After 33 years in prison, Keith Harward was released from the Nottoway Correctional Center on Friday after the Virginia Supreme Court agreed that DNA evidence proves he's innocent of the 1982 killing of Jesse Perron and the rape of his wife in Newport News, the AP reports. Harward was a sailor on the USS Carl Vinson, which was stationed at the shipyard close to the victims' home at the time of the crime. A security guard identified Harward as the man he saw entering the shipyard wearing a bloody uniform, but the woman never identified him as her attacker. The prosecution's case relied heavily on the testimony of two experts who testified that his teeth matched bite marks on the woman's leg. No other physical evidence linked Harward to the crime.
The Innocence Project got involved in Harward's case about two years ago and pushed for DNA tests, which failed to identify Harward's genetic profile in sperm left at the crime scene. The DNA matched that of one of Harward's former shipmate's who died in an Ohio prison in June 2006, where he was serving a sentence for abduction. Harward initially faced the death penalty, but a loophole in the law caused his capital murder conviction to be overturned in 1985. Harward said he's heading to his home state of North Carolina with family. He said he's looking forward to having some fried oysters as soon as he can. Beyond that, he's not so sure. He just excited to be free to do whatever he wants. "Go out and hug a tree, sit in a park. Whatever I want to do. Because I can."