A West Virginia man has served a decade in prison for a Clarksburg rape -- even though DNA evidence indicating his innocence reportedly was hidden by prosecutors.
A petition to free Joseph Buffey is scheduled for final arguments Wednesday before Harrison County Circuit Judge Thomas Bedell. West Virginians should watch this outcome closely.
Buffey was a 19-year-old high school dropout and petty thief who was convicted of raping an 83-year-old Clarksburg woman in 2001.
The national Innocence Project says the teenager was interrogated for nine hours and induced to make a taped confession because prosecutors promised to drop three burglary charges against him. However, police allegedly had to tell him details of the crime scene to include in his statement.
Later, lawyers from Allan Karlin & Associates and the Innocence Project sought to reverse the conviction. Paul Cates of the innocence group says:
"Through subsequent investigation and discovery, we have learned that the state conducted DNA testing at the time of the crime, which was completed more than a month before Buffey's final plea hearing, that excluded him as the perpetrator. But this testing was never disclosed to the defense. ... DNA testing on sperm from the rape kit definitively excluded Buffey and identified another male, also from Harrison County and in prison on other charges, as the real perpetrator."
Prosecutors now contend that Buffey was an accomplice while the other suspect raped the old woman -- but the victim never mentioned a second attacker.
If exculpatory evidence was concealed in this case, the state Supreme Court and legal ethics authorities should become involved.