’ve been living 29-plus years in a nightmare that nobody would believe, and now it’s over. My brother’s going to be free and be able to be with the family and catch up on all these years we’ve missed.”

McAlister was convicted of the February 1986, abduction and attempted rape of a woman who was dragged at knifepoint from an apartment complex laundry room in Richmond. The victim identified McAlister as the attacker from a photo lineup that did not include a picture of a serial rapist, Norman Bruce Derr, who lived nearby and bore a strong resemblance to McAlister.

The governor did not identify the man who confessed, but spokesman Brian Coy confirmed that it was Derr, who is now serving three life terms in prison.

Virginia prisons spokeswoman Lisa Kinney was unable to say how soon McAlister will be released from prison. An Associated Press request for a telephone interview with McAlister was pending.

“We’re thrilled the governor did the right thing here and that he’s giving Mike the freedom he’s deserved for so long,” said Shawn Armbrust, executive director of the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, which pushed McAlister’s exoneration. “I know these aren’t easy decisions for governors to make, and we are grateful that Gov. McAuliffe did it and did it so quickly.”

McAuliffe granted the pardon a little over a month after receiving the petition. Among those backing McAlister’s bid were the former police detective who investigated him, C.M. Martin, and Richmond Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Herring.

McAlister’s prison term ended in January, but he remained locked up until the court could decide the civil commitment issue. McAlister’s supporters pressed the governor for a decision before a scheduled probable cause hearing on that matter, which had been scheduled for Monday in Richmond Circuit Court.

The wrongful conviction was based on a classic case of misidentification. The victim fought off her attacker and was able to get a partial look at his face by clawing at his stocking mask. According to the petition to the governor, the woman picked out McAlister from “a highly suggestive photo array” that did not contain the picture of Derr, whose previous attack on a police decoy in a laundry room of the same apartment complex had been thwarted.

McAlister was initially identified as a suspect based on a police composite sketch. He was known to the local police because he had a record of indecent exposure and he lived only about four miles from the apartment complex where the attack occurred. When he was interviewed by detectives, McAlister agreed to allow them to take his picture wearing a plaid shirt similar to the one the attacker had worn. He was the only person in the photo lineup wearing that type of shirt, the petition says.

The only trial evidence linking McAlister to the attack was the victim’s eyewitness testimony.

“The integrity of our justice system depends on the guarantee of a fair trial that is informed by all available evidence,” McAuliffe said. “Protecting that integrity requires quick action in the event that new evidence comes to light.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

United States News

FILE - A U.S. Navy Seahawk helicopter flies over a stateless dhow later found to be carrying a hidd...
Associated Press

US Navy offers cash for tips to seize Mideast drugs, weapons

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The U.S. Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet is starting to offer rewards for information that could help sailors intercept weapons, drugs and other illicit shipments across the region amid tensions over Iran’s nuclear program and Tehran’s arming of Yemen’s Houthi rebels. While avoiding directly mentioning Iran, the 5th Fleet’s decision […]
24 hours ago
A person wearing a protective mask watches an electronic stock board showing Japan's Nikkei 225 ind...
Associated Press

Asian shares mixed, oil steady ahead of July 4 holiday in US

BANGKOK (AP) — Shares were mixed in Asia on Monday while U.S. futures fell ahead of the July 4 holiday in the U.S. Benchmarks rose in Tokyo, Shanghai and Sydney but fell in Hong Kong and Seoul. Oil prices were steady after surging on Friday. Shares in Japanese telecoms carrier KDDI Corp. fell as much […]
24 hours ago
FILE - Fireworks explode over Baltimore's Inner Harbor during the Ports America Chesapeake 4th of J...
Associated Press

A turbulent US this July 4, but many see cause to celebrate

Independence Day arrives at a time when the United States is roiled by hearings over the Jan. 6 insurrection, awash in turmoil over high court rulings on abortion and guns and struggling to maintain the common bonds that keep it together. Yet many also see cause to celebrate: The pandemic continues to be on the […]
24 hours ago
Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to Trump White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, testifies about h...
Associated Press

Jan 6 panel: More people turn up with evidence against Trump

WASHINGTON (AP) — More witnesses are coming forward with new details on the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol riot following former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson’s devastating testimony last week against former President Donald Trump, says a member of a House committee investigating the insurrection. The panel already has subpoenaed former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, […]
24 hours ago
Associated Press

Today in History: July 4, Declaration of Independence

Today in History Today is Monday, July 4, the 185th day of 2022. There are 180 days left in the year. This is Independence Day. Today’s Highlight in History: On July 4, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by delegates to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. On this date: In 1802, the United […]
24 hours ago
This image released by Bleecker Street shows Freida Pinto, left, and Zawe Ashton in a scene from "M...
Associated Press

‘Minions’ set box office on fire with $108.5 million debut

Families went bananas for Minions this weekend at the movie theater. ” Minions: The Rise of Gru ” brought in an estimated $108.5 million in ticket sales from 4,391 screens in North America, Universal Pictures said Sunday. By the end of the Monday’s July Fourth holiday, it will likely have earned over $127.9 million. The […]
24 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

Vaccines are safe if you are pregnant or breastfeeding

Are you pregnant? Do you have a friend or loved one who’s expecting?
...
Day & Night Air

Tips to lower your energy bill in the Arizona heat

Does your summer electric bill make you groan? Are you looking for effective ways to reduce your bill?
Va. man wrongfully convicted of attempted rape is pardoned