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Edward Honaker

Other Virginia Cases with Perjury or False Accusation
In 1985, Edward Honaker was convicted in Virginia of numerous counts of sexual assault, sodomy, and rape. He was sentenced to three life sentences and thirty-four years.

The victims were a woman and her boyfriend who were attacked while sleeping in their car in a rural area. A man with a gun and pretending to be a police officer, accosted them and forced the boyfriend to go into the surrounding woods. He then forced the woman into his truck and, after driving to a different area, repeatedly raped her. The police were able to make a sketch of the assailant with the help of the victims. The attacker was described as 6 feet 4 inches tall and left-handed.
A hundred miles away, another woman was raped and later told police that her assailant resembled Honaker, who lived nearby. His alibi checked out and he was never charged with this crime.

The investigating officer, however, showed Honaker's picture to the victims of the first attack. They subsequently picked Honaker's picture out of a photo lineup. The first rape victim then made an identification of Honaker in court. She and her boyfriend also identified Honaker's truck as similar to the one the assailant drove. Additional evidence consisted of camouflage clothing found in Honaker's house that was similar to the assailant's and the testimony of a state's forensic expert, state forensic analyst Elmer Gist, who concluded that the hair found on the woman's shorts was "consistent" with Honaker's hair. Gist went on to state that "it was unlikely that the hair would match anyone other than Honaker; but it was possible." This assertion was improper, because there was not adequate empirical data on the frequency of various class characteristics in human hair to characterize whether consistency is a rare or common event.
Honaker's defense was an alibi corroborated by three others, but discounted by the prosecution. In addition, he was 5 feet 11 inches tall and right-handed. On February 7, 1985, a jury convicted Honaker. He was sentenced to life in prison.
After his conviction, Honaker reached out to Centurion Ministries, an organization that worked to free the wrongfully convicted. Centurion's investigation revealed that the victim and her boyfriend had been, at times, hypnotized and that the initial description of the assailant was inconsistent with Honaker. Additionally, Honaker had undergone a vasectomy in 1976, a fact not known to the prosecution's witnesses. Centurion then began working with the Innocence Project to secure DNA testing on the biological evidence in the case.
The prosecution agreed to release the evidence, which included sperm on the vaginal swab, though it asserted that the sperm belonged to the boyfriend. The DNA testing was further complicated by the victim's claim of having a secret lover who could have been the source of the sperm.
The evidence was sent to Forensics Science Associates. Initial testing, using DQ Alpha testing, revealed that sperm from the the victim's shorts and from the vaginal swab did not match. Honaker was excluded from both profiles and FSA requested samples from the victim and her boyfriend. The second round of testing could not exclude the boyfriend from being the source of the sperm on the victim's shorts, but he was excluded from the vaginal swab sample. A second boyfriend was tested by the Virginia State Laboratory and could not be eliminated as the source of sperm from the vaginal swab, also using DQ Alpha testing.
FSA performed another round of testing, this time using DQ Alpha and polymarker testing. This more discriminating test revealed that Honaker and both boyfriends were excluded from being contributors of some of the sperm on the vaginal swab.
Based on this DNA exclusion, Honaker filed for clemency. His petition was supported by the state. Honaker was pardoned in October 1994 after ten years of incarceration. When confronted with the fact that Honaker had undergone a vasectomy, the state's forensic expert said that had he known that, he would not have testified to the definitive hair match that helped convict Honaker at trial.
In 1996, Honaker was awarded $500,000 from the Commonwealth for his wrongful incarceration. He succumbed to cancer in June 2015.
Summary courtesy of the Innocence Project, Reproduced with permission.

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 7/14/2023
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Kidnapping
Reported Crime Date:1984
Age at the date of reported crime:33
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, False or Misleading Forensic Evidence, Official Misconduct
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes