Calvin Wayne Cunningham

On May 24, 1979, the superintendent of an apartment complex in Newport News, Virginia, was asleep on her couch when someone entered her apartment around 4 a.m. and raped her.

When the victim said her attacker was the man who lived across the hall, Calvin Wayne Cunningham, 26, was arrested and charged with the attack.

Based on the woman’s identification, Cunningham was convicted of rape and burglary charges on June 19, 1981. He was sentenced to 5 years in prison on the burglary charge and 20 years in prison on the rape charge.
 
After spending more than seven years in prison, Cunningham was released on parole.
 
In 2005, then-Governor Mark Warner ordered testing of biological evidence from 1973 through 1988 that was discovered in the files of deceased crime lab analyst Mary Jane Burton. The order came after six  other defendants were exonerated by DNA testing on biological evidence found in Burton's files: Marvin Anderson, Julius Ruffin, Arthur Whitfield, Willie Davidson, Philip Thurman and Thomas Haynesworth.

In February, 2010, DNA testing on the biological evidence in Cunningham’s case eliminated him as the assailant. Cunningham, who was on the sex offender registry in Virginia, contacted the Mid-Atlantic Innocence Project, which filed a request for a Writ of Actual Innocence.

On April 12, 2011, the Virginia Supreme Court granted the writ. Cunningham was back in prison serving a four-year prison term for theft and other non-violent charges.
 
By the end of 2013, two more wrongfully convicted inmates had been exonerated by DNA testing of evidence from Burton's files: Bennett Barbour and Garry Diamond.
 
– Maurice Possley
 

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State:Virginia
County:Newport News
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Reported Crime Date:1979
Convicted:1981
Exonerated:2011
Sentence:16 years
Race:Black
Sex:Male
Age:26
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes