Happy 14 year exoneration anniversary, Wilton Dedge!
In 1982, Wilton Dedge was convicted of sexual battery, assault, and burglary in Brevard County, Florida. He did not commit those crimes.
In December of 1981, the victim came home during a burglary. The burglar was armed with a knife, cut her clothes off and raped her while cutting her all over her body. After he left her, the victim went to the ER where a rape kit was collected.
A few days after the attack, the victim was in a convenience store with her sister and identified a man that looked like her attacker but shorter. Her sister said this man was “Walter Hedge.” The police originally arrested Walter. However, after being shown a picture, they decided that it was Wilton Dedge the victim had seen in the store, Walter’s brother. They immediately arrested and charged Dedge—despite the fact that he didn’t match up with the initial physical description.
Dedge maintained his innocence, and his conviction was reversed in 1983 but he was again convicted in August of 1984. His conviction was based in the victim’s eyewitness identification, a microscopic hair, a well-known jailhouse snitch, and dog sniffing for evidence.
In 1996, Dedge was one of the first Florida inmates to seek post-conviction DNA testing. He won that motion to have hair tested in 2000. In June 2001, mitochondrial DNA testing proved that the hair did not come from Dedge.
While facing adversity from State for many years, the Innocence Project of Florida with local counsel Milton Hirsch were able to exonerate Wilton Dedge in on August 11th, 2004 (eight years after he initially requested post-DNA testing).
Happy 14 years of freedom, Wilton!
*Photo from innocenceproject.org