Louisiana man, 53, wrongfully convicted of rape as teen exonerated

Travis Spradling
·2 min read

After spending more than two thirds of his life in prison, a Louisiana man wrongfully convicted of rape has been exonerated 36 years later.

Sullivan Walter, 53, was freed on Thursday "after 36 years, 1 month, and 30 days incarcerated for a rape he did not commit," according to Innocence Project New Orleans.

After a 1986 nighttime home invasion and rape, Water was misidentified as the perpetrator, who was dressed in a hat and face covering, IPNO wrote in an Instagram post. Seven weeks after the attack, Walter was identified by the victim.

Despite being 17 at the time of his arrest, Walter was prosecuted as an adult, IPNO wrote. "This is the longest known wrongful incarceration of a juvenile in Louisiana history and the 5th in U.S. history."

IPNO said the organization later took Walter's case, discovering that the jury that convicted him was not made aware of his diagnostic testing results, which found that he was not the perpetrator.

"His trial attorney did not elicit this evidence from witnesses and the police officer analyst misrepresented the results of his testing," IPNO wrote in the post.

Walter's trial lasted just one day.

After using serological evidence to eliminate Walter as the perpetrator, IPNO presented his case to the Orleans Parish District Attorney's Office Civil Rights Division. The two groups then worked together to seek Walter's freedom.

According to IPNO, an expert described problems with the testing in Walter's case, called the police testimony "disingenuous at best" and noted "systematic deficiencies" in serological testing performed by the coroner's office. The report suggested “a comprehensive review of every case in Orleans Parish in which ABO/secretor test findings and testimony may have figured in the conviction of a defendant.”

At the time he was released Thursday, Walter had been serving a total sentence of 39 years, with four for an unrelated burglary charge and 35 for "multiple charges" in the rape case, according to the Associated Press.

The victim of the rape has since died, AP reported. A lawyer at the district attorney's office told the publication that authorities had reached out to the victim's son, who expressed "regret on behalf of his mother about the wrongful conviction."

“This is not just about individuals and their choices, but the systems that let them happen," Walter’s attorney and IPNO legal director Richard Davis said.

The organization created a "freedom fund" for Walter, already raising over $9,000. People are also able to purchase items for Walter off his Amazon Wishlist, which features a new belt and several gift cards.