Ruffin grants pardons

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 25, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

Julius Earl Ruffin was granted a pardon by Gov. Mark Warner after DNA evidence showed that he had served 21-years in Virginia’s prison system for a brutal rape that he did not commit. Now, at the age of 49, he’s been asked to pardon the two people responsible for his imprisonment; the victim and the prosecutor.

In fact, the victim of the rape has sent a letter to Warner urging him and the state legislature to provide &uot;reparations in an amount that will allow him (Ruffin) to pursue his lost dreams and to live out his life with dignity and peace.&uot;


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The victim’s letter also states that she feels a direct responsibility for Ruffin’s sentence of five life terms. She noted that the jury was an all-white jury, and that two previous trials ended with hung juries. Both those juries were made up of black and white jurors.

Ruffin, known to family and friends as &uot;Earl,&uot; proclaimed his innocence from the time he was arrested at age 28, and charged with rape and other related crimes. While his life as a working family man was put to a screeching halt, he protested his incarceration and he asked for DNA testing to be done to prove his innocence.

When Ruffin was arrested, he was learning to be an electrician and trying to make a life for his family. Ruffin was also trying to be a good son to his mother, who died and was buried while he was &uot;in the system.&uot;

Ruffin missed out on many other family events including helping his children grow to adulthood and the birth of his grandchildren. He has sisters and brothers who never believed in his guilt. His sister Anna, in particular, was constantly in touch with him offering encouragement and reminding him that faith in God works wonders.

The victim’s letter asks Ruffin to forgive her for testimony in which she identified him as the man who raped her. She said her only goal was to protect her children, who were threatened during the brutal assault, and to protect other women from rape.

&uot;I failed and worse than that, I hurt you and your family,&uot; she wrote. &uot;…I understand if you and your family are angry with me. I do hope you believe that the mistake I made was an honest one.&uot;

She added that she thinks everyday of Ruffin and his family, and she prays for them. The experience of being terrorized has also given the victim insight into suffering.

&uot;Nothing that I do or anyone does, will ever make up to you and your family for what you have suffered,&uot; she added in the letter. &uot;My prayer is that you will find your way in the world, find work to do, and receive the justice you have waited so long for.&uot;

Ruffin received the victim’s letter through his attorney, Gordon Zedd, who also provided a letter to his client from the prosecutor, Robert C. Slaughter III. Slaughter is now retired and living in North Carolina.

In a concise two paragraph statement, Slaughter said he has no words to express to Ruffin and his family the great sorrow he feels over the incarceration.

&uot;For offenses of which you were innocent and those years of your life cannot be given back to you,&uot; Slaughter wrote. &uot;You experienced the true nightmare – incarceration for a crime you did not commit. That, tragically, can occur in our criminal justice system, which despite its many safeguards, is not perfect.&uot;

Ruffin said that he did experience a nightmare while a part of Virginia’s justice system. But, he said, the worst of it is over. He has much to do to repair his damaged life and the hopes and dreams suddenly destroyed by a mistaken identity.

At the same time the governor pardoned Ruffin, the same DNA that freed him also proved with 100 percent accuracy that another man was guilty. He was already in prison on other charges. He was then charged with the rape, and now awaits trial on the rape for which Ruffin paid so dearly.

While Ruffin is the first to note that he is no angel, he will state that he is a Christian man with a tested and proven faith in God. As he was granted his pardon, he now, according to the word of God, gives pardon to those who wronged him.

&uot;When I first read the letter from the victim, I was relieved that she had finally spoken to me even if it was only through a letter,&uot; Ruffin explained. &uot;I was touched by the sincerity of the letter and I appreciate her letting me know how she feels. I completely understand that she must have been so terrified and confused at the time of her rape, and I do forgive her for wrongly identifying me.&uot;

Ruffin added that he is going on with my life, trying to put the 21 years of incarceration into perspective.

&uot;I not only lost my mother while I was in prison, but did not see my son grow to manhood, nor my daughter develop into the lovely young woman she has become,&uot; he said so softly. &uot;I didn’t get to enjoy the birth of my grandchildren. I was working toward becoming an electrician through Eastern Virginia Medical Authority, and I also lost out on what I had hoped would be a lucrative career. However, I am not bitter… just disappointed in life, but with God’s help, that will also come to an end.&uot;