In July 1973, a 17-year-old woman and her aunt were driving home in Clayton County, Georgia when two men in a car pulled up beside them and told them their tire was flat. When the aunt got out of the car to check the tire, one of the men threatened the young driver with a gun and forced his way into the car. The man drove off with the young woman still in the car and the second man followed behind him. When they reached a secluded area, the two men raped and sodomized the woman. The victim provided a description of her attackers and reported that one of them was named Terry. Police picked up Terry Lee Wanzer, who matched the description. The victim identified Wanzer from a set of photographs and again in a one-man show up. Though Wanzer presented three alibi witnesses and the state produced no physical evidence connecting Wanzer to the crime, a jury convicted him of rape and aggravated sodomy in September of 1973 and he was sentenced to life in prison.
While in prison, Wanzer heard of a former classmate who was bragging that he and another man had committed the crime. The judge who had sentenced Wanzer had doubts about the jury’s verdict and, in 1978, asked the district attorney’s office to reopen the case. However, the case remained closed and Wanzer was unsuccessful in obtaining a new trial. In 1981, he presented his evidence of innocence to the parole board, and successfully passed a polygraph test. Though not enough to overturn his conviction, the evidence persuaded the parole board to release him on parole. Wanzer continued to try to prove his innocence, eventually getting the two classmates to submit to polygraph tests, which they failed. Wanzer then applied to the state for a pardon based on his innocence. On July 9, 1991, after investigating Wanzer’s claim, the board granted Wanzer a pardon based on innocence.
- Stepehanie Denzel