DNA analysis frees Ga. man wrongfully convicted of rape after 18 years

After serving nearly 20 years for a rape he didn’t commit, Kerry Robinson walked out of a South Georgia prison Wednesday and hugged his relatives’ necks.

The 44-year-old had been convicted in 2002 of breaking into a woman’s home in the southwestern Georgia city of Moultrie and raping her, according to his attorneys at the Atlanta-based Georgia Innocence Project.

The chief evidence against Robinson was the fact that the “ringleader” of the break-in claimed Robinson was part of the rape, as well as a GBI analyst’s testimony falsely suggesting that a mixture of DNA in the rape kit very likely contained Robinson’s DNA. Robinson maintains the ringleader lied to authorities as revenge because Robinson had reported him to the police in another case.

Robinson’s supporters have known for many years that he was innocent, but he only recently gained traction in the criminal justice system. After reviewing the case, Southern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Brad Shealy, who wasn’t involved in the prosecution, agreed that Robinson should be freed.

“District Attorney Shealy’s actions reflect the justice that we fight for, and we hope others follow this lead,” said Georgia Innocence Project attorney Jennifer Whitfield, who represents Robinson along with co-counsel Rodney Zell, who fought for Robinson in court for 15 years. “When the government takes steps to ensure that convictions have integrity, it helps improve the credibility of our legal system overall,” Whitfield said.

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It was DNA scientist Dr. Greg Hampikian who proved Robinson’s innocence over the years, after Zell asked for his help. Hampikian included Robinson’s case in a study on bias in interpretations of DNA mixtures nine years ago. As part of the study, he asked 17 DNA analysts to examine the evidence. Only one agreed with the GBI analyst.

In 2018, the GBI began using a more advanced process to examine DNA. Hampikian had the evidence examined in that process and it showed that the GBI analyst had been wrong, according to the Georgia Innocence Project.

“Modern DNA technology has further confirmed what we’ve known for a long time: Kerry Robinson is an innocent man,” said attorney Zell, who got to know Robinson and his family over the years. “We wish Kerry’s mother were here to see this day.”

Robinson’s son, sister and other relatives were there Wednesday afternoon to see him emerge from Coffee Correctional Facility outside the city of Douglas.

They screamed out to him in joy as the prison gate opened.