DNA testing said to clear Suffolk man of rape

Published 12:00 am Thursday, February 13, 2003

NORFOLK (AP) – A man cleared by DNA evidence after he served more than 20 years in prison for a rape he didn’t commit walked out of Southampton Correctional Center a free man on Wednesday.

&uot;I’d like to thank God for this day,” Julius Earl Riffin, 49, said with tears in his eyes. &uot;The first thing I want to do is visit my mother’s grave. It’s been 21 long years.”

Ruffin, of Suffolk, said he was heading to see his brother, sister and son.


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Ruffin was convicted in 1982 of attacking a 32-year-old Norfolk woman, who was raped and sodomized at knifepoint by a stranger who broke in through a window.

The DNA test results, released Tuesday, point to another unidentified man.

Ruffin was released on parole, said his lawyer, Gordon Zedd, because it was faster than waiting for a court to declare him innocent. Zedd said he will request an immediate pardon by the governor.

Commonwealth’s Attorney John R. Doyle III, whose office last year asked the state lab to look for stored evidence in the case, said he also planned to request a pardon.

Zedd said he was &uot;shaken” when he received word from the state Division of Forensic Science that the DNA tests had cleared Ruffin. He immediately called Ruffin at the correctional center in Capron, and released the test results Tuesday.

&uot;He was thrilled, extremely happy,” said Zedd, who was appointed by the Norfolk Circuit Court to handle Ruffin’s appeal for DNA testing.

Ruffin was arrested after being identified by the rape victim. He said he had spent that night at home with his girlfriend. She and others corroborated that account.

Ruffin’s first two trials ended in hung juries. He was convicted by a third jury and received five life sentences.

For years, Ruffin sent letters to state and local police and court officials seeking biological evidence in his case.

At the time of the crime, the state lab, courts and police departments routinely destroyed DNA evidence after a conviction and the exhaustion of all appeals.

But a state forensic scientist made it her own policy to retain biological samples in her files. The samples in Ruffin’s case were discovered in July in the lab’s archives.

Authorities have not yet released the name of the attacker identified through DNA testing.

Six other Virginia inmates have been released after DNA testing cleared them of violent felonies, including murder.