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Dell Talley

Other 1991 Exonerations
On April 2, 1990, a 24-year-old woman reported to the police that a man had broken into her home in the East End, located in eastern Henrico County near Richmond, Virginia and sexually assaulted her.

The woman described her attacker as a Hispanic man who had a gold tooth and spoke with an accent. However, after being shown a photographic lineup, the woman picked 23-year-old Dell Talley, a black man who spoke without an accent and had no gold tooth. Talley had prior convictions for breaking and entering as well as grand larceny.

Talley was arrested on April 6, 1990 and charged with forcible sodomy, and breaking and entering.

He went on trial in January 1991 in Henrico County Circuit Court. The victim identified him as her attacker. It was only then that the prosecution gave the defense a copy of the police report of the victim’s initial account of the assault. The report, however, was coded. Unless the codes were deciphered, a reader could not tell that the woman originally reported that her attacker was Hispanic, spoke with an accent and had a gold tooth—none of which fit Talley.

Talley’s defense lawyer not only failed to request the report prior to trial, but also never attempted to decode the report once he received it. The jury convicted Talley on January 9, 1991 of forcible sodomy and breaking and entering.

Prior to sentencing, Talley retained new lawyers who deciphered the police report, learned about the victim’s initial and contradictory description of her assailant, and filed a motion to vacate Talley’s conviction. The defense contended that the prosecution’s disclosure of the report “in the middle of the trial in the heat of battle without the code is like giving it to (the defense attorney) in Sanskrit.”

The prosecution opposed the motion, noting that the victim had identified Talley in the courtroom and contended that the police report was wrong. The prosecution also argued that Talley could have had a fake gold sleeve that he slipped over one of his teeth and then removed after the assault.

On May 1, 1991, Henrico County Circuit Judge granted the defense motion and vacated Talley’s conviction. “What we are talking about is an incident report which is written in a code,” the judge said. “I must find that this is a situation in which this report as cited was in fact of substantial value to the defendant.” Talley was released on bond that day.

On May 30, 1991, the prosecution dismissed the charges after the victim said she no longer wished to testify.

Talley filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against Henrico County and in December 1992, he settled the lawsuit for an undisclosed amount.

– Maurice Possley

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Posting Date: 10/13/2014
Most Serious Crime:Sexual Assault
Additional Convictions:Burglary/Unlawful Entry
Reported Crime Date:1990
Sentence:Not sentenced
Age at the date of reported crime:23
Contributing Factors:Mistaken Witness ID, Official Misconduct, Inadequate Legal Defense
Did DNA evidence contribute to the exoneration?:No