A man who spent 35 years behind bars in the US after being wrongly convicted of sexually assaulting an 11-year-old girl has been freed from prison thanks to a DNA breakthrough.
Louis Wright, now aged 65, had lived near the child’s home in Albion, Michigan, at the time of the attack in 1988 and an off-duty officer reported seeing him about five hours before the incident.
That year, Mr Wright was sentenced to 25-50 years for various sexual assault charges, and 6-15 years for breaking and entering.
Earlier this year, however, the Michigan Department of the Attorney General’s Conviction Integrity Unit was told that items from the case were found by the Albion Department of Public Safety.
The items were sent for testing and came back with “foreign male DNA”.
As a result of this, Mr Wright was excluded as the perpetrator, resulting in his charges being set aside, officials said.
On 18 January 1988, a perpetrator broke into the girl’s home while she was asleep and forced her into the living room where he assaulted her.
Later that day, Mr Wright voluntarily went to the local police department.
Officers said he confessed, though the interview was not recorded and he did not sign a confession, according to the Cooley Law School Innocence Project which represents Mr Wright.
But the girl was never asked to take part in any identification process, or identify anyone in court.
Mr Wright pleaded no contest to the charges – which is treated as a guilty plea for sentencing purposes.
He then tried to withdraw his plea and claimed he was innocent.
Over decades in prison, Mr Wright has consistently maintained his innocence and it is unclear why he pleaded no contest in the first place.
Prosecutor David Gilbert said the case is being reopened.
“There is no justice without truth. It applies to everyone,” he said.
Mr Wright could be eligible for a $1.75m payout under a state law that grants $50,000 for each year spent in prison for a conviction overturned based on new evidence.