On Tuesday, a Virginia appeals court fully absolved Marvin Grimm Jr. of the 1975 crime, saying that new evidence had dismantled the state’s original case against him.

On a Saturday afternoon in 1975, a 3-year-old boy wandered into the woods behind the apartment complex where he lived in Richmond, Va.

Four days later, the toddler’s body was found floating in shallow water in the James River, fully clothed, arms folded across his chest, nine miles from home.

From there, the horror only grew: Forensic experts told the police that the boy had a gob of semen in the back of his throat and determined that he had been strangled during a sexual assault. Alcohol and a muscle relaxant were found in his blood, according to court documents.

About a month later, in December, the police arrested Marvin Leon Grimm Jr., a 20-year-old Navy veteran, picking him up after his shift at a carpeting company and questioning him for nine hours. Mr. Grimm, who had no criminal record, lived across the hall from the boy’s family and had argued with them over minor issues like toys that were damaged by his lawn mower. He was married, and his first child, a son, had been born 10 days before his arrest.

Much of the key evidence that linked Mr. Grimm to the killing was the work of Mary Jane Burton, a senior analyst at Virginia’s crime lab who died in 1999.

But in a recent podcast investigation of Ms. Burton’s work, a whistle-blower revealed that she had tried to alert officials that Ms. Burton was cutting corners and falsifying results, and an independent expert said that the serology evidence that Ms. Burton had analyzed in one of her own cases excluded the man who went on to be convicted of the crime. The podcast also noted that there were several accounts of shoddy work by Ms. Burton, and a perception that she favored the prosecution.

The podcast, “Admissible: Shreds of Evidence,” has triggered state reviews of about 4,800 cases handled by Ms. Burton. But the Grimm case was still jarring, said Tessa Kramer, the journalist who produced it.

  • ralphio@lemmy.world
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    23 days ago

    Mr. Grimm pleaded guilty in exchange for an agreement that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty. But under Virginia law at the time, the crime was not eligible for capital punishment.

    Where was this dude’s lawyer?

  • bamboo@lemm.ee
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    23 days ago

    There should be a penalty for prosecutors who torture people to force them to make false confessions. This man had his entire adult life taken from him, so maybe premeditated murder would be a reasonable charge. Those bastards are likely dead by now, but even so they should be tried posthumously. And every case they ever worked on should be re-tried since they were not honest people and any evidence they produced cannot be trusted.

    Edit: if they presented this information in a court under oath, add perjury to the list of charges

    • n2burns@lemmy.ca
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      23 days ago

      There should be a penalty for prosecutors who torture people to force them to make false confessions.

      I think you mean police? Prosecutors generally don’t question the accused, except maybe in a trial.

      • RememberTheApollo_@lemmy.world
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        23 days ago

        There have been cases of prosecution withholding evidence that could have helped the defendant resulting in lengthy prison terms for innocent people.

        So yeah, prosecutors need to face a penalty, too.

    • whyNotSquirrel@sh.itjust.works
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      23 days ago

      With the “pedo rapist and murderer” label in prison too, must have been a nightmare

      and I doubt that he’s retired now, he’ll still have to find a way to finance his daily life

  • cheese_greater@lemmy.world
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    23 days ago

    This is why its so important evidence can be independantly analyzed and that the State, consequently, should not have any monopoly on the base material to be analyzed and license to authoritatively analyze such content

  • Hawk@lemmy.dbzer0.com
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    23 days ago

    He has not seen his son since the day he was arrested, and he is not sure if he will. “I don’t know what he thinks,” Mr. Grimm said.

    Man, that last sentence is so sad for all involved.

  • Cipher22@lemmy.world
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    23 days ago

    Technology, understanding of false confessing, and a general improvement in process since 1975. I think this is a success story. Sure, mistakes were made. Welcome to human history. However, people kept trying, kept learning, and kept listening. I’ve never heard of that type of action occurring anywhere else. (Admittedly, I don’t really follow law) I’m betting sudden forgiveness decades later isn’t common.