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 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.
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.
– Maurice Possley