Joseph Buffey

Joseph Buffey pleaded guilty to the 2001 rape and robbery of an 83-year-old woman based on the advice of his lawyer who told him he risked a sentence of 200 to 300 years in prison if he went to trial and was convicted. He quickly regretted his plea, but it was too late. Buffey has spent the last 13 years behind bars. Defendants in nearly 10% of the 301 DNA exonerations have pled guilty to crimes they didn’t commit.

DNA testing conducted in May 2011 excluded Buffey, and after months of resistance from the prosecution, the profile was finally run through the federal DNA database to see if it matched a convicted offender. It identified another man with multiple felony criminal convictions, including breaking into a residence and robbing and assaulting a woman.

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals recently ruled that Buffey’s constitutional rights were violated by the State’s failure to turn over favorable DNA evidence, and has allowed him to withdraw his guilty plea. Further proceedings, if any, will take place after the 30-day period for the State to seek reconsideration of the Supreme Court’s decision.

Click here for the West Virginia Supreme Court’s decision.

Click here for the concurring opinion by Justice Allen H. Loughry II.

Time Served:

17 years

State: West Virginia

Charge: Burglary, Sexual Assault, Robbery

Conviction: Sexual assault, Robbery

Sentence: 70 to 110 years

Incident Date: 11/30/2001

Conviction Date: 05/21/2002

Accused Pleaded Guilty: Yes

Contributing Causes of Conviction: Eyewitness Misidentification

Death Penalty Case: No

Race of Exoneree: Caucasian

Race of Victim: Caucasian

Status: Active

Alternative Perpetrator Identified: No

Type of Crime: Sex Crimes

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