A bill is pending in the Virginia General Assembly to pay almost $160,000 to Winston Lamont Scott, who was wrongly convicted of a rape in Fairfax County more than four decades ago.
Scott, 63, of Indiana, was exonerated by the Virginia Supreme Court in March on the strength of DNA testing. He is one of 13 innocent people cleared of serious crimes by a Virginia postconviction DNA testing project begun in 2005, 30 years after the attack that led to his conviction.
Scott was convicted primarily on the victim’s identification of him in a photo spread and again in court at his 1976 trial. Experts say victim-witness misidentification is the most frequent contributor to wrongful convictions.
In granting him a writ of actual innocence in March, the court unanimously ruled that in light of the new DNA evidence, “no rational trier of fact would have found him guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.”
In 2010, DNA testing of sperm found on the victim’s jeans and from her vagina failed to identify Scott’s genetic profile or that of the victim’s only sex partner at the time. Scott was not excluded by DNA until 2017, after he was located out of state and asked if he wanted to submit a sample for testing.
He was 19 when a Reston woman was attacked on July 24, 1975. He was sentenced to 14 years for rape, sodomy and statutory burglary and served about five years before he was paroled.
Scott, who always maintained he was innocent, suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and is on disability. He told the Richmond Times-Dispatch last year that the criminal record held him back in life.