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Hawaii Innocence Project’s First Exoneration

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On July 21, a judge dismissed all counts against Alvin Francis Jardine III, 41, convicted in 1992 of burglary and rape in the case of 25-year-old Haiku woman. Jardine spent almost 20 years in prison based largely on the victim’s identification of him as her attacker. Newly tested DNA from a tablecloth used in the crime exonerated Jardine, who was granted a new trial in January. Six months later the prosecutor’s office and the victim decided not to pursue a new trial. It would have been the fourth trial in this case. Two juries could not reach a verdict in the case, before a third jury convicted Jardine, 22 at the time, of four counts of first-degree sexual assault, three counts of attempted first-degree sexual assault, kidnapping and first-degree burglary.

On Dec. 28, 1990, an intruder broke into the Haiku home of a 25-year-old woman, held a knife to her throat and repeatedly raped her as her young children slept in a nearby bedroom. The woman identified Jardine as the rapist. He said he was home at the time of the attack. In 2008, his case was brought before the Hawaii Innocence Project, one of the first cases the project took on. It is the first exoneration for the Project. Jardine maintained his innocence from the onset of the case, even refusing a chance at parole 10 years ago when he was offered to enter a sexual abuse treatment program if he admitted guilt.

While most of the evidence in the case had been destroyed by the time the Project got involved, a tablecloth from the crime scene remained. At the time of the crime, the victim told police that the tablecloth covered a chair that both she and the naked assailant were on when she was raped. Four DNA samples of blood and/or bodily fluids were recovered and tested. Three of the four excluded Jardine as the contributor. The fourth sample’s testing was inconclusive. Jardine’s lawyers said the tablecloth had been tested in 1992 but the results were inconclusive. This time more advanced techniques we able to conclusively exclude Jardine.

Eyewitness misidentification is common in wrongful conviction cases, as Hawaii Innocence Project Director Virginia Hench points out. “Eyewitness cases are responsible for three-fourths of all of the wrongful convictions, at least in DNA cases,” she said.

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