Former US sailor cleared of murder, rape after 33 years in prison

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DNA Clears Man of Murder After 33 Years in Prison

RICHMOND, Va., April 7 (Reuters) - Virginia's top court on Thursday ordered the release of a former U.S. sailor who has spent 33 years in prison, because new DNA evidence showed he did not murder a Newport News man and rape the man's wife in 1982.

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Keith Allen Harward, 60, was convicted on the basis of testimony by two experts who said they matched his teeth to bite marks found on the rape victim's legs. The reliability of bite marks as evidence in a criminal trial has increasingly come under challenge in recent years.

The decision, by the Virginia State Court, came a day after the state's attorney general, Mark Herring, said he believed Harward was innocent.

Related: People wrongfully convicted and released from prison:

People who have been wrongfully imprisoned and released
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Former US sailor cleared of murder, rape after 33 years in prison
Pat Turner, left, hugs Anthony Ray Hinton as he leaves the Jefferson County jail, Friday, April 3, 2015, in Birmingham, Ala. Hinton spent nearly 30 years on Alabama's death row, and was set free Friday after prosecutors told a judge they won't re-try him for the 1985 slayings of two fast-food managers. (AP Photo/Hal Yeager)
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FILE - In this July 19, 2006 file photo, Anthony Porter, who served more than 16 years in prison after being convicted of murder in 1982 and was later released in 1999 after another man confessed to the crime, speaks at a news conference in Chicago. On Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, a Cook County judge ordered the release of Alstory Simon, whose confession helped free Porter from death row. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
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"It's just heartbreaking to think that more than half of his life was spent behind bars when he didn't belong there," Herring said. "The Commonwealth can't give him back those years, but we can say that we got it wrong, that we're sorry, and that we're working to make it right."

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The DNA found at the scene matched that of Jerry Crotty, who died in an Ohio prison in 2006, Herring said.

Crotty had been a Navy shipmate of Harward's at the time of the murder and rape, according to The Innocence Project, a non-profit legal clinic that handles cases in which post-conviction DNA testing of evidence can result in conclusive proof of innocence. (Editing by Scott Malone)

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