Penalty in USA
Some time after his conviction, DNA tests revealed that he could not possibly be the person who raped the victim and in all probability did not kill her.
He will never have the opportunity to present the test results in court, however, because Virginia has the 21-Day Rule.
The 21-Day rule prohibits the introduction of new evidence more than 21 days after a conviction, even if the evidence might exonerate a defendant.
Earl Washington's sentence was commuted to life in prison by then-Governor Douglas Wilder, but he will probably spend the rest of his life incarcerated whether he committed the crime or not.
Four other persons in Virginia currently share a similar fate.
Virginia's 21-Day Rule is one of the strictest in the country. Only six states allow so little time to introduce new evidence and Virginia alone grants no exceptions, even for someone facing the death penalty.
The rule's purpose is to stop time-consuming and frivolous appeals.
It unfortunately does not discriminate between frivolous appeals and ones that have merit.
A person's only recourse is a pardon from the governor, where it is subject to political pressures. So far, Virginia governors have chosen in every case to commute the sentence to life in prison, not to pardon.