Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Bennett Barbour: He has been granted a writ of actual innocence. But Dahlia Lithwick questions Virginia's commitment to DNA exoneration in "Slate."

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: On May 24, 2012, the justices of the Virginia Supreme Court granted a writ of actual innocence to Bennett Barbour, 56, who was convicted of the 1978 rape of a 19-year-old College of William and Mary student. Bennett Barbour had the good fortune to discover that he had been cleared by DNA in spite of the State's feeble efforts to provide him with this crucial information following his release on parole. Dahlia Lithwick points out in an extremely important article published in Slate Magazine that Virginia knows that it has DNA evidence that may prove the innocence of dozens of men like Barbour who were convicted of crimes they didn't commit - and asks "why won't the state say who they are?"

STORY; "The exoneration of Bennett Barbour: Virginia knows that it has DNA evidence that may prove the innocence of dozens of men convicted of crimes they didn't commit. Men just like Barbour. So why won't the state say who they are?," by Dahlia Lithwick, published in Slate on March 12, 2012.

he Commonwealth of Virginia learned that Bennett Barbour was innocent nearly two years ago, when DNA testing cleared him of the crime. Virginia authorities, however, never informed Barbour of his innocence. (State officials claim to have mailed a letter with the test results to Barbour’s last four known addresses, but none of those letters ever reached him.) Barbour learned of the DNA tests that proved his innocence only last month, on Feb. 5, when he received a phone call from Sheldon (Jonathan Sheldon, a lawyer familiar with his case). “I was with my nephew playing cards, and Mr. Sheldon called my mother’s house looking for me,” says Barbour. “He said the authorities stopped looking for me because they couldn’t find me. But Sheldon found me in two days using the Internet.” Actually, that’s not true. It only took Sheldon a few hours. Bennett Barbour is one of the fortunate ones. ........ The trouble is that Barbour is one of only a handful who have enjoyed this vindication. Years ago, Virginia authorities realized they were likely convicting innocent men. The state’s officials know their criminal justice system is riddled with errors. As they investigated the depth of the problem, they have found that indeed many more men—at least dozens, maybe more—might be exonerated using DNA tests. But the state’s authorities did not move quickly to suspend these sentences or contact the individuals or families involved. They did not publicize their findings. Indeed, they denied Freedom of Information Act requests that would have shed light on the problem. Rather, Virginia state officials appears to have devised a system of notifying current and former convicts that is almost guaranteed to lead to the fewest number of exonerations."

The entire story can be found at:



I am monitoring this case. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog for reports on developments.

The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:


Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:


Please send any comments or information on other cases and issues of interest to the readers of this blog to: hlevy15@gmail.com

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog.