Years lost: 27
Meriwether County, GA | August 11, 1979
In August 1979, a 74-year-old woman awoke at 4 a.m. in her Manchester, Georgia home to find a man standing over her. He raped and beat her, then handed her a pillow to cover her face.
The room was dark, the victim wasn’t wearing her glasses, and the beating was so severe that her face was partially paralyzed.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation drew a composite sketch of the suspect from a description given by the elderly victim, but was unable to collect a rape kit due to the extent of her injuries.
They were, however, able to recover pubic hairs from the scene of the crime.
Based on the composite sketch alone, GBI investigators identified nineteen-year-old John White as a suspect.
Five weeks after the crime, the victim picked John out of a photo array, saying she was “almost positive” that John was the rapist. The victim also picked John out of a subsequent line-up. John was arrested in September 1979, and charged with rape and burglary.
At trial, the prosecution’s lab analyst testified that the pubic hairs found at the crime scene were “similar enough” to match John. Based on this evidence and the eyewitness identification, John White was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
In 1990, John was released on parole. As he walked out of prison for the first time in over a decade, he was confronted with the reality of living life as a convicted sex offender. After his release, John’s life began a downward spiral that culminated in convictions for drug possession and robbery, crimes for which he accepts full responsibility.
“I was raised on the chain gang,” John later said, “and I didn’t know how to make my way once I got out.”
These subsequent convictions caused John’s parole to be revoked, and in 1997 he was returned to prison to serve out the entirety of his life sentence—a sentence he had received for a crime he did not commit.
From behind bars, John reached out to the Georgia Innocence Project for help. Through the efforts of GIP, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation performed DNA testing that proved John was innocent of the crimes he had been convicted of in 1980. Microscopic analysis, the best technology available at the time, had indicated that hairs from the crime scene were “similar enough” to provide a match.
However, modern DNA testing of those hairs has now proven conclusively that they do not belong to John. Further, the results of this DNA testing revealed the actual source of the hairs, and led prosecutors to the actual perpetrator—a man who had been present at the same line-up where John’s alleged victim identified him as her attacker.
John White Exonerated | December 10, 2007
With the help of the Georgia Innocence Project, John was released from Macon State Prison and exonerated on December 10, 2007.
Invalid and Overstated Forensics
Rape, Burglary, Robbery, Aggravated Assault