Co-counsel: Holly Pierson and Eversheds Sutherland
Chatham County, Georgia
Chatham County, GA | November 18, 2001
In 2001, a woman walked in on a man who was in the process of burglarizing her home in Savannah, Georgia. The man sexually assaulted the woman at knife-point, then fled with some of her belongings. Before the woman was assaulted, she noticed that the man was wearing blue and white batting gloves.
Sonny Bharadia was in Stone Mountain 255 miles away from Savannah working on a friend’s car on the day the victim was attacked. Days after the assault, Sonny called the police to report that Sterling Flint, an acquaintance of Sonny’s, had stolen Sonny’s car.
When the police investigated Flint for stealing the car, they discovered the victim’s stolen property along with a pair of blue and white batting gloves. When the victim was shown a photo lineup, she identified Sterling Flint as her attacker.
Now implicated in the sexual assault, Flint claimed that the stolen items found in his possession actually belonged to Sonny Bharadia. Police then gave the victim a second photo lineup and, this time, she identified Sonny Bharadia as her attacker.
Flint pled guilty to theft by receiving stolen property and, in exchange for not being prosecuted for a sex crime, testified against Sonny Bharadia. Flint’s testimony, along with the victim’s revised eyewitness identification, formed the backbone of the prosecution’s case against Sonny. No physical evidence tied Sonny to the crime, but he was convicted and sentenced to life without parole plus forty years.
At the time of trial the batting gloves worn by the attacker were not tested for DNA evidence.
However several years later, when Georgia Innocence Project took on Sonny’s case, DNA testing technology had advanced to the point that ‘touch’ DNA testing could be performed on the gloves. Using small amounts of DNA from skin cells left on the gloves, the GBI was able to extract a DNA profile and compare it with a sample obtained from Sonny—the DNA didn’t match. It did however match someone else: Sterling Flint.
One of the batting gloves worn by the perpetrator. Testing implicated an alternative suspect, Sterling Flint.
GIP brought this evidence to the attention of the district attorney, but they declined to take action.
The case was litigated all the way up to the Georgia Supreme Court, which ultimately decided against Sonny, partially on the grounds that the gloves could have been tested at the time of trial.
GIP has not given up on Sonny’s case. We continue to search for new procedural grounds to force the courts to reconsider his innocence - we believe that the pursuit of justice, both for Sonny and the victim in this case, is more important than the courts’ desire for finality.