Friends and family broke into applause when a county judge dismissed charges against Thomas A. Doswell. About 30 minutes later, Doswell walked out of the county jail a free man — expressing thanks, not bitterness.
"I'm thankful to be home," he told The Associated Press from his mother's house. "I'm thankful justice has been served. The court system is not perfect, but it works."
Doswell, 46, was convicted in the 1986 rape of a 48-year-old woman at a hospital in Pittsburgh. When he was convicted, he was 25 and the father of two young children.
He was sentenced to 13 to 26 years in prison and was denied parole four times because he refused to accept responsibility for the crime.
Prosecutors originally opposed DNA testing for Doswell, but a judge ordered it. When the tests came back last month showing that semen taken from the victim was not from Doswell, prosecutors filed motions to vacate his sentence and release him.
"These tests confirmed what Mr. Doswell has been saying from the moment he was charged, that he was innocent and that this was a misidentification brought about by police officers who may have engaged in misconduct," said Colin Starger of the Innocence Project at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University in New York.