Man Spends 29 Years in Jail ... for Looking Like Rapist

Michael Kenneth McAlister's conviction had been in doubt for decades
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted May 14, 2015 2:29 AM CDT
Updated May 17, 2015 10:36 AM CDT
Rapist Look-a-Like Spends 29 Years in Jail
This Aug. 22, 2013 photo provided by the Virginia Deptment of Corrections shows Michael Kenneth McAlister.    (Virginia Deptment of Corrections via AP)

(Newser) – Michael Kenneth McAlister was freed Wednesday after spending about half his life in prison for having the wrong face at the wrong time. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe granted a full pardon to the 58-year-old after a serial rapist who bears a very strong resemblance to McAlister—side-by-side mugshots can be seen here—confessed to the 1986 attempted rape McAlister was convicted of, the Washington Post reports. McAlister had already completed his sentence, but he faced indefinite commitment to a mental institution after being deemed at risk of re-offending because he refused to admit his guilt, reports the New York Daily News. He was convicted after he was identified from a photo lineup by the victim, who only saw part of her attacker's face when she pulled his mask up.

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There was no DNA linking McAlister to the attempted rape and kidnapping in a Richmond, Va., apartment complex laundry room. Prosecutors and police voiced doubts about his conviction more than 20 years ago after it emerged that serial rapist Norman Bruce Derr was a suspect in laundry room rapes in the area. Derr, who is already serving five life sentences, confessed under a grant of immunity. McAlister tells the Post he hopes Derr "can deal with his issues as best he can." He says he feels sorry for what the victim had to go through. "It wasn't her fault, and I don't hold any hard feelings at all toward her," he tells the Post. "This is what I asked for. To live to see Mike out and free," his 81-year-old mother told the Richmond Times-Dispatch as he left prison. (The story of another man wrongly imprisoned for 23 years has a tragic ending.)

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