A Black man wrongfully convicted as a teenager for a New Orleans rape more than 36 years ago was ordered freed Thursday after a judge threw out his conviction.
Sullivan Walter, now 53, used a handkerchief to wipe away tears as a state district judge formally vacated his conviction for a home-invasion rape.
Judge Darryl Derbigny expressed anger that blood and semen evidence that could have cleared him never made it to the jury.
“To say this was unconscionable is an understatement,” Derbigny told Walter.
After appearing in court in New Orleans, Walter was driven to Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in St. Gabriel, where he was officially released.
More significantly, no evidence was presented about Walter's blood characteristics that did not match the semen collected from the victim after the rape.
I was wrongly convicted and sentenced to death. We need to do more to help exonerees.
Walter had been serving a total sentence of 39 years – four for a burglary charge unrelated to the rape case, and 35 yearsfor multiple charges in the rape case.
“The lawyers and law enforcement involved acted as if they believed that they could do what they chose to a Black teenager from a poor family and would never be scrutinized or held to account,” Davis said in a written statement.