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Leo Waters

Other North Carolina Exonerations
In 1982, Leo Waters was convicted of rape, sexual offense, and robbery with a dangerous weapon. On November 20, 2003, the State of North Carolina dismissed all charges against him after DNA testing proved that he was not the perpetrator of the crimes.
The Crime
The victim in this case had advertised a waterbed for sale in a Jacksonville, North Carolina, newspaper. On March 31, 1981, a man called at about 9:00AM and expressed interest in looking at the bed. He arrived at the victim’s house over an hour later and looked at the bed. They went first to the basement to look at part of the bed and then upstairs to look at the rest of the bed. When the victim entered the bedroom and turned around, the man pulled out a gun and threatened to kill her. He taped her hands behind her back, taped her eyes shut, gagged her with her underwear, and tied her feet together. He vaginally raped her and wiped her off with a towel. He then stole some jewelry and left.
The Identification
The victim gave police a full description and viewed numerous photographic arrays. She was hypnotized in April 1981 in an attempt to bolster her memory of what the perpetrator looked like and details about the car he drove. She picked Leo Waters from the third array that the police showed her in August 1981. Waters had been arrested on minor unrelated charges. The photograph showed Waters’s head and shoulders. The victim said she could not be sure of her identification unless she could see the person’s full body. She viewed Waters at the courthouse days later and positively identified him.
The Biological Evidence
Spermatozoa were found on items in the rape kit collected from the victim, including the vaginal swab. Serological testing revealed blood type antigens consistent with type O blood. Both Waters and the victim were type O. The victim’s husband was type A. The laboratory performed further serological testing for other blood group markers and was able to narrow down the population fo potential donors of the semen to 35.5 percent of the adult white male population. Waters could not be excluded from this population.
Attorney Mark Raynor took on the Waters case in February 2002. Waters had already applied for postconviction DNA testing on his own. Access to the evidence was secured and STR DNA testing was performed by Laboratory Corporation of America in January 2003. Waters was excluded as a potential contributor of the spermatozoa. He was granted a new trial and was released from prison. Raynor filed and application for a Pardon of Innocence with the governor’s office.
In October 2003, The district attorney submitted the evidence for replicate testing at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation Laboratory. The results of STR DNA testing confirmed the initial results: Waters could not have been the rapist.
On November 20, 2003, all charges against Waters were dismissed. In August 2005, governor Michael Easley granted Waters a full pardon. In 2008, the state of North Carolina awarded Waters $750,000 in compensation.
Summary courtesy of the Innocence Project, Reproduced with permission.

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Posting Date:  Before June 2012
Last Updated: 5/15/2021
State:North Carolina
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Robbery
Reported Crime Date:1981
Age at the date of reported crime:30
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:Yes